November 3, 2009
Battlestrikers

Wal-Mart Slashes More Toy Prices for Holiday Season

Wal-Mart has announced 100 additional toy rollbacks for the holiday season. Many toys in Wal-Mart stores and online at Walmart.com will be discounted 20 to 30 percent. The rollbacks will last through the holiday shopping season. Recently, the company announced a different promotion, 100 toys for $10. Toys under the new promotion will include the Bakugan starter pack for $8, Star Wars Light Saber for $15, and Jakks Sweet Oven Makeover for $24.

Toys “R” Us Adds FAO Schwarz Boutiques in Stores

FAO SchwarzMore than 500 Toys “R” Us stores have premiered FAO Schwarz in-store boutiques, filled with the company’s selection of toys. The boutiques, which opened November 1, are located in the front of the 585 nationwide stores, guarded by the famous FAO Schwarz toy soldier.
FAO Schwarz has also re-launched its e-commerce website, FAO.com. Online shoppers can access a virtual version of the Muppet Whatnot Workshop that is offered in its flagship store in New York City. In the workshop, customers can customize their own Muppet Whatnot puppet by choosing from a series of bodies, hairstyles, eyes, noses, and costumes. FAO Schwarz will be sending out its holiday catalog to customers beginning November 10.

Nintendo Announces New Game Console, Third Quarter Decline

Nintendo DSi LLNintendo will launch a new version of the portable Nintendo DS, dubbed Nintendo DSi LL, which will hit retail shelves in Japan on November 21. Nintendo DSi LL will feature a 4.2-inch screen, which is approximately 93 percent larger than the Nintendo DS Lite, and will carry a price tag of $222.
Weiging in at 314 grams, the console will have a battery life of four to five hours on the highest brightness, and will be available in dark brown, red wine, and natural white. The DSi LL will release in Europe next year. There has been no announcement yet about a U.S. release date.
Nintendo recently announced its third quarter results, reporting than the company’s profits declined 52 percent compared to the same quarter in 2008. The company has cut its annual profit forecast by 23 percent.

Disney Issues Refunds for Baby Einstein

In September, Disney announced in a press release that it would issue refunds for its Baby Einstein videos. Owners of the DVDs would be allowed to return them to Disney for $15.99, or exchange them for other products. In a statement by the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) last week, the organization claimed the refund offer was a victory for the organization, and proved that Baby Einstein did not increase infant intelligence.
Susan McLain, general manager of Baby Einstein, has fired back, writing that the CCFC press release was a publicity stunt by the organization’s director, Susan Linn, and that a money-back guarantee is a part of the company’s standard policy.
In 2006, the CCFC initially filed a FTC complaint against Disney and manufacturer Brainy Baby, alleging that the companies were engaging in false and deceptive advertising. The complaint said that both companies advertised their videos as educational and beneficial for babies' development.

Hess to Premiere First Toy Car Since 1993

Hess Race CarIn honor of its 45th anniversary, the Hess Corporation will premiere a new addition to its collection of holiday toy trucks, the 2009 Hess Race Car and Racer. The upcoming release is the first Hess toy truck that is a car since the company’s 1993 Patrol Car, which became the fastest selling Hess toy truck in its history. It is also the company’s first race car that is featured as the main vehicle.
The 2009 Hess Race Car and Racer features a touch-release canopy compartment that opens to reveal a hidden cargo with a smaller racer inside. The main race car has 29 lights with an optional flashing mode, three car sounds, chrome-detailed rear view mirrors and air vents, and low profile headlights––a first for a Hess toy truck. Highlights for the smaller racer hidden inside include 15 lights and a pull-back racing motor, among others.
The 2009 Hess Race Car and Racer goes on sale November 13 at participating Hess and Hess Express retail stores. For more information, or to find the nearest Hess location, visit www.hesstoytruck.com.

The Canadian Group Becomes Latest Licensee for Bella Sara

Hidden City Games, the publisher of Bella Sara, has signed The Canadian Group as a licensee for the children’s entertainment property. The Canadian Group is a manufacturer and distributor of puzzles, games, activities, and novelty items. Bella Sara currently has a family of products including trading cards, DVDs, toys, books, video games, games, and puzzles through various licensing agreements.

New Video Game Rental Service for Kids Premieres

SmartyRents.comA new online video game rental service for kids, SmartyRents.com, has launched. The service allows families to rent children’s educational video games, such as LeapFrog and VTech, in the same way as popular rental service Netflix. Parents can search for video games by a specific educational skill, such as learning addition, and have them delivered to their mailbox.
Rental packages start at $9.99 for one game a time. If a child becomes attached to a particular game, SmartyRents’ love it option allows renters to keep the game by purchasing it at a reduced price.

TysToyBox.com to Launch an Olivia Shop

OliviaChorion has signed a deal with TysToyBox.com to launch an Olivia shop at the e-tailer’s website for North America. TysToyBox.com will feature new Olivia products, including exclusive personalized T-shirts and DVDs based on the animated preschool series. Olivia merchandise will be available on Ty’s Toy Box shop in Canada later this year.
This month, Chorion will also launch an Olivia website, www.myolivia.com, that will feature games, printables, and information on Olivia and the show. Additionally, Simon & Schuster will produce a range of Olivia TV tie-in books that will be available starting this month. Spin Master has been named the global master toy partner for the property and will develop preschool girl’s toys, with a rollout planned for fall 2010.

Thomas & Friends to be Distributed in China, Hong Kong

Thomas & FriendsBachmann Trains has signed a licensing agreement with HIT Entertainment that grants the toy train manufacturer rights to distribute Thomas & Friends HO scale products in China and Hong Kong. The agreement marks the first time that Thomas & Friends products will be available outside the U.S.

 

 

 

 

New Frogger Video Game to Release This Fall on PSN, WiiWare

Frogger comes back to the video game world in Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc.’s upcoming release, Frogger Returns. In the latest addition of the video game series, players try to guide Frogger from the bustling city back to his home marsh. The soon-to-be-released game will feature enhanced 3-D graphics, a new camera angle, and new levels.
Obstacles include streets, sewers, and subways, while new power-ups will premiere to aid Frogger toward his destination. Players are able to race against the clock, as well as compete with friends by showing off their best scores.
Nintendo WiiWare and Playstation Network users will be able to download Frogger Returns later this fall.

Tomy Europe Named Regional Master Toy Licensee for Harry Potter

Warner Bros. Consumer Products has appointed Tomy Europe as the new regional master toy licensee for the upcoming Harry Potter two-part movie. As part of the three-year licensing deal, Tomy Europe will develop a range of action figures, games, electronic toys, and role-play items for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which will be released as a two-part series in November 2010 and July 2011. The agreement will cover the UK and Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

New GM Named at The Bridge Direct

The Bridge Direct, Inc., a startup by former Play Along president Jay Foreman, has named George Vorkas as the company’s general manager of new business development. In this role, Vorkas will develop new business opportunities and act as the direct liaison with the company’s major clients.
Previously, Vorkas managed supply chain projects in his more than seven-year term at Li & Fung. He also served as head of Monogram International, a senior executive at Toy Biz, and as director of research and development of Toymax.

LeapFrog Appoints Human Resources Exec

Sarah Shin, former human resources director at Apple, has been named LeapFrog Enterprises, Inc.’s vice president, human resources. At Apple, Shin led the human resources team in the corporate strategy and hardware engineering divisions. Shin has also served as a human resources executive at Hewlett Packard.

Build-A-Bear Reports Third Quarter Results

Build-A-Bear Workshop, Inc. has reported fiscal results for the 2009 third quarter and first nine months, ending October 3. Total revenues for the third quarter were $91.7 million compared to $107.2 million for the same quarter in 2008. Store sales declined 12.9 percent including a 2.5 percent increase in Europe and a 16 percent decrease in North America. Net loss was $4.8 million, or $0.25 per diluted share, compared to the fiscal 2008 third quarter net loss of $2.0 million or $0.11 per diluted share.
Total revenues for the first nine months were $271.5 million compared to $325.7 million in the fiscal 2008 first nine months. Store sales for the nine months declined 15 percent, including a 5.3 percent increase in Europe and an 18.2 percent decrease in North America. Net loss for the first nine months was $11.6 million, or $0.61 per diluted share, compared to the fiscal 2008 first nine months net loss of $0.4 million, or $0.02 per diluted share.
For the third quarter, net retail sales were $89.7 million, compared to $105.8 million in 2008. Excluding the impact of foreign exchange, net retail sales declined 14.1 percent, but European operations net retail sales increased 7.1 percent.
The company expects to generate approximately $20 million in annualized pre-tax savings in 2009, up from a previous estimate of $18 million. The company’s consolidated cash balance was $27 million at the end of the third quarter.

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