September 21, 2009
Battlestrikers

Proposed Bill to Ban BPA in California Fails

A proposed bill that would have banned the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in baby bottles, baby cups, and infant formula cans in California has failed. Although the bill received a majority of votes in two separate votes last week, it fell six votes short of the 41 needed for passage. At the request of Assembly Majority Leader Albert Torrico, D-Fremont, the bill was moved to the inactive file so it can be considered again in 2010.
The proposed ban passed in the state Senate 21-16 on June 2, and received a majority 35-31 vote twice in the state Assembly on September 7. The bill would have banned the manufacture, sale, and distribution of any liquid, food, or beverage that comes in a bottle or cup intended for use by children three or younger if it contained more than the regulated parts per billion of BPA. It also would have banned the use of BPA as a liner in powdered infant formula cans, but not liquid infant formula cans. Connecticut, Minnesota, Chicago, and Suffolk County, N.Y., have already banned the sale of polycarbonate baby bottles, food containers, and cups that contain BPA.
Some laboratory studies have linked BPA to birth defects, low birth weights, cancer, early puberty, and other health problems in rats, and six baby bottle manufacturers in the U.S. have agreed to not use BPA in polycarbonate baby bottles. However, 11 safety agencies around the world have stated that BPA is safe to use in food or beverage containers. The Food and Drug Administration will decide by November 30 whether it needs to change its stance on BPA. The FDA has said that there is not enough data to support a ban on the use of BPA in food packaging.

Mattel to Cut More Jobs

Mattel, Inc. has announced that the company will cut more jobs as part of its continuing restructuring plan. The company said the total number of cuts will be less than 80, and will include a combination of layoffs, elimination of open positions, attrition, and retirements. Last November, Mattel cut approximately 70 jobs at Fisher-Price, which last year employed more than 800 workers.

Toys “R” Us to Open Holiday Express Shops

TRU Holiday ExpressStarting in early October, Toys “R” Us will expand its number of stores by opening almost 350 Holiday Express shops across the nation. The stores will include more than 80 pop-up stores in malls and shopping centers and approximately 260 shops within Babies “R” Us stores. The pop-up stores in malls will span approximately 4,000 square feet, while the sections in Babies “R” Us stores will expand each toy space to approximately 2,500 square feet, triple the space that is normally allotted for Babies “R” Us stores. Although the stores may close in mid-January, returns and exchanges can be made after the stores shut down at any Toys “R” Us or Babies “R” Us retailer. Store hours and locations can be found at the company’s website, www.Toysrus.com.

Former Play Along President Unveils New Company

Jay Foreman, former president and founder of Play Along, has announced his latest project, The Bridge Direct––a global sourcing and supply chain management company that provides back office support and resources to licensors, manufacturers, retailers, and distributors in the children’s consumer products business. The Bridge Direct connects people from the production and distribution sides and offers partners access to economies of scale, while aiming to facilitate relationships. Services by the new venture include product development, manufacturing, line planning and management, branding, sourcing, quality control, supply chain management, and financial, administrative, and sales support. These services will be for a variety of products including toys, novelties, collectibles, apparel, crafts, stationery, youth electronics, and accessories. For more information, visit www.thebridgedirect.com.

TIA to Hold Update Sessions at Fall Toy Preview

The Toy Industry Association (TIA) will hold a safety and legislative update during the Fall Toy Preview expo, held October 6-9 in the Dallas Market Center. At 9 a.m. on October 7, members of the TIA Government Affairs team will update audience members on the latest news about pending state and federal legislation impacting the toy industry. The team will also talk about efforts to harmonize toy safety standards around the world. Immediately after the meeting, at 10:45 a.m., the staff of the Toy Safety Certification Program (TSCP) will give an update on its program and launch. A key focus of the presentation will be how the TSCP helps companies meet CPSC and CPSIA requirements. The sessions are free with advance registration. Participants can register on-site in the lobby of the World Trade Center. Those who have already registered for the show can go back to the online registration page and add the seminars.

Vivendi Acquires Genius Products’ Distribution Rights

Vivendi Entertainment has acquired exclusive distribution rights of a wide array of home entertainment offerings from Genius Products, Inc. The rights include a number of brands such as World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), Sesame Street, Classic Media, and RHI Entertainment, and are for North America only, except RHI and WWE, which are for the U.S. only. Genius Products will continue its operations and has entered into a new multi-year distribution deal with Vivendi to distribute its remaining catalog and future releases. Vivendi has added several Genius executives to its company roster including Mitch Budin, who has been appointed executive vice president and general manager of Vivendi Home Entertainment.

Sears Launches Marketplace at Sears.com

Sears has launched a third-party marketplace, following in the footsteps of Walmart, which announced its own marketplace launch last month. The department store has integrated the new service with Sears.com, allowing outside retailers to list their products on the website. Sears Marketplace charges merchants a monthly fee of $39.99. Commission fees range from 7 percent for computers and electronics, to 20 percent for beauty and for jewelry.

Moms More Likely to Use Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter

According to a new Retail Advertising and Marketing Association (RAMA) survey, conducted by BIGResearch, moms with children at home are more likely to use Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter than average adults. The survey shows that 60 percent of moms use Facebook, 42 percent use MySpace, and 16 percent use Twitter, compared to 50 percent, 34 percent, and 15 percent of average adults, respectively. Additionally, 15 percent of moms maintain their own blog.
Regarding purchase-making, the survey shows that 93 percent of moms seek the advice of others before buying a service or product, and 97 percent of moms said they give advice to others about those products or services they purchased.

Retail Sales Increase for the First Time in Six Months

According to the National Retail Federation, retail sales, excluding automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants, saw their first gain in six months, with sales rising 0.7 percent from July, although dipping 4.3 percent from last year. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, August retail sales, including automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants, increased 2.7 percent seasonally adjusted from July, but declined 5.9 percent unadjusted from last year. The National Retail Federation attributes the increase to sales tax holidays throughout the country, which helped boost August sales on traditional school merchandise such as apparel and electronics. Sales at electronics and appliance stores increased 1.1 percent seasonally adjusted from July and decreased 10.7 percent unadjusted compared to last year. Clothing and clothing accessory stores boosted sales by 2.4 percent adjusted from July and decreased 5.9 percent unadjusted from last year. Health and personal care store sales increased 0.4 seasonally adjusted from last month and 2.7 percent unadjusted since last year, and sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores sales increased 2.3 percent adjusted over last month and decreased 1.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

Nomination Process Begins for Toy of the Year Awards

TOTY AwardsThe Toy Industry Association (TIA) has begun accepting nominations for the 2010 Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards, which will be held on February 13 in New York City. The annual awards program honors creative and innovative toymakers and the toys, games, and entertainment products they produce. The TOTY Awards has 12 categories, in addition to the coveted Toy of the Year award. This year, the Infant Toy of the Year and Preschool Toy of the Year categories will be separate; in previous years, the two categories were combined. Also, for the 10th anniversary of the awards program, TIA will debut a consumer website, which will highlight TOTY-nominated products. Each nominated toy in the 12 categories will be featured on the website.
There is a $50 fee per nomination for TIA members, and a $100 fee per nomination for non-members. Companies are able to nominate up to two products in each category.
The Toy of the Year winner is selected from among the nominated products in those categories, or via a write-in vote by TIA members. The nominating process closes on October 23. The final ballot will be chosen by a committee of toy journalists, inventors and retailers, and will be announced in early December. Then, TIA members will vote on the winners. For more information, visit the TOTY Awards website at www.totyawards.org.

Dora Loves Puppy Line Launches Exclusively at Kmart

Dora at KmartNickelodeon/Viacom Consumer Products has launched a new Dora the Explorer line, Dora Loves Puppy, exclusively at nationwide Kmart stores and at www.kmart.com. The line, which includes kids’ apparel, bedding, toys, jewelry, sporting goods, hosiery, footwear, and home entertainment, follows Dora and her new adopted pet Perrito. The company has also launched a website, www.dorapuppy.com, where families can redeem specialty codes from the merchandise for personalize printable puppy activities such as adoption papers and posters, digital downloads, themed games, and screensavers.
Kmart will offer deals and free offers at the launch of the line, including a free Dora Loves Puppy poster personalized with their child’s favorite picture, courtesy of Shutterfly.com, until September 26. A discounted Dora Loves Puppy DVD will also be available at Kmart stores from September 27-October 10, after a $20 Dora Loves Puppy purchase.  Nick Jr. will host a “Puppy Playdate” on September 25, with three Dora and puppy-related episodes, starting at 9 a.m.

Toy Industry Foundation and My Stuff Bags Team Up for Toy Drive

Last Monday, The Toy Industry Foundation (TIF) and My Stuff Bags Foundation (MSB) kicked off a toy drive for foster children at the grand opening of NY Foundling’s Mott Haven Academy Charter School in the Bronx. The toy drive donates necessities, toys, and school supplies given from toy industry companies to foster children across the nation. At the kickoff, TIF, MSB, and Toy Industry Association staff members distributed school-themed duffel bags to children attending Haven Academy, the only school that specifically serves children in foster care and the child welfare system. Companies who have donated back-to-school items include Accessory Innovations, Crayola, Faber-Castell USA/Creativity for Kids, iToys, Jakks Pacific, Uncle Milton Industries, and University Games Corp. The drive continues throughout the month of September.
During November, TIF will host its first Virtual Do Good Stuff-a-Thon. Companies can sponsor individual items online and those items will be placed into a My Stuff Bag. TIF will also recognize and award companies who raise the most funds and have the highest employee participation. To sign up, contact Marisa Randall before October 26 by emailing mrandall@toyindustryfoundation.org, or calling (646) 454-5581.

Step2 Announces Ultimate Play Kitchen Guide and Contest

Step 2 KitchenThe Step2 Company has released the Ultimate Play Kitchen Guide, an online publication at www.Step2.com, in which parents can read about the latest news in play kitchen designs, get tips on picking the right play kitchen for their homes, and enter a contest to win a dream kitchen for their child and themselves. The Step2 Creative Kids in the Kitchen Contest will award one grand-prize winner a new kitchen suite from Frigidaire, including a refrigerator, dishwasher, over-the-counter microwave, and oven, plus a new Step2 play kitchen for his or her child. A second place winner will receive a children’s Step2 kitchen of his or her choice, and a third place winner will receive a $50 gift certificate that can be used on any toy at Step2.com. Parents can enter the contest by submitting a 250-word (or less) essay on how they and their child foster creativity when cooking, and how they have fun in the kitchen together. For more information and official rules and entry, visit Contest.Step2.com.

Chicco’s VP of Sales Passes Away

Ken SearsKen Sears, vice president of sales at Chicco, suffered a heart attack and died during the ABC Kids Expo on September 15. Sears was accompanied by two of his three children at the time of his death, and was surrounded by people from his company and the industry. The executive was 56 years old.
Chicco, with the help of others from the convention, hosted a memorial reception the evening of his death, which was attended by several hundred of his friends and colleagues.
Starting in 1991, Sears worked at Graco Children’s Products for 10 years, holding positions in both the company’s marketing and sales departments. He then went on to become a sales representative for juvenile products until 2004 when he accepted the vice president of sales position at Chicco.
Sears is survived by his wife and three adult children. For information about memorial services, to send condolences, or for an opportunity to share memories about Ken, please contact Chicco by calling 877-4CHICCO, or emailing info@chiccousa.com.

Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook Resigns

Walt Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook resigned last Friday, citing the need to pursue “new adventures.” According to Reuters, Cook told staff he no longer fits in at the company and that he felt like “a square peg in a round hole.” No successor has been announced.
Cook worked for Disney for 38 years, starting as a Disneyland ride operator and gradually moved up the corporate ladder to head the Hollywood studio in 2002. The chairman left his post days after he told audiences at the D23 Expo in Anaheim that the studio’s upcoming slate of films was “the best in our history.” Cook’s Disney legacy includes presiding over the integration of Pixar Animation Studio, the "Pirates" franchise, and leading Disney to become the first studio to push digital 3-D technology with Chicken Little.

New Senior Vice President Appointed At Ludorum

Ludorum has appointed licensing industry veteran Maureen Taxter to the newly created position of senior vice president, U.S. consumer products. Taxter has held senior positions at Jim Henson Productions, Hasbro, and Viacom, contributing to children’s brands such as SpongeBob SquarePants, the Muppets, and Playskool.
Taxter will report to Ludorum COO, Charlie Caminada, and will be responsible for all of the company’s commercial operation in the U.S. In particular, Taxter will work on the Chuggington property, a new CGI-animated series set to air on the Playhouse Disney programming block next spring.

Big Tent Appoints New Director of Brand Development

Amy JarashowFormer eTAGZ executive, Amy Jarashow, has been named director of brand development at Big Tent Entertainment. Jarashow has over 15 years of experience in business development, sales, and marketing. In her role at the New York-based brand agency company, she will work with Big Tent’s portfolio of brands including Domo, Discovery Kids, and Telemundo.
Previously, Jarashow served as vice president of strategic partnerships at eTAGZ. Jarashow also held leadership roles at Random House and Golden Books, specifically in the areas of licensed publishing, retail marketing, and sales.

Mattel to Transfer to NASDAQ

Effective September 28, Mattel, Inc., will voluntarily transfer its stock exchange listing from the New York Stock Exchange to the NASDAQ Global Select Market. Mattel will continue to trade under the ticker symbol MAT.

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