Toys “R” Us to Open Fewer Pop-Up Stores This Holiday Season
According to a Reuters report, Toys “R” Us plans to open fewer temporary pop-up stores this year. Kathleen Waugh, spokeswoman for the retailer, did not give the exact number of pop-up stores that will be opened or the reason behind the decision. Toys “R” Us opened 600 temporary stores in the U.S. in 2010, but fewer than 100 pop-up locations in 2009. CEO Jerry Storch is expected to discuss this decision at the company’s holiday preview in September.
Former Toy Building to Turn into Luxury Condos
One of the former International Toy Center buildings, also known as the Toy Building, will be the home of approximately 145 luxury condo apartments, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Witkoff Group bought the building, located at 1107 Broadway, and is teaming up with a Morgan Stanley real estate fund for a condo conversion, worth approximately $290 million. Sources told the Journal that Witkoff and Morgan Stanley are seeking a financing partner and the deal is expected to close next month even without debt in place.
Nickelodeon Takes Canadian Licensing In-House
Nickelodeon Consumer Products (NCP), a division of Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN), will be taking its Canadian licensing and merchandising business in-house, starting October 1. NCP Canada’s Toronto-based office, led by Tanya Visano, senior director, NCP Canada, will exclusively represent VIMN’s portfolio of properties and brands, which include Nickelodeon, MTV, and Comedy Central, and will manage all operations and retail and licensee relationships for NCP.
NCP Canada will focus on their “Something for Everyone” portfolio that spans preschool, kids, tweens, teens, and adult, including Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob SquarePants, Victorious, South Park, and The Jersey Shore, among others. NCP’s move to direct representation in Canada will be managed out of VIMN’s Canadian subsidiary, MTV Networks Canada, ULC.
ABC Kids Expo Offers Floor Plan Mobile App
ABC Kids Expo is partnering with Map Your Show (MYS) again this year to offer a mobile floor plan application for its attendees. Exhibitor Bum Genius is sponsoring the mobile app. The MYS mobile app, which can be accessed using any web-enabled mobile device, features an interactive floor plan, exhibitor information, and show news.
A MYS interactive floor plan and agenda planner is available on the ABC Kids Expo website (www.theabcshow.com). Attendees are encouraged to create their schedules with this tool beforehand and access this information while at the show using the MYS mobile app or any of the computer kiosks located throughout the expo center. The Ninth Annual ABC Kids Expo will take place at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky. on September 23-26. ABC has also announced that free Wi-Fi will be available throughout the exhibit hall.
Nominations Open for TAGIE Awards
The Chicago Toy & Game Group has announced that nominations are now open for the fourth annual Toy & Game Inventor Awards (TAGIE Awards). The TAGIE Awards is an annual celebratory event honoring toy and game inventors worldwide for their play products, innovative spirit, philanthropy, and humanitarianism.
All toy industry professionals are invited to submit nominations at www.tagieawards.com. Nominations must be received by September 20. Award nominations will be tallied, with top nominees voted on by the general public beginning October 1. The five nomination categories include: Excellence in Toy Design, Excellence in Game Design, Rising Star Inventor of the Year, Young Inventor of the Year, and Excellence in Electronic Adaptation.
TAGIE Award winners will be announced and honored at a gala dinner and award ceremony at Chicago’s Museum of Science & Industry on November 18. For more information about the TAGIE Awards, go to www.tagieawards.com.
Buffalo Games to Premiere Play Laboratory
Buffalo Games is launching its first-ever Play Laboratory. The purpose of the new Play Laboratory, says the company, is to have people with a vested interest in games test new game concepts and to increase the efficiency of the product design cycle. Game testers may be asked to attend a play test upward of three to five times a year at the company’s headquarters in Buffalo, N.Y. Those interested in becoming game testers are encouraged to sign up under the Play Laboratory section of Buffalo Games’ website (buffalogames.com/playlab). Testers must be at least 18 years old or 14 years old with a guardian.
Lékué Forms U.S. Subsidiary
Lékué, the Spanish manufacturer of creative, colorful, kitchen products, has formed a U.S. subsidiary, Lékué USA, effective immediately. Based in New Castle, Del., Lékué USA brings to the U.S. a collection of more than 40 products.
“We are extremely happy to announce the formation and start-up of Lékué USA for the fall selling season,” says Alan Senior, general manager of Lékué USA. “Over the past five years, Lékué has focused on developing an innovative range of children’s silicone culinary products that are easy and fun to use.”
The collection’s shapes and styles offer an opportunity for families to cook and bake together while helping children expand their fine motor skills. The initial collection includes the baguette buddy; sandwich buddy; molds for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and birthdays; molds for lollipops, cupcakes, ice cream treats, and cookies; as well as cooking tools. For more information, visit www.lekueusa.com.
Start-Up Company to Debut Striiv Fitness Device
Striiv, a Silicon Valley-based start-up, has revealed its first product, which takes active gaming outside the living room and turns everyday activities into fitness opportunities. A sleek, portable fitness device, Striiv motivates activity throughout the day via games, personal goals, and donation opportunities, all powered by physical activity.
Striiv is designed to easily move between a key chain, belt clip, or pocket. It features a high-resolution color touch screen to track progress. Other features include a walkathon in your pocket (every Striiv step counts toward a donation to charity), games completely powered by physical activity, daily challenges and trophies, and TruMotion technology that can sense if you are walking, running, climbing the stairs, or hiking.
Additionally, the product can be connected to an online portal via a computer USB port to upgrade new applications, charities, and games, or post updates to Facebook. Striiv launches in mid-October for $99. For more information, visit www.striiv.com.
Brainy Brands Expands Distribution Channels
The Brainy Brands Company, Inc. has expanded its distribution channels in the U.S. to include grocery chains. The company recently received an initial purchase order of its Brainy Baby board books and flashcards products from grocery chain H-E-B. The company has historically sold its products online, in boutique and specialty stores, and at Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us locations. With the formation of the company’s national sales network, Brainy Brands has been expanding its sales efforts into other distribution channels.
New Edition of the Toys “R” Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids Now Available
Toys “R” Us, Inc. has released its 2011 edition of the Toys “R” Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids, featuring actress and philanthropist Eva Longoria on the cover, alongside Elijah De La Cerda, a 5-year-old with Down syndrome from Fresno, Calif. Released annually, the guide is a complimentary resource, created with guidance from the National Lekotek Center, that provides parents, caregivers, and gift-givers with toy recommendations for the children with special needs in their lives. The guide is available in Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us stores nationwide, and online, in English and Spanish, at Toysrus.com/DifferentlyAbled.
ESRB Mobile App Now Available for Microsoft Windows Phone 7
The video game rating app from the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is now available for Microsoft Windows Phone 7. This free mobile app assigns age and content ratings for computer and video games and allows easy access to video game ratings and detailed rating summaries. Users just snap a photo of the game box or type its name to determine if it is an appropriate purchase.
The ESRB mobile app offers ESRB rating information for more than 20,000 titles. Rating summaries are available for games rated since July 1, 2008. In addition to the mobile app, parents can check out ESRB’s Facebook page or follow ESRB on Twitter (@OKtoPlay). Ratings information, including summaries, and additional resources for parents are also available at ESRB.org, and on mobile website m.esrb.org. The ESRB rating search app is developed by Point About, and the image recognition and visual search is powered by IQ Engines.
Twister Mania to Come to Kinect
Majesco Entertainment is partnering with Hasbro to bring Twister Mania to Kinect for Xbox 360 this holiday season. Twister Mania takes the classic Twister game and puts it in a digital form while keeping all the uninhibited, physical fun from the original game. The light-hearted, fast-paced game supports up to eight players across four different play modes with three variations each. Players duck, squeeze, stretch, and contort their bodies to match their opponent’s silhouette, knock down blocks against the clock, and fill in thousands of crazy shapes of all sizes and themes.
Hit Partners with Gilt Groupe for Retail Promotion
Hit Entertainment has partnered with online retailer Gilt Groupe for a special Thomas & Friends retail promotion. A Thomas & Friends sale launched August 28 on Gilt.com and will run through Friday, September 2. During the sale, consumers will be able to find Thomas & Friends products that were curated by Gilt’s buyers and are being offered at discounted prices. Sale offerings include Thomas & Friends toys, apparel, footwear, books, and home furnishings. The five-day sale will be promoted via the Thomas & Friends website in banner ads, home page promotions, and through newsletters. Both Hit and Gilt will promote the Thomas & Friends sale through their social media channels.
The Original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Return in New Comic Series
IDW Publishing and Nickelodeon have released the debut issue of the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) comic series, featuring the “Heroes in a Half Shell,” now available in comic stores throughout North America. TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman leads the creative team for the comic series. In addition to this new series, IDW will offer Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection, beginning in October with volume one.
IDW and Nickelodeon have stated a long-term commitment to revitalize the universe of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics and graphic novels. These new story lines are part of a larger initiative to bring Turtles to a new generation of fans, which continues next year, when Nickelodeon will premiere a new CG-animated version of the Turtles franchise.