ASTRA Meets with Members of Congress About Sales Tax Acts
Last week, American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) President Kathleen McHugh and ASTRA retailers Steven Aarons (Barstons Child’s Play, Washington DC) and Claudia and Tom Towles (aMuse Toys, Baltimore) met with the office of Sen. Richard Durbin, the sponsor of the Main Street Fairness Act. If enacted, the Main Street Fairness Act would require that all businesses collect state sales tax on purchases whether or not the retailer has a physical presence in its state. McHugh and the ASTRA retailers also met with Sen. Mark Kirk, Rep. Steve Womack, Rep. Jackie Speier, and Rep. Danny Davis. Womack and Speier are co-sponsors of the Marketplace Equity Act, a bipartisan measure that would close the tax loophole that exempts many online retailers from collecting sales tax.
“Our outreach in Washington is part of ASTRA’s commitment to ensure that our bricks-and-mortar stores, which are required to collect state sales tax, can compete on a level playing field with online retailers, many of which are not required to collect the same tax,” said McHugh, in a press release. “We want to make sure no one class of merchants is given a government-sanctioned unfair advantage over another.”
Report: Americans Looking for Significant Deals When Purchasing
A new report released from America’s Research Group and UBS details that more people are looking for steep deals. According to the report, Consumer Mind Reader Retail Forecast, 37.2 percent of Americans said they want to buy when they see items on sale at 40 to 50 percent off, the highest level in five years since America’s Research Group has asked the question. Additionally, 44.4 percent of Americans said they look at store advertisements first and try to only buy items on sale. The survey was conducted during the weekend of October 24-28.
Puppet Heap Signs Deal for The Wizard of Oz Puppet Collection
Puppet Heap, a puppet and character design company, has formed a new partnership with Warner Bros. Consumer Products, in which the company will design and produce a new line of puppets based on characters from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. The line will be produced through Puppet Heap’s retail division, Puppet Heap Playthings, Inc., and will be unveiled at American International Toy Fair in February. Puppet Heap’s The Wizard of Oz puppet line will include a variety of puppet styles and sizes.
Additionally, Puppet Heap’s multimedia division, Puppet Heap Moving Picture Co., will produce short videos of the puppets in action, combined with clips from the original The Wizard of Oz film, to be used online as marketing for the products.
The Wish Factory Named Licensee for Cody Simpson
The Wish Factory has been named toy licensee for the Cody Simpson brand through a licensing agreement with Atlantic Records. Cody Simpson is an Australian-born singer and songwriter who recently released his EP Coast to Coast, featuring singles “On My Mind” and “Not Just You.” Simpson ranked No. 13 on Billboard’s 21 Under 21: Music’s Hottest Minors for 2011.
The Wish Factory’s deal covers dolls, figures, play sets, key chains, plush koalas, concert kits, play-dance mats, and guitars. The initial line of fashion dolls will be available exclusively at Toys "R" Us stores and online at Toysrus.com this holiday season. The line will expand to other mass-market retailers in the spring and next fall.
For more information on Cody Simpson licensing opportunities, contact Sara Nemerov of Warner Music Group at email@example.com.
MGM to Bring Classic Media’s Waldo to the Big Screen
MGM has secured feature film rights to Classic Media’s Where’s Waldo property. The studio will bring Waldo to the big screen in a live-action family adventure. Created by Martin Handford and first published in 1987, more than 55 million Where’s Waldo? books have been sold, and the titles have been translated into more than 30 languages.
MGM’s Cassidy Lange, vice president of production, will oversee the project for the studio. Handford’s business partner, Mike Gornall, and Classic Media’s co-CEO, Eric Ellenbogen, will serve as executive producers.
Mega Inks Deal for Marvel Create ’n Color Products
Mega Brands, Inc. has entered into a licensing agreement with Marvel Entertainment, LLC, allowing the company to feature Spider-Man and other classic comic book characters on its RoseArt 3D Create ’n Color products. The new Marvel-inspired RoseArt products will be available at Walmart stores nationwide in time for the holidays.
Bravo Sports Partners for Star Wars-Themed Outdoor Products
Bravo Sports Corporation has teamed up with Lucasfilm, Ltd. for a variety of Star Wars-themed outdoor recreation products, currently in Toys “R” Us stores. Bravo Sports manufactured and distributed the new Star Wars-licensed products, which include 21-inch skateboards, for ages 5 and up; 28-inch skateboards, for ages 7 and up; 31-inch dual-vision skateboards with lenticular printing, for ages 7 and up; helmets, for ages 5 and up; and scooters, for ages 6 and up.
Disney and YouTube Team Up for Video Entertainment
Disney Interactive and YouTube are joining forces to bring family-friendly video entertainment to the web. Starting early next year, complementary and co-branded online video destinations tailored to Disney audiences will be available on both Disney.com and YouTube, produced and programmed by Disney Interactive. Programming will include videos drawn from current family-friendly content available on YouTube, original videos produced by Disney, as well as a blend of current Disney Interactive original series, select Disney Channel programming, and Disney user-created content. An original video series based on Disney’s mobile game Where's My Water?, and its main character Swampy, will be the first project to launch in February. Other similar short-form programming will follow.
Toynami to Release Skelanimals DC Heroes
Skelanimals and Toynami are introducing Skelanimals DC Heroes. For the first time, the Skelanimals gang will be available as DC Comics Super Heroes. Dax the Dog will become Superman, Jae the Wolf has taken up the mantle of The Batman, ChungKee the Panda will transform into Green Lantern, and Jack the Rabbit will be The Flash. The Skelanimals DC Heroes will be available next month as six-inch beanie plush, deluxe plush, and mini clip-on plush.
Celebrity-Inspired Cabbage Patch Kids to Benefit Children’s Charity
Timed to National Adoption Month (November), celebrities Steven Tyler, Al Roker, Katherine Heigl, Kristin Chenoweth, and Raven-Symoné have been recreated as Cabbage Patch Kids for an eBay auction to benefit the Children’s Action Network (CAN). CAN is a national adoption awareness organization dedicated to finding homes for children in foster care in the U.S. Jakks Pacific, master toy licensee for the Cabbage Patch Kids, created the exclusive Celebrity Cabbage Patch Kids.
Through November 17, fans can bid on the dolls at cpkauctionforcharity.com Each Celebrity ’Kid will also come with its own autographed birth certificate. Click here for more information.
Uglydoll Merchandise Comes to Toys “R” Us
Uglydoll products are now available in U.S. Toys “R” Us stores and online at Toysrus.com. Customers will be able to find a wide range of Uglydoll merchandise online and in-store at the retailer, including Uglydoll key chains; Little Uglys; Citizens of the Uglyverse, which are brand-new for this year; and traditional 12- to 14-inch Uglydoll plush in classic and new styles. Customers will also find Uglydoll-branded books, figurines, pillows, hats, keepsake boxes, clocks, banks, and tin toys in in-store displays. Toys “R” Us plans to support the product launch by showcasing Uglydoll merchandise in print circulars throughout the holiday season.
SGS Opens Toy Testing Lab in Indonesia
SGS has opened a new testing laboratory for toys that are marketed toward kids up to age 14 in Indonesia. The new laboratory will cover both soft and plastic toys, and the standards and regulations encompassed by EN 71, ASTM F963, AS/NZS ISO 8124, CPSC 16 CFR, SNI ISO 8124, Phthalates REACH Annex XVII, Azo Dyes REACH Annex XVII, and Cadmium REACH Annex XVII. The tests cover physical, mechanical, and chemical testing, as well as flammability, washability, lead content, cadmium content, and phthalates content testing. The SGS lab in Indonesia is located in Jakarta.
Top Trumps to Host Special Events at ChiTAG
Top Trumps is sponsoring several events and special attractions at this year’s Chicago Toy & Game Fair (ChiTAG), to be held November 19-20 on Navy Pier. Top Trumps is granting Girl Scouts in uniform and troop leaders free admission to the show, and on November 20 they will be allowed early access to ChiTAG.
Also on November 20, Top Trumps will host a Guinness Book of World Records attempt for “The Most People Playing a Card Game Simultaneously in the Same City.”
Top Trumps will also introduce two new special-edition game packs at ChiTAG, the “Chicago Top 30 Things to See and Do” pack and the “Toy & Game Guru” pack. The Toy & Game Guru pack features facts about the inventors and their creations. Attendees will also have an opportunity to meet the minds behind their favorite toys and games. Additionally, The Top Trumps ChiTAG Tournament Final will take place at noon on November 20.
Univision Morning Show Partners for Pocoyo Promotion
Despierta América, Univision’s top-rated morning show, will kick off the holiday season with a special month-long on-air promotion, “Despierta con Pocoyo,” featuring Zinkia Entertainment’s Pocoyo. The promotion runs through Thursday, December 1. During this time, Despierta América viewers will be asked to log onto Univision’s website and explain, in 150 words or less, why they deserve to win the Pocoyo gift basket of toys and DVDs. Throughout the contest period, Despierta América hosts will announce winners, giving away a total of 25 Pocoyo gift baskets, each valued at approximately $200. For more information, visit Univision.com.
AGP Announces Strawberry Shortcake Talent Contest
To celebrate the debut of the newest Strawberry Shortcake character, Cherry Jam, American Greetings Properties (AGP) has announced the Strawberry Shortcake Berry Biggest Talent Show Contest. Through November 21, parents can submit a short video of their child showing off dance moves for the chance to win a JetBlue family vacation. The winner will be selected by a panel of judges, including television personality and host Victoria Recano and AGP President Jeffrey Conrad. The winner will be announced December 9. Three runner-ups will receive prize bundles valued at $500 each. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/StrawberryShortcake.
Lincoln Logs Turn 95, K’nex Hosts Contest
K’nex Brands is celebrating the 95th birthday of Lincoln Logs building sets with a contest. Fans can win one of 95 Lincoln Log building sets by visiting the Lincoln Logs website (www.lincolnlogstoys.com) by November 17 and entering to win. Lincoln Logs building sets were developed in 1916 by the son of famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Retailer to Pen Companion Book to ASTRA’s Play for Profit
ASTRA retailer Philip Wrzesinski, of Jackson, Mich., is writing a book titled Financial for Toy Stores Made Easy, designed to be a companion to ASTRA’s previous book, Play for Profit: A Retail Business Plan for Toy Stores. The book is part of a package of ASTRA profitability tools that includes a spring financial survey of store owners, a spring webinar featuring Wrzesinski on how to use benchmarks to increase profits, and presentations by Al Bates at ASTRA’s June Marketplace & Academy.
Advance orders for Financials for Toy Stores Made Easy will be taken at American International Toy Fair for a spring delivery.
My Stuff Bags Distributed to Washington DC Kids
The Toy Industry Foundation (TIF) and partner My Stuff Bags Foundation (MSB) joined forces with federal legislators to distribute “My Stuff” duffel bags to 35 children affiliated with Horton’s Kids, a non-profit that provides services to the children of Washington DC’s Ward 8. The bags were filled with toys, games, stuffed animals, toiletries, and handmade blankets. Kids also created arts and crafts and interacted with members of Congress, representatives of the toy industry, and staff of TIF and MSB.