October 27, 2010


ASTRA Unveils 2011 Marketplace & Academy Theme

ASTRAThe American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) has announced its 2011 Marketplace & Academy theme: “Soak Up the Sunshine. Dive into the Deals.”  The event will take place next year in Anaheim, Calif., June 19-22.
“Our theme reflects the upbeat, family-friendly atmosphere that you can’t help but enjoy in Anaheim,” said Kathleen McHugh, president of ASTRA. “Anaheim 2011 will be where play meets business for anyone interested in specialty toys.”



Rubie’s Brings WWE Halloween Costumes to Stores

John Cena costumeRubie’s Costume Company, the world’s largest manufacturer of Halloween costumes and accessories, has partnered with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) to produce officially licensed Halloween costumes for children and adults.
These costumes are currently available at WWE.com and at various retailers nationwide including Target, Kmart, Walmart, and Party City. The costumes will feature WWE Superstars and Legends including John Cena, Undertaker, Rey Mysterio, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Rowdy Roddy Piper. The Rubie’s products feature muscle chest technology to create realistic costumes that fans of any age can enjoy wearing during Halloween.



Harry Potter Licensees Announced for Upcoming Movies

Harry PotterWarner Bros. Consumer Products (WBCP) has announced its licensing roster so far for the upcoming feature films Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and Part 2, in theaters November 19, 2010 and July 15, 2011 respectively.
Coinciding with the release of Part 1, Lego will debut an array of Lego Harry Potter construction sets, including Hogwarts Castle, Freeing Dobby, Quidditch Match, Hagrid’s Hut, The Burrow, and Hogwarts Express. Other licensees include The Noble Collection (wands, chess sets, high-end sculpts), Tomy, Panini, DeAgostini, Hasbro, Rubie’s Costume Co., Artbox Entertainment, Gentle Giant, Giant Merchandising, Jibbitz, BioWorld Merchandising, Inc., Hallmark, Andrews McMeel Publishing, Tonner Doll, and more.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 marks the first part in the final chapter of the series. Directed by David Yates from a screenplay by Steve Kloves (based on the book by J.K. Rowling), the movie is produced by David Heyman, David Barron, and Rowling.
Additionally, D-Box Technologies, Inc. has reached an agreement with Warner Bros. Pictures to feature its D-Box motion technology in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. The movie is the second of the Harry Potter franchise to feature the technology, which allows viewers to feel subtle motion effects in their seats, in sync, during scenes of dramatic flight and fierce battle.

Toy Fair Exhibitor Numbers Up, Show to Debut New Product Zone

The Toy Industry Association (TIA) reported last week that the number of companies signed up to exhibit at the 108th American International Toy Fair, to be held February 13-16 next year, has increased 9 percent compared to the same date last year.
TIA has also announced that Toy Fair 2011 will feature a new addition on the show floor, the Teen/Tween section, featuring toys, games, and accessories that are targeted to the age group. According to TIA, 18 percent of retail buyers at the 2010 show—more than 30,000 buyers—said teen/tween products were on their shopping list.

ABC Kids Expo Reports Another Record-Breaking Attendance

All Baby & Child, Inc. has reported that total attendance for its 2010 ABC Kids Expo climbed to 14,655, a 7.8 percent increase over 2009 and another all-time record for the event.
Retailer attendance increased by 4.9 percent, exhibitor attendance increased by 10.9 percent, and media attendance increased by 34.1percent. Booth count soared to 3,670 from 3,306 the prior year. Retailers that attended the show came from an estimated 64 countries.

Report: Online Retailers Expect More Online Sales this Holiday Season

According to results of Shop.org’s eHoliday Study, conducted by BIGresearch, nearly two-thirds of retailers (63.8 percent) expect their company’s online sales to grow by 15 percent or more compared to last holiday season. Less than half of retailers (45.8 percent) had those expectations last holiday season.
Although online retailers are expecting strong holiday sales, four out of five (84.8 percent) will offer free shipping at some point during the holiday season and 31.4 percent stated they will begin earlier this year. Some retailers also said (36.7 percent) their budget for free shipping is higher this holiday season compared to last.
Online retailers are also investing in website features and services to maximize holiday sales. The survey reports that 72.5 percent of online retailers say they have invested in the company’s Facebook page in advance of the holidays. Other investments include cross-selling on product pages (54.9 percent), site search (54.9 percent), customer rating and review (52.9 percent), and a Twitter campaign or feed (43.1 percent).
In terms of consumers, 32.2 percent of online shoppers say they’ll make more online holiday purchases this year. The reasons vary, including 24-hour convenience (35.1 percent), easy price comparisons (33.1 percent), and a lack of desire to fight crowds (30. 8 percent). Online shoppers who say they’ll spend less of their holiday budget online than a year ago (6.1 percent) cite expensive shipping charges (19.2 percent), a preference to see or handle an item before purchasing (13.9 percent), or not wanting to wait for the item to be delivered (5.7 percent).

NPD Releases Results on Top Holiday Shopping Destinations

The NPD Group, Inc., has released the top 10 list of where consumers intend to shop for holiday gifts this year. The report shows that fewer consumers plan to shop in each of the top 10 channels.
Only 54 percent of consumers plan to shop at discount stores (No. 1 channel) this holiday season compared to 58 percent in 2009. Other top channels include: online, ranked No. 2 with 35 percent (also ranked No. 2 in 2009 with 37 percent); national chains, ranked No. 3 with 29 percent (also ranked No. 3 in 2009 with 32 percent); department stores, ranked No. 4 with 22 percent (electronic stores ranked No. 4 in 2009 with 26 percent), toy stores, ranked No. 5 with 20 percent (department stores ranked No. 5 in 2009 with 25 percent); and more.
When asked about the factors that influence their choice of shopping destination, participants cited overall value for the price (60 percent), special sale price (58 percent), convenient location (47 percent), quality of products offered (42 percent), free shipping orders (39 percent), return policy (36 percent), wide selection (35 percent), and advertising or circulars (30 percent).

EA Acquires Independent Games Publisher Chillingo

Electronic Arts, Inc. (EA) has acquired independent games publisher Chillingo, Ltd. A spokesperson for EA states: “With the acquisition of Chillingo, EA Mobile has increased market leadership on the Apple platform and strengthened its position as the world’s leading wireless entertainment publisher. The acquisition combines Chillingo’s expertise in cultivating the ideas of independent developers with EA’s global reach in mobile publishing.”

The Wildflower Group Becomes Licensing Agency for Pillow Pets

The Wildflower Group, a New York City-based licensing and branding agency, has been appointed the licensing agency for the property Pillow Pets. The Wildflower Group has already signed agreements with Commonwealth Toy & Novelty Co. and SG Footwear for new product ranges based on the popular plush. The initial licensed collections are slated to launch at retail early next year.
The Wildflower Group is now in discussions with potential licensing partners for Pillow Pets in numerous categories, including sleepwear & accessories, bedding, health & beauty aids, publishing, stationery, paper party goods, and video games.

THQ Signs New Deal for SpongeBob SquarePants Video Games

SpongeBob SquarePantsTHQ, Inc. and Nickelodeon have entered into a new multi-year licensing agreement, granting THQ the worldwide rights to develop and publish video games based on the SpongeBob SquarePants franchise.
Under the new agreement, THQ has the right to develop and publish interactive games based on the SpongeBob SquarePants property for the Sony PlayStation3, Nintendo Wii, and Microsoft Xbox 360 consoles, as well as the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP handheld systems. The SpongeBob SquarePants games will also be available for the Xbox Live for the Xbox 360 video game system, PlayStationNetwork, and Nintendo Wii Virtual Console online gaming portals. The first game to be developed under the new agreement is scheduled for release in 2011. The game will be designed to take advantage of the unique capabilities of Nintendo 3DS, THQ’s new uDraw GameTablet for Wii, and Xbox 360’s Kinect. THQ has been developing video games based on SpongeBob SquarePants since 2002.

Angel Cat Sugar Brings Licensees On Board

Angel Cat SugarAngel Cat Sugar, by Hello Kitty creator Yuko Shimizu, has signed new licensees for Europe, the UK, the U.S., and Asia. In the U.S., Kelly Toy will be selling various video arcade crane machine prizes, balls, and sport sets based on the property. Other licensees include bags, gift items, and stationery from Pentra for Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia; posters, prints, badges, and key chains from Pyramid Posters Limited for UK and Ireland; and more.



JDNA Named North American Distributor for Gogo’s Crazy Bones

Martomagic has formed a new partnership with Jonic Distribution North America (JDNA). JDNA, as Gogo’s Crazy Bones’ new North American distributor, is set to grow the brand further across the U.S. and Canada with a multi-million dollar TV advertising campaign, which will be backed by a sampling program that will give away up to five million packs of Gogo’s to fans across the region. 
Gogo’s Crazy Bones is a Bulldog Licensing Limited property owned by Spain’s Martomagic and PPI Worldwide Group. Joy Tashjian Marketing Group is the North American licensing agent on behalf of the brand. 

Report: Toys Account for More than $8Bn of Children’s Toys, Furnishings, Accessories Market

A new study by market research publisher Packaged Facts—Infant, Toddler, and Preschool Furnishings, Toys, and Accessories in the U.S., 4th Edition—reports that the combined U.S. retail sales of children’s toys, home furnishings, and portable accessories are on track to reach a record $18 billion by the end of the year. The sales are increasing by more than 5 percent, and toys account for more than $8 billion (46 percent) of the entire infant, toddler, and preschooler (ITP) furnishings/accessories/toys market this year.
Packaged Facts forecasts U.S. retail sales of ITP furnishings, accessories, and toys will exceed $22 billion by 2015 with the market's total growth for the period beginning 2010 amounting to 24 percent. Survey data also revealed that nearly 33 percent of all adults are purchasers of products for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers; 26 percent of which are purchasing for other people's children.
The report focuses on products for kids ages 0-5. It analyzes the three product categories that upscaled prior to the worldwide financial crashes of 2008-2009. For more information, visit http://www.packagedfacts.com/Infant-Toddler-Preschool-2707953/

Silly Bandz To Debut As Video Game for Nintendo DS

Silly BandzVideo game publisher Zoo Entertainment, Inc., announced that Silly Bandz will debut as a video game for the Nintendo DS in time for the holidays. In the game, players rescue trapped Silly Bandz by catapulting them to freedom. The game is bundled with a 12-pack of exclusive video game-themed Silly Bandz. Silly Bandz for the Nintendo DS will be available in early December.




TIF and BGCA Kick Off Holiday Season with Toy Distribution

In time for Thanksgiving, representatives from the Toy Industry Foundation (TIF) and Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) will deliver new toys and games to more than 5,000 children at Florida’s MacDill Air Force Base.
The event, to be held November 17, will be the latest and largest event during the first year of the new TIF-BGCA Play Comforts partnership. Senior MacDill Air Force officials will be on-hand to accept the toys on behalf of the Air Force community. According to TIF, Play Comforts is the only known toy distribution program to support every branch of the U.S. military. TIF plans to distribute 25,000 toys to military children through the Play Comforts partnership by the end of the year.

Learning Express Expands with New Pop-Up Stores

Learning Express has opened four new pop-up toy store locations in time for this year’s holiday season. All of the Learning Express temporary holiday stores are owned and operated by existing franchisees. The new Learning Express holiday stores are located in Wesley Chapel, Fla. (The Shoppes at New Tampa); Hinsdale, Ill. (36 E. Hinsdale Ave); Garland, Tex. (The Firewheel Center); and Burlington, Mass. (The Burlington Mall).

The Hobbit Movies Get the Greenlight

Two films based on The Hobbit have been given the go-ahead. Warner Bros., New Line, and MGM have jointly announced that Martin Freeman (Sherlock, Hot Fuzz, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) will play Bilbo. The Company of Dwarves will be led by Richard Armitage (Captain America: The First Avenger), and the Dwarves will include Aidan Turner, Rob Kazinsky, Graham McTavish, John Callen, Stephen Hunter, Mark Hadlow, and Peter Hambleton. Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) is directing the film.

Victoria Justice Inspires New Build-A-Bear Fashions and Accessories

Build-A-Bear Workshop has partnered with teen actress and singer Victoria Justice for branded fashions and accessories for the plush bears that will be available in stores and online at buildabear.com. The collection will launch with a bear-sized T-shirt that will be available in December, followed by a red carpet-inspired dress and Victoria Justice stuffed animal that will be introduced in 2011. Build-A-Bear fans can visit facebook.com/buildabear during the holiday season to hear Victoria’s style suggestions and fashion picks for her favorite plush animals.

Kabillion Launches on Time Warner Cable

KabillionKabillion, a kids’ entertainment network, has launched on Time Warner Cable, expanding the Kabillion footprint to more than 35 million digital cable households comprising 90 percent of the top 25 TV markets in the U.S. The channel is also available on Comcast, Bresnan, and Blue Ridge Cable systems.

Madame Alexander

Saban Brands Adds Execs to Team

Saban Brands, LLC has appointed two new executives. Mary Rafferty has been named vice president, toys & hard lines and Rob Hughes has been named marketing director.
In her new position, Rafferty will be responsible for overseeing toy licensing, product development, and retail for Saban Brands properties, including opportunities with both Paul Frank and the new Power Rangers series debuting next year. Hughes will manage marketing campaigns for Saban Brands, focusing on Power Rangers and Paul Frank, as well as other future acquisitions.

New Plush Brand Appoints International Retail Agent

Save Our Friends—a new plush brand that promotes wildlife conservation and describes itself as “toys with a conscience”—has appointed Gary Diamond as its international retail agent to drive distribution of the brand. Diamond is a former toy buyer and retail manager who has more than 20 years of experience in the toy trade industry. He will be charged with expanding Save Our Friends’ growth, increasing distribution, and maximizing market share. The brand will particularly focus on the independent retail sector in the U.K. and Europe.
Save Our Friends’ line currently includes 20 large format, endangered animal plush, sold in recycled presentation boxes that highlight various statistics and facts of the animal. For each product sold, the company makes a contribution to one of three wildlife charities: Born Free Foundation, Marine Conservation Society, or the World Land Trust. The products are available in four different environment categories: African, Ocean, Polar, and Rainforest. Plans are in place to launch a new range in Q2 2011.

Sesame Workshop Promotes Company Veterans

Sesame Workshop has promoted Dr. Jeanette Betancourt to senior vice president for outreach and educational practices. Dr. Betancourt will continue reporting to Dr. Lewis Bernstein, executive vice president of education, research and outreach. Dr. Betancourt joined Sesame Workshop in 1993. She is responsible for the strategic positioning and delivery of domestic outreach initiatives. She conceptualizes, develops, and delivers new outreach models to targeted audiences and communities most in need. She also maintains and expands a comprehensive network of national organizations that are strategic partners within the educational community. In addition, she manages the versioning of these initiatives into multiple languages as well as the formative and summative research that accompanies each project.
Sesame Workshop has also promoted Anita Stewart to senior vice president of corporate partnerships. Stewart will report to Myung Kang-Huneke, chief of staff. Stewart joined the company in 2003 and is responsible for developing and securing strategic corporate alliances and sponsorship programs for the Workshop’s Sesame Street and The Electric Company series in the U.S., as well as for co-productions throughout the world. In her new position, Stewart is focusing on developing innovative new multimedia, multinational corporate partnerships, including mobile and digital platforms, to deliver messaging to children and families around the world.

Jakks Reports Financial Results for Third Quarter, Nine Months

Jakks Pacific, Inc. has reported results for the company's third quarter and nine months, which ended September 30. Net sales for the third quarter of 2010 were $348.7 million compared to $351.4 million reported for the comparable period last year. Net sales for the nine months were $549.3 million compared to $604.9 million in 2009. Reported net income for the third quarter was $40.4 million, or $1.23 per diluted share, compared to $33.7 million, or $1.06 per diluted share, in the third quarter of 2009. Reported net income for the nine month period was $38.2 million, or $1.26 per diluted share, compared to a loss of $383.7 million, or $14.11 per diluted share, reported in 2009.

RC2 Corp. Releases Third Quarter, Nine Months Financial Results

RC2 Corporation has announced its results for the third quarter and nine months, which ended September 30. The company reported net income for the third quarter 2010 of $12.4 million, or $0.56 per diluted share, compared with $13.6 million, or $0.66 per diluted share, for the third quarter 2009. RC2 reported that its net income for the nine months was $19.6 million, or $0.89 per diluted share, compared with $18.7 million, or $1.01 per diluted share, for the nine months that ended September 30, 2009.
The company’s net sales for the third quarter 2010 increased by 2 percent to $129 million compared with net sales of $126.5 million for the third quarter a year ago. Net sales for the nine months increased by 1.1 percent to $303.2 million compared with net sales of $299.8 million for the nine months in 2009.

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