June 22, 2011

Laser Pegs

ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy Biggest Yet

ASTRAASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy, currently in progress in Anaheim, Calif., has posted a record number of attendees, according to the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA). While final counts will not be available until Marketplace & Academy is over, early indications are that this year’s crowd was 20 percent to 30 percent bigger than last year.
“Once again, independent toy retailers are showing that they are committed to learning, investing in new products, and finding the best deals in the industry,” says Kathleen McHugh, president of ASTRA. “Even in the midst of an extended economic downturn, ASTRA members continue to tend to the basics of their businesses. They work hard and they work smart, and taking full advantage of ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy is part of that equation.”
Next year’s ASTRA Marketplace & Academy—which will be its 20th—will be held during June in Baltimore. Dates will be announced.

Global Toy Sales Increased In 2010, Reports NPD

Based on its “Global Toy Market Estimates: 2011 Edition,” The NPD Group reported that 2010 global toy sales were $83.3 billion, up nearly 5 percent from 2009. This increase was largely due to the market in Asia, which nearly doubled the world growth rate at a 9.2 percent increase in sales. However, the U.S. continued to top sales in the toy market, at approximately $22 billion. American sales combined with Japan, China, UK, and France sales added up to just more than 50 percent of global sales.
Europe suffered a 4 percent drop in sales from 2007 to 2010, partially due to fluctuating exchange rates. The emerging BRIC toy markets (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) reported a growth of 13 percent. The NPD Group expects a continuing positive trend this year, although not as dramatic as previous years. NPD also predicts a rebound in European sales.

Kids II Acquires Rhino Toys and Taggies

Kids IIKids II, Inc., an infant and toddler products company, has acquired two companies, Rhino Toys and Taggies, to enhance the Kids II collection of forward-thinking products, the company said. The acquisitions were announced at the company’s The Mother of Invention Showcase of New Innovations in New York City last week.
Rhino Toys products, including the flagship O-Ball, are designed to provide innovative, tactile, and high-performance play. Kids II plans to strengthen, reinvent, and add designs to the collection.
Taggies, originally created as plush security blankets with satin ribbon loops, has transformed into a lifestyle brand, offering its signature blankets in new designs, plush toys, apparel, and accessories. Kids II will maintain Taggies’ quality while expanding the collection with new products.
Taggies and Rhino products are available in stores now, and more products under the Kids II umbrella are expected to debut soon.

Jakks Pacific’s Tollytots Division Signs Licensing Deal for Safety 1st

Jakks Pacific’s Tollytots division has signed a worldwide master toy licensing agreement with juvenile products manufacturer Dorel Juvenile Group, Inc., a division of Dorel Industries, for Dorel’s baby products and accessories brand, Safety 1st. Under this agreement, Tollytots will develop, market, and distribute a comprehensive line of preschool and early learning toys for infants and toddlers. The products will reflect Safety 1st’s standards of safety, innovation, design, and value. The new Safety 1st toy line from Tollytots, expected to launch in fall 2012, will include products in a broad range of categories, including learning and developmental toys. Synergy Licensing, the exclusive licensing agency for Dorel Juvenile Group, brokered the deal.

CTA Reports Increase in Toy Sales, Brand Awareness

China Toy Association (CTA) has released its “2010-2011 China Toy Consumption Report/2010-2011 China Department Stores’ Toy Sales Report.” The survey included responses from more than 5,000 consumers and 700 department stores about infant, educational, plush, electronic games, plastic electronic, dolls, models, cartoon-licensed, and ride-on toy brands.
The report revealed that toys priced at $15-$30 (USD) have become more popular, with sales increasing 4 percent last year compared to 2009.
In terms of retail destinations, last year more consumers (3 percent increase) purchased toys at chain stores, online stores, or other channels compared to 2009. Additionally, 80 percent of department store sales grew in 2010 and the average sales per square meter totaled $2,200.
Brand awareness also increased. More than 80 percent of consumers could remember the brand names of the toys they purchased, an increase of more than 4 percent compared to 2009.

ASTRA Addresses Internet Sales Issues

Research commissioned by the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) on the implications of Internet retailing for the specialty toy industry was presented at ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy. Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, conducted the study.
Key findings showed that online toy sales have grown by 22 percent over the past year, making toys one of the fastest growing categories in online shopping, which grew 13 percent overall during the same period. The study also found that shoppers are increasingly using smartphones to compare prices and to check product availability while shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. Further research showed that state and federal policies tilt the competitive playing field in favor of online retailers by exempting remote sellers from collecting sales taxes that brick-and-mortar stores are required to collect.
All-in-all, the research showed that Internet retailers present a significant competitive challenge to independent brick-and-mortar stores—in many respects, a challenge that is more severe than that of big-box and other chain retailers.
ASTRA members can find a complete copy of the Internet sales white paper on ASTRA’s newly updated website at www.astratoy.org.

Licensee List Expands for Dorothy of Oz

Dorothy of OzFollowing last week’s announcement of Bandai America being named master toy licensee for Dorothy of Oz, more than a dozen licensees have been added to the film’s roster. The 3-D, CG-animated musical, starring the voice and musical talents of Lea Michele (Glee) as Dorothy Gale, is produced by Summertime Entertainment, which is founded by the Carroll Brothers, the multi-media production company set on revitalizing the Oz franchise.
Travis James, LLC, is spearheading the global licensing and retail development efforts for the franchise. In addition to Bandai America, licensees include Rubie’s Costume Company for a full line of Halloween costumes, masks, and related accessories; Just Play for cut-and-sew role-play/dress-up items, along with some novelty products in the HBA category; Madame Alexander for high-end collectible dolls; IDW Publishing for a four-title comic book series and graphic novel; Trends International for posters and bookmarks with the possibility of adding calendars and stickers to the assortment; and Culturenik Publishing for novelty paper goods.
The film, geared for a late summer 2012 release, is based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum, and the further adventure books written by his great-grandson, Roger Stanton Baum.

Chipmunks Franchise Increases Merchandising Program

Leading up to the holiday release of Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked!, Fox Consumer Products and Bagdasarian Productions have enlisted a wide range of partners to fuel an increased merchandising program for the Chipmunks franchise. The new program aims to widen its consumer base to reach young girls with products based around The Chipettes, the female rock stars of the group.
Just Play, LLC will create basic feature and novelty plush items, with Vivid Imaginations as the UK distributor. Majesco will once again lead the development of the video game based on the upcoming film. Ty will continue to produce a specialty toy line, and Build-A-Bear will re-offer its top-selling line of stuffable plush featuring Alvin and Brittany, as well as pre-stuffed plush of other main characters.
HarperCollins will rejoin the program with a wide variety of published products, including beginning readers, novelizations, sticker books, and storybooks. Bendon Publishing will publish a line of activity, board, and coloring books along with flashcards and workbooks.

Hit Signs BBC and Golden Bear for Mike the Knight

Hit Entertainment has made two appointments for its new preschool series Mike the Knight, scheduled to air on BBC’s CBeebies network this fall. BBC Worldwide has been named the magazine publisher, while Golden Bear will develop arts and crafts for the property. 
Mike the Knight will be featured first in BBC Worldwide’s CBeebies magazine in November, while a standalone Mike the Knight magazine will be published in September 2012. The Golden Bear line will include mechanical arts and crafts, felts, and dough sets, with products launching in fall 2012.
Co-produced with Corus Entertainment’s Nelvana Studio, Mike the Knight is a new CGI series that transports viewers back in time to a magical medieval age. With the triumphant motto “Be a Knight, Do It Right,” 10-year-old Mike the Knight is determined to become a brave and noble knight.

The Wildflower Group Named Agency for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

The Wildflower Group has been named the new North American licensing agency for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. The agency will develop a comprehensive licensing and merchandising program that delivers the spirit of the “Rock Hall” to music fans everywhere.
The new Rock and Roll Hall of Fame licensing program will center on the monikers “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” and “Rock Hall,” and will include products from categories such as toys and games, apparel and accessories, musical instruments, stationery and paper products, gifts and home décor, and music accessories, including earbuds, phone covers, and cases.

Bieber Tops Kids’ Hot List

Justin BieberJustin Bieber topped the list when The NPD Group, as part of its Kids Industry Data Service (KIDS), asked “what would the kids you know say is the hottest new thing these days?” in May. Mentions included celebrities, movies, television shows, toys, games, hobby, sports, web sites, brands, and retail stores.
NPD compiled 2,095 mentions for kids ages 0-14. The results were Justin Bieber with 10 percent and Nintendo Wii, Dora The Explorer, Xbox 360, Cars: The Movie/Cars 2, iPad, SpongeBob SquarePants, Disney, and video games, with 2 percent each. Thor followed behind with 1 percent.
Bieber also topped the list in the same survey conducted in February, with 14 percent. The NPD Group’s Kids Industry Data Service (KIDS) provides monthly insight into purchases made on behalf of kids ages 0-14, across product categories, with an emphasis on licenses and brands. Each month, the service asks an open-ended, unaided question designed to provide insight into what is hot with kids today.

Online Acquisition of Video Games Growing in Canada

According to a new report by The NPD Group, “Video Game Acquisition in Canada,” Canadian gamers are slowly shifting towards digital properties and away from traditional, packaged video games. The study polled 4,006 gamers across Canada, ranging from age 13-54, between September 2010 and February 2011.
According to the report, an estimated $84 million were spent on games through digital downloads. Sixty-five percent of games were purchased via physical retail outlet.
Still, the study showed that some gamers are reluctant to buy through a digital download—88 and 81 percent of console and portable gamers, respectively, chose to purchase physical copies of games. Additionally, PC and Mac gamers totaled 20 percent of those who reported they have acquired at least one game via a social networking channel.
Of those who prefer to buy a physical copy, 58 percent say it’s because they just like having a physical copy, while 35 percent say they like going to the store because it has other things they need. The report also analyzed traditional gamers and the growing number of gamers that are emerging from the smartphone and tablet markets.

Top Trumps Launches Mobile Tour in Seattle

Top TrumpsThis month, Top Trumps USA launched its first mobile tour in Seattle, Wash., to bring the fun of the educational “war” card game to children and families throughout the city and surrounding areas. The company’s representative, Dan Taylor, aka “Van Dan,” will tour and work with a number of the Pacific Northwest’s major family attractions, as well as host events at museums, hospitals, parks, schools, and libraries. Additionally, anyone who spots the van, snaps a picture, and uploads it to www.toptrumps.com, can win a free Top Trumps pack.

Liv Dolls Featured in Happy Meals

Following last month’s successful Zoobles Happy Meal Campaign, Spin Master, Ltd. has once again teamed up with McDonald’s to present the Liv Happy Meal Campaign, running now through July 7.
Miniature Liv characters Daniela, Sophie, Katie, Alexis, and Hayden, plus three styling heads, are available now at participating McDonald’s across North America. Both the Liv and Zoobles Happy Meal Campaigns are scheduled to hit international markets later this year and in 2012.

Baby Genius Offers Apps

MyPal FrankieBaby Genius recently launched two apps featuring characters Frankie and Tempo. Parents can download MyPal Frankie and MyPal Tempo for iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad for free. The MyPal Tempo musical game is a “Simon Says”-style game that teaches memory skills through music. With MyPal Frankie, Frankie will repeat anything the child says. Kids can play with Frankie and make her giggle, wiggle, or eat an apple. Videos can be recorded and saved or shared.

New CEO Named at Street Surfing

Street Surfing, LLC has named Mark Siegel as its CEO. Siegel has taken over day-to-day operations from current Street Surfing President Jasun Weiner, and is based at the company’s headquarters in Irvine, Calif. Additionally, Street Surfing founder Mark Weiner will become chairman of the board. Father and son team Mark and Jasun Weiner will work closely with Siegel in an advisory capacity, and continue to pursue and develop new strategic opportunities for Street Surfing.
Siegel previously served as CEO for Ultra Pro Corporation. He has also held executive and management roles for Mattel, Petsmart, Teleflora, and Equity Marketing, being responsible for sales, marketing, product development, and Asia operations. 

Peter Wachtel Elected President of TASC

The Toy Association of Southern California (TASC) has elected Peter A. Wachtel as its new president. Wachtel will take the reins from past TASC president, Leeton H. Lee of ETS Express, Inc., who recruited Wachtel to the association. Lee served as TASC president for more than a decade, and will continue to serve on the TASC board.
The association is hosting a Networking Mixer & CPSC Injury Database Seminar on Tuesday, June 21. Wachtel and other toy industry members will be attending.

Report: Retail Shrinkage Increased Last Year

Retail crime and fraud is on the rise. A new study found that retail shrinkage in 2010 increased to 1.58 percent of retail sales, up from 1.44 percent in 2009. According to the study, the latest National Retail Security Survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and the University of Florida, total retail losses cost retailers $37.1 billion last year, up from $33.5 billion in 2009. NRF’s recently released Organized Retail Crime survey found that 95 percent of retailers have been victim of organized retail crime over the past 12 months.
According to the preliminary survey findings, employee theft was the cause of the majority of retail shrinkage last year ($16.2 billion), accounting for 43.7 percent of total losses. Retailers reported that 18.7 percent of cases involved collusion between internal and external bad actors. Retailers lost $12.1 billion to shoplifting, which is 32.6 percent of total losses. Other losses included administrative error ($4.8 billion and 12.9 percent of shrinkage) and vendor fraud ($2 billion and 5.4 percent of shrinkage). Retailers said that the cause of the remaining shrinkage was unknown.

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