TIA Issues Statement on Holiday Toy Safety Reports
According to a statement, the Toy Industry Association (TIA) plans to position itself in front of the media to respond to false accusations in holiday toy safety reports. During the holidays, many organizations publish their toy safety reports, which TIA writes “often contain groundless claims that needlessly scare parents about the safety of toys that have been thoroughly tested and meet all of the stringent federal toy safety standards.” TIA urges companies to contact the association if they find their products on one of these lists so that they may provide counsel regarding the appropriate action. For more information, and to read the entire statement, click here.
Report: Approximately 40 Percent of Consumers to Spend Less This Holiday
The Conference Board Consumer Research Center is expecting U.S. consumers to be more frugal this holiday season. According to a survey that was conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen, U.S. households are expected to spend an average of $497 on gifts this holiday season. Only 7 percent of consumers said they plan to spend more on holiday gifts this year, while approximately 40 percent plan to spend less than last year.
Bargains will also be on consumers’ minds for the holidays. Four out of 10 holiday shoppers expect more than half of their purchases to be on sale or discounted. An additional three out of 10 expect a quarter to half of their purchases to be discounted. Additionally, almost two-thirds of consumers expect to buy some of their holiday gifts online, with 15 percent expecting to purchase more than half of their gifts online. The survey was conducted in October.
Walmart, Toys “R” Us Black Friday Events to Kick Off Thanksgiving Night
Walmart has released its Black Friday circular to shoppers on Facebook and Walmart.com to help families plan their holiday shopping. Items from electronics to gaming consoles and toys will be available during three shopping events. Walmart’s Black Friday events will begin at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day for toys, home, and apparel; at midnight on Black Friday for electronics; and at 8 a.m. on November 25 through the weekend for gifts for the entire family. In addition, all day long on Thanksgiving, shoppers can get online-only specials and save with free shipping options.
Toys “R” Us will also open its doors Thanksgiving night to Black Friday shoppers. Toys “R” Us stores nationwide will begin its Black Friday sales at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving. The Toys “R” Us Thanksgiving weekend circular will premiere on November 24, and will be filled with more than $12,500 in savings, including doorbusters, Thursday through Saturday discounts, and free gift-with-purchase offers. Consumers can receive a sneak preview by visiting the Toys “R” Us Facebook page, Facebook.com/Toysrus.
Cyber Monday to See Double-Digit Growth, According to Report
Online retailers can expect some holiday cheer this year. Cyber Monday sales are expected to increase 12.4 percent to $1.2 billion, according to industry research firm IBISWorld. Last year, Cyber Monday sales topped the $1 billion mark, increasing 14.1 percent from 2009. This year, IBISWorld anticipates further double-digit growth, attributed to widely available deals and consumers’ increasing propensity to shop online and via their mobile phones.
IBISWorld also expects consumers to shy away from malls and other brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday and find deals online. In 2010, Black Friday sales totaled $11.8 billion, and this year the firm only expects a slight increase of 1.2 percent to just under $12 billion.
Toys4Teens Section and Parallel Conference Announced for Nuremburg Toy Fair
Spielwarenmesse eG has commissioned market researcher Iconkids & Youth to conduct a study focused on 13- to 17-year-olds. The “Toys4Teens study” results will be announced at International Toy Fair in Nuremburg, to be held February 1-6. The study, for retailers and manufacturers, will tackle topics such as how teenagers tick, the buying and playing behaviors of teens, and how to get teens into retailer shops. The study includes interviews with retailers, who describe how they approach adolescents and what range of products they offer them. Additionally, Nuremburg exhibitors will present their products for this specific target group in a themed Toys4Teens area. More information on are available at www.toyfair.de/exhibitors/toy-fair-special.
Spielwarenmesse eG also announced that a conference parallel to International Toy Fair, the 3rd Global Toy Fair Conference, will take place on February 6. At the event, experts will speak on key themes, including “Tomorrow’s Toy Industry—Opportunities and Challenges.” Speakers will include trend researchers Professor Peter Wippermann and Reyne Rice and more. For more information, visit www.globaltoyconference.com.
NYC Seminar on Hong Kong and American Businesses to Take Place December 2
A seminar detailing the benefits of using Hong Kong as a platform for financial services in Asia will be held on December 2 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City. The seminar will focus on how Hong Kong is uniquely qualified to assist American businesses in Asia, due to its market’s liquidity, global investment reach, and its international-standard regulatory regime.
The keynote speaker will be Ronald Arculli, chairman of the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited. Opening marks will be made by Fred Lam, executive director of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC). For seminar reservations, call HKTDC at (212) 838-8688.
Participation Up for Neighborhood Toy Store Day
The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) reported an increase in the number of ASTRA retailers that celebrated Neighborhood Toy Store Day in their local markets. Participation rose from 45 percent in 2010 (the inaugural year) to 79 percent on Saturday.
“We are so pleased with the tremendous results of the consumer campaign that kicked off the holiday buying season,” says Kathleen McHugh, president of ASTRA. “We are doing everything we can to position ASTRA retailers for a strong holiday season. Neighborhood Toy Store Day and Best Toys for Kids are part of that effort, along with our participation in the November 26th Small Business Saturday campaign and our recent visits to legislators in Washington, DC to request e-fairness legislation. It’s more important than ever to hit it on every front for our members.”
ASTRA also said that the event’s message of supporting locally owned toy stores was mentioned in media outlets around the country and across more than 3,000 platforms, including print, radio, broadcast, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and even a digital appearance in New York City’s Times Square.
The 2011 Inductees for the National Toy Hall of Fame Are…
Last week, The Strong announced the 2011 National Toy Hall of Fame inductees: Hot Wheels, the dollhouse, and the blanket. The honorees were selected from a field of 12 toy finalists, including Dungeons & Dragons, Jenga, the pogo stick, the puppet, R/C vehicles, Rubik’s Cube, Simon, Star Wars action figures, Transformers, and Twister.
Pocoyo Renews Partnership with TCG, Will Promote Universal Children’s Day
The Canadian Group (TCG) has renewed its licensing partnership with Zinkia Entertainment and will continue to manufacture, distribute, and market Pocoyo preschool games and puzzles. Under the terms of the agreement, TCG will manufacture Pocoyo games and puzzles, including six-in-one puzzles, 24-piece puzzles, magnetic creations, and memory games, for North American distribution.
Additionally, UNICEF has partnered with Zinkia Entertainment’s Pocoyo to support Universal Children’s Day to take place on November 20. As a partner, Pocoyo will be featured in eight specially produced public service announcements (PSAs) to promote the basic rights for and protection of children with themes such as family, identity, equality, play, participation, health, and education. The PSAs will be broadcast on air and online.
Stardoll Partners with Barbie for Global Doll Line
Stardoll, the global online fashion and gaming community for girls, has partnered with Barbie to bring the world of virtual dress-up and online play to life with the new “Stardoll by Barbie” line of collectible fashion dolls. The partnership marks the Stardoll brand’s first foray into translating its online fashion portal into physical dolls, allowing Barbie fans to extend the possibilities of the Stardoll world offline.
The “Stardoll by Barbie” collection will feature eight new fashion dolls, based on four of the most popular virtual Stardoll stores in Starplaza. “Stardoll by Barbie” will be available at retail in the U.S. beginning this month, with another five dolls slated for spring. For more information, click here.
Annoying Orange Plush Toys to Come to Amusement Parks
The Collective has partnered with NANCO (Nancy Sales Co. Inc.) to bring The Annoying Orange plush toys to amusement parks, featuring a range of characters, facial expressions, and sizes. The plush toys will also include a variety of sound chips with fan-favorite puns and sayings taken straight from the show. The line will debut at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions trade show (I.A.A.P.A.) in Orlando, Fla., held now through the November 18. The initial product launch will be followed up by full-sized Annoying Orange basketballs and additional line expansions. The NANCO deal was brokered on behalf of The Collective by The Joester Loria Group (TJLG), the licensing agent for The Annoying Orange brand.
University Games to Market Beverly Enterprises’ Crystal Jigsaw Puzzles
University Games Corporation and Beverly Enterprises have signed a long-term deal regarding Beverly’s patented crystal jigsaw puzzles in North America. Beverly Enterprises, a Japanese puzzle manufacturer, has more than 30 different styles of patented 3-D, crystal-plastic jigsaw puzzles. University Games will market the puzzles under its Bepuzzled brand and also plans to introduce a line of mini-crystal puzzles to the U.S. University Games’ first shipment of Beverly’s puzzles will arrive early next year, after the termination of Beverly’s current agreement with Fundex Games, to end on December 31.
Nominations Now Open for 8th Annual Wonder Women Awards Dinner
Nominations are now open for the 8th Annual Wonder Women of Toys, Licensing, and Entertainment Awards, celebrating the most “Make it Happen” women in the industry.
This year’s Wonder Women Awards Dinner (February 12) will be held at a brand-new location, The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers. Nomination categories that will recognize the powerhouse movers and shakers in the toy, licensing, and entertainment industries include designer/inventor, digital and gaming, entertainment, entrepreneur, journalism/social media, licensee, licensing agents, licensor, lifetime achievement, manufacturer, marketing/advertising/branding, public relations/communications, publishing, retailer, rising star, sales, and social responsibility.
Nominations received through November 31 will cost $75 per nomination, per category. Nominations received December 1-31 will cost $100 per nomination, per category. Nominations received January 1-25 will cost $150 per nomination, per category.
Sponsorships and tables for the event are also available. To date, the 2012 list of sponsors include The Toy Book, Brandberry, Imperial Toy, Jakks Pacific, Serenata Group, The Bridge Direct, Toy Industry Association, and Toys “R” Us.
To nominate, for dinner reservations or sponsorships, or to join Women in Toys, visit www.womenintoys.com.
Warner Bros. Greenlights Lego Film
According to Variety and other reports, Warner Bros. has given the go-ahead for a movie based on the Lego Universe. The animated-live action hybrid is set for release in 2014.
A Lego film “has been in development at Warner Bros. since 2008, when the studio began working with the toymaker on a family comedy based on the popular building blocks, with Dan Lin and Roy Lee producing and the writing team of Dan and Kevin Hageman tapped to pen the script. In 2010, Warner brought on the Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller to write and direct,” wrote Variety. While it has been announced the movie will be an action-adventure set in the Lego world, plot details remain under wraps. Casting for the live-action characters is set to begin in January.
It’s an Arthur Christmas at Toys “R” Us Stores
Sony Pictures Consumer Products is celebrating the release of Sony Pictures Animation and Aardman Studios’ first holiday-themed animated motion picture, Arthur Christmas, with an exclusive retail program at Toys “R” Us, highlighted by an Arthur Christmas merchandise feature shop in TRU stores. Sony Pictures Consumer Products has also secured licensees for this program, including The Bridge Direct with figurines, plush, and reindeer slippers; Santa’s Best and its array of Christmas ornaments and stockings; Cardinal Industries for memory games and puzzles; Sterling Publishing with storybooks, novelizations, sticker books, and e-books; and American Greetings for Arthur Christmas gift wrap. Arthur Christmas releases November 23 in North America.
Discovery Signs Deal for Series of Mobile Games
Discovery Communications, Inc. has signed a licensing agreement with Zap Toys for a series of mobile games under the Discovery Kids brand. Discovery Kids’ Scuba Adventure will be the first title released as part of the explorer series, in which kids take on the role of young adventurers traveling the world. At launch, the game will be available for download on both the iPod Touch and iPhone, before rolling out to the iPad shortly thereafter. The deal was brokered on behalf of Discovery Communications by Big Tent Entertainment, the North American licensing agent for the Discovery Kids brand.
LIMA and BSR Publish “Practical Guide for Licensees”
The International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association (LIMA) and BSR have released “Good Practices for Complying with Licensors’ Social and Environmental Requirements: A Practical Guide for Licensees,” a new guide designed to promote positive social and environmental practices among licensors, licensees, agents, suppliers, factories, and retailers. The publication was developed with the Licensing Working Group, which consists of known and widely respected companies and organizations in the licensing industry, including LIMA, BSR, Hasbro, NBCUniversal, Time Warner, and The Walt Disney Company. The 28-page guide is now available as a free download on the LIMA website. To access the guide, click here.
Marvel Partners for New Game and Halloween Feature Shop
Marvel Entertainment has teamed up with Upper Deck for Slingers, a new fast-paced, two-player game of skill and strategy that is a race to capture collectible medallions. The Slinger itself is used in a similar fashion to a yo-yo, but has a patented retractable mechanism and an “Invisible Energy Shield” that allows players to pick up collectible medallions if they “sling” it just right. Both the Slinger and collectible medallions feature popular Marvel characters. Gamers can find two Marvel Slingers products exclusively in Toys “R” Us retail stores starting later this month.
Marvel is also partnering with Party City for Halloween 2012. The company has signed a licensing agreement with AMSCAN, parent company of Party City, for a branded Marvel Halloween Costume Feature Shop at the party specialty store. Launching next Halloween, the dedicated shop will showcase costumes and accessories inspired by Marvel Super Heroes and two of next summer’s biggest blockbusters, Marvel’s The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man.
Disney Acquires Parenting Website
The Walt Disney Company has acquired Babble Media, Inc., an online parenting platform that, according to the Associated Press, features “more than 200 influential mom bloggers." In a post on Babble.com, Brooke Chaffin of Disney Interactive Media Group wrote, “With the addition of Babble, Disney is embracing a new genre of storytellers—parents who are able to eloquently, honestly, and, often, humorously share true stories from their daily lives that resonate with moms and dads.” Terms of the purchase were not disclosed. According to the Associated Press, Babble will remain headquartered in New York, and its co-founders, Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman, will join Disney.
Social Gaming Surges, According to New Report
According to a new 2011 gaming report, reported by Gamasutra.com, 118.5 million people now play social games at least once a week, up 71 percent compared to results from last year. The 2011 PopCap Social Gaming Research survey, conducted by Information Solutions Group and commissioned by PopCap, also found that 81 million people play social games at least once a day. Additionally, spending on social games has risen dramatically. The report found that 31million players have spent money on in-game purchases, up 86 percent compared to last year.
In terms of age, 30 percent of social gamers are under age 30 (19 percent last year), and 20 percent of U.S. social gamers are over age 60. In the UK, that number drops to just 7 percent.
Discovery Bay Games Launches Free Apps for Duo Pop and Duo Plink
Discovery Bay Games has partnered with Highlights for Children for three new free game apps to work with the company’s Duo Pop and Duo Plink accessories for the iPad. The apps include Highlights Hidden Pictures Countdown and Highlights Buzz Blast for Duo Pop, and Highlights Memory Mix-Up for Duo Plink. Additionally Discovery Bay Game has launched the free Saturday Night Live—The Game app, which is compatible with the company’s Duo Pop accessory for the iPad. All four apps are available on the App Store. Duo Pop and Duo Plink are available for $39.99 and $29.99, respectively.
Carte Blanche Greetings to Release Me to You at Christmas Album
Carte Blanche Greetings is continuing its partnership with EMI by releasing Me to You at Christmas, a collection of 40 festive tunes. The two-disc compilation, releasing November 28, features seasonal hits from Ella Fitzgerald to Kylie Minogue. As an added bonus, Me to You at Christmas will come with a unique code to unlock a virtual gift in the free-to-play online social game, Me to You My Place. The gift is a digital gramophone that plays clips from the album. This past February, Carte Blanche teamed up with EMI for Me to You With Love, which reached No. 2 in the compilation album charts, and was the best-selling album on Valentine’s Day.
More than 500 People Play Bananagrams to Fund Pediatric Cancer Treatments
On Saturday, November 12, more than 500 people participated in the World’s Largest Game of Bananagrams, raising money in collaboration with the Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer (MACC) Fund for new, innovative treatments that aim to help kids with pediatric cancer. Hosted by the I Back Jack Foundation, the “Imagine What a Whole Bunch Can Do” event also featured a family fair complete with food, entertainment, and activities. The I Back Jack Foundation has been instrumental in the funding of two separate clinical trials at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. The event raised more than $65,000 (estimated) for pediatric cancer research. The Foundation will use proceeds to fund a new trial at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in partnership with the MACC Fund.
KidzBop.com Launches “Fan Pages” with HarperCollins and RCA Records
KidzBop.com recently launched their first ever user-generated “Fan Pages,” allowing kids to establish a fan base and interact with brands and other kids with similar interests. The website’s first official Fan Pages include HarperCollins and RCA Records (for its artists Kelly Clarkson and Hot Chelle Rae). Fan Pages let kids design and create their own social communities built around interests, from music to sports to pets. Some of the functionalities include chatting with other fans, viewing photos and videos, participating in polls, and giving “props” to pages and brands they love the most.
ZhuZhu Pets Theme Song at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
At the 85th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, more than 45 million anticipated viewers will be introduced to the debut soundtrack of ZhuZhu Pets. On board the Zhu-niverse float will be 19-year-old Savannah Outen who will sing “No Place Like Here,” the theme song to the movie ZhuZhu Pets—Quest for Zhu. The song is featured on the 14-song motion picture soundtrack, which also features American Idol finalist Thia Megia. More than 100 selected young performers will back up Outen at the parade. The soundtrack will release November 21.
Cooper and Me Partners with Cablevision for “Power to Learn” Campaign
The Cooper and Me brand is launching an ongoing promotion on www.powertolearn.com, in conjunction with Cablevision. Aimed at beginning readers, the Cooper and Me campaign aims to encourage a love of reading and to teach kids important life lessons. The campaign will be promoted in the Reading Lounge section of the Power to Learn website and on a rotating banner on the homepage. In addition to the campaign, from now until March 1, Cooper and Me is donating $1 dollar from each sale of Cooper and Me and the Winter Adventure to The Lustgarten Foundation, America’s largest private foundation dedicated solely to funding pancreatic cancer research.