December 15, 2011


NRF: November Retail Sales Rise

November retail industry sales, excluding automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants, rose 0.9 percent from October and 4.5 percent over last year, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). The organization attributes the growth to strong promotions on holiday gifts. November retail sales released by the U.S. Commerce Department show total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) increased 0.2 percent from October and 6.8 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
NRF expects a holiday sales growth of 2.8 percent, but the group plans to reevaluate its forecast this week in light of stronger-than-expected sales in November and in previous months this year. The group estimates that 226 million shoppers visited retail stores and websites during Black Friday weekend, spending a record $52 billion.

Report: Online Holiday Spending Increases 15 Percent

ComScore, a company that measures the digital world, has reported its results for e-commerce spending for the first 39 days of the November–December 2011 holiday season. To date, $24.6 billion has been spent online this holiday season, an increase of 15 percent compared to last year. Last week reached $5.9 billion in spending, also an increase of 15 percent versus the corresponding week last year.
ComScore began tracking e-commerce spending in 2001, and has counted seven individual shopping days that have surpassed $1 billion in spending. Topping the list is this year’s Cyber Monday (November 28) at $1.25 billion, followed by last week’s Monday (December 5) at $1.18 billion. Six of the top 10 days that passed the $1 billion mark fell in either November or December of this year.

NPD Releases KIDS Report on Holiday Wish Lists

Toys are still at the top of kids’ wish lists, according to a recently released Kids Industry Data Service (KIDS) report by The NPD Group. NPD asked the open-ended question, “What is on your child's wish list for the upcoming holiday season?" and received 6,612 mentions of items for kids ages 0 to 14. Of the mentions, 44 percent were toys, up from last year when 38 percent of mentions were playthings. Consumer electronics was second (11 percent), followed by video games (10 percent), apparel and accessories (9 percent), video game system hardware (5 percent), and sporting gear (4 percent).
The top five properties mentioned across all product categories included Lego, Barbie, Transformers, American Girl, and Thomas & Friends. Newer brands and products included Fijit Friends, Kindle Fire, InnoTab, Spryo: Skylanders, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Ripstik, and Airsoft guns.

Disney to Introduce Little Girl Princess, Sofia

SofiaDisney will introduce a little girl princess to its legacy of princess fairytales in an animated television movie and series. Sofia the First will premiere next fall and in spring 2013 on Disney Channel and Disney Junior channels around the world, respectively.
This is the first time a Disney series has centered on a princess as a little girl. The stories are designed to communicate positive messages and life lessons that are applicable to preschoolers. The series and movie are productions of Disney Television Animation.
Sofia the First is set in the storybook world of young Sofia who starts out life as a regular girl. But when her mom marries the king, she is whisked off to a glamorous, but sometimes confusing, castle world of royalty, pomp, and new step-siblings. Classic Disney Princesses will make special appearances.
In announcing the series, Nancy Kanter, senior vice president of original programming and general manager at Disney Junior Worldwide, said, “In Sofia, we have a ‘peer to peer princess,’ a relatable girl experiencing the same social issues as our young viewers—learning how to fit in, making new friends, conquering new skills, and building sibling relationships.”

UL-STR to Present Free Toy Safety Seminar

UL-STR will present a free seminar during the Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair on “Navigating the New Toy Safety—Best Practices and a Framework for Compliance,” providing manufacturers, retailers, and importers with an in-depth understanding of best practices in toy safety, and a framework for compliance with toy regulations around the world. The half-day seminar, which includes a presentation by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on U.S. toy regulations, will be held on January 9 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (HKT) at the Renaissance Harbour View Hotel.
The seminar will deconstruct complex safety requirements and provide vital regulatory updates, including:
(1) Update on U.S. Toy Regulations: an overview of recent injury data associated with toys, as well as an update on the CPSIA and recent CPSC action on testing and certification of children’s products. Updates will be provided on the U.S. toy safety standard, ASTM F963, as well as U.S. state legislation; 
(2) EU Toy Directive Technical File:Demystifyingthis record-keeping requirement;
(3) EU Toy Directive Risk Assessment: Key elements of the Technical Documentation File will be discussed;
(4) Best Practices for Chemical Management: Discussion of the chemical management program in relation to the EU Toy Safety Directive and other restricted substances legislation. Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis. Seating is limited. To register for the seminar, contact, or register online at

Hasbro to Eliminate PVC From Packaging

Hasbro, Inc. announced that it will eliminate polyvinyl chloride (PVC) from all new core toy and game packaging, beginning in 2013. Hasbro has already begun to phase out PVC from some packaging. Phasing out PVC in packaging is Hasbro’s most recent effort in a series of sustainable packaging initiatives by the company. The efforts, including eliminating wire ties, increasing recycled content, and sourcing paper, are designed to minimize the impact on natural resources. To learn more about Hasbro’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts, visit

The Annoying Orange Toys, from The Bridge, Premiere at TRU

Annoying OrangeToys “R” Us will be the first retailer to offer the new The Annoying Orange toy line inspired by the YouTube hit. The line, by master toy partner The Bridge Direct, Inc., is in stores now. The Annoying Orange toys that will be available include talking plush, figurines, clip-ons, and mini collectibles. A dedicated Annoying Orange brand page on is now available and features the toys along with the very first The Annoying Orange web episode. Additionally, all products will include a QR code on packaging that consumers can scan with their smartphones to view an exclusive, never-before-seen The Annoying Orange video. 
The toy line will be supported with a national multimedia advertising campaign as well as viral campaigns across YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and A new Annoying Orange series will debut next year.
The deal for the Annoying Orange toy line was brokered on behalf of The Collective by The Joester Loria Group (TJLG), the licensing agent for the Annoying Orange brand.

Nick Toy Machines Featured in 100 Simon Malls

Nick Toy MachinesNickelodeon debuted its first virtual Nick Toy Machines last weekend at 100 Simon malls across the country. Inspired by the classic vending machine, each virtual Nick Toy Machine is a colorful, double-sided standee (seven-foot tall and 3.5-feet wide) that shoppers can walk up to and scan with a smartphone to buy Nickelodeon toys.
The Nick Toy Machine features images of Dora the Explorer and Victorious toys, along with a corresponding QR code that allows shoppers to quickly “scan and buy” gifts using their smartphones. The Nick Toy Machines are placed in high-traffic areas.







A2 Entertainment Partners with Tata Elxsi for New Venture

A Squared Entertainment (A2) and Tata Elxsi, the technology arm of USD Tata Group, have formed A Squared Elxsi Entertainment LLC (A2E2) in India. The joint venture is pursuant to a memo of understanding entered into in January. Together, the companies will create, develop, and distribute original brands, including animated entertainment, digital gaming, and originally designed consumer products.
A2E2’s daily operations will be managed by Andy and Amy Heyward, co-presidents, from its Los Angeles office. Vijay Amritraj orchestrated the partnership and will remain in an advisory role. Also serving in an advisory role is Elizabeth Daley, the dean of University of Southern California’s (USC) School of Cinematic Arts.
Tata Elxsi’s Visual Computing Lab (VCL), Embedded Product Design (EPD), and Industrial Design (ID) divisions will be combined with A2’s brand development, creative entertainment, global distribution, and consumer retail products expertise to create and develop new entertainment experiences for kids.

Schoolies, a New Preschool Brand, Inks Deal for Line of Books

New preschool brand Schoolies, by Ellen Crimi-Trent, is expanding its presence with a line of books, to be published worldwide by Priddy Books, a division of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. The initial line is planned to include four Schoolies book titles plus flash cards, set to launch July 2013 in time for the back-to-school season. The line will include activity books, 8x8 readers, Let’s Go learning books, flash cards, e-books, and more.
Featuring Spencer the Owl and his friends, Schoolies initially launched through a mobile app last year. Schoolies is beginning to explore brand expansion into toys, interactive games, school supplies, apparel, bags, accessories, and more. For licensing inquiries, contact TK Brand Group at

C.R. Gibson to Debut its Emily Green Products in January

Emily GreenC.R. Gibson has obtained the Emily Green license, a brand founded in 2004 and known for its bold, colorful products that aim to spark kids’ creativity. An expanded Emily Green collection by C.R. Gibson will debut at the 2012 Winter Markets, beginning with the Atlanta Gift Show in January. The deal was brokered by Emily Green’s licensing representation, Firefly Brand Management.
The expanded line includes new imagination match-em-up memory card sets, flash card sets, and four Emily Green imagination wooden puzzles. Other products include imagination mats, melamine plates, bowls and tumblers, utensils, imagination books, and doodle sticks. Additionally, the new collection will be on display in C.R. Gibson's newly renovated permanent showroom in AmericasMart Building 2, in Atlanta. OneCoast/National Division One will represent the Emily Green line nationally.

Toy Business Forum to Run February 2-6 at Nuremberg Toy Fair

Spielwarenmesse Intnl Toy FairSpielwarenmesse eG’s Toy Business Forum will run February 2-6 at its International Toy Fair Nuremberg. The forum will present the latest industry trends and unusual marketing tools. Speakers will address special topics from 1-3 p.m. each day during the forum. During the 30-minute lectures, speakers will give expert insight into how retailers can market toys more successfully.
The first day will focus on international trends, with speakers including Andreas Haderlein from the Zukunftsinstitut, Gabriela Kaiser from Trendagentur, and U.S. toy trend specialist Reyne Rice. Other topics to be presented at the forum include Web 2.0, online marketing, Facebook, design, and more. The third day of the Toy Business Forum will be dedicated to Toys4Teens, a special event premiering at the 2012 Toy Fair. For more information, visit

District Judge Orders Temporary Restraints After International Playthings’ Claims

On November 22, International Playthings, LLC (and its parent company Epoch Company, Ltd.) commenced an action in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey against Toy Teck Ltd., LLC; Toyteck Corporation; Manley Toys, Ltd.; Mitchell August; and other defendants, alleging false advertising, copyright infringement, unfair competition, and other claims regarding International Playthings’ Cozy Cottage. 
On the same date, U.S. District Judge (Hon.) Susan D. Wigenton issued an order granting temporary restraints against the defendants to cease the broadcast and Internet display of a commercial called the “Teacup Families Commercial.” The order says the defendants are “restrained from airing, posting, running, printing, or otherwise availing to the public, any advertisements in any medium, including without limitation, cable and network television and the Internet, that display International Playthings, LLC products, including the Cozy Cottage.” A further hearing has been scheduled for December 15.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to Come to Hollywood

Warner Bros. Entertainment and Universal Parks and Resorts are bringing The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to Universal Studios Hollywood. The popular themed land debuted in Orlando in June 2010, and includes Hogwarts Castle, Hogsmeade, and multiple themed attractions. The two companies also announced their plans to significantly expand The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort. Specific details of the expansion will be announced over time.


More than 27K Participants for National Gaming Day @ Your Library

More than 27,700 people participated in “National Gaming Day @ Your Library” on November 12, sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA). Gaming events were held at more than 760 U.S. libraries and 21 international libraries in 14 countries.
Through a donation from, registered libraries across the country received 3,000 copies of its most popular games, including Loaded Questions, Awkward Family Photos, The Greatest Day Ever Game, and Loaded Questions Junior. Approximately 39 libraries competed in the Epic Super Smash Bros. Brawl tournament, while seniors and teens at other libraries taught one another how to play Scrabble, Rock Band, and Nintendo Wii. Next year’s National Gaming Day @ Your Library will take place on Saturday, November 3.

Club Penguin’s “Coins for Change” Returns for Fifth Year

Club PenguinClub Penguin’s Coins for Change will be back this Thursday for the fifth year. Running from December 15-27, Coins for Change allows Club Penguin players to donate the virtual coins they earn in the virtual world to real world causes and charities. This year, kids will be challenged to fill the island lighthouse with donated coins. If this goal is reached, Club Penguin will double its overall cash donation to $2 million.
Causes include providing medical help, building safe places, and protecting the Earth. At the end of the event, the virtual donations will serve as votes to determine how the contribution from Disney Online Studios will be divided among the pre-selected charitable projects. The results of Coins for Change 2011 will be announced on New Year’s Day. For more information, visit

Nickelodeon Restructures Consumer Products Division

Nickelodeon has strategically redesigned its consumer products business into a structure that is now closely aligned with its core business—with global, cross-platform property plans as the driving force behind the new organizational model. The new structure puts the toy and apparel business at the forefront, and retail marketing becomes integral to Nickelodeon’s overall marketing organization.
Under the new management structure, toys, interactive and consumer electronics, and soft goods, headed by Manuel Torres and Hal Snik, will be led by Strategic Business Operations, which is headed by Sarah Kirshbaum Levy, COO, Nickelodeon Group. Nick’s publishing and home entertainment businesses in the U.S., headed by Paula Allen and Sherice Torres, will be managed by the Nickelodeon Digital team, led by Steve Youngwood, executive vice president of digital, Nickelodeon Group.
The retail marketing team, which is overseen by Ron Johnson, will now report to Pam Kaufman, chief marketing officer, Nickelodeon Group. The Packaged Goods department will report to Advertising Sales Partnerships, led by Sharon Cohen, senior vice president of integrated marketing and ad sales, Nickelodeon Group.
All international consumer products operations will continue to be led by Michael Connolly, and will report to Pierluigi Gazzolo, COO of Viacom International Media Networks. Manuel Torres and Paula Allen will both report to Connolly for all international aspects of their businesses.
Nickelodeon Creative Resources will continue to lead all creative components, managed by Russell Hicks, executive vice president and executive creative director, Nickelodeon Group. This combination of senior management leaders will tactically align and integrate all consumer products affairs within the overall Nickelodeon business structure.

Peter Broegger Elected as TIE’s Chairman of Board

Peter Broegger has been elected chairman of the board of directors at Toy Industries of Europe (TIE), replacing Christian Iversen of Lego. A Danish national, Broegger is a toy industry veteran with 18 years experience. He is currently senior vice president, general manager of Mattel Central and Northern Europe, Middle East, and Africa, a post he has held since May 2006. Broegger joined Mattel Taiwan in 1996, followed by assignments in Malaysia and Hong Kong before moving to Europe in October 2003. Broegger has served as a member of TIE’s board since 2007. He is also a member of the advisory board for the Spielwarenmesse International Toy Fair in Nuremberg.

KidZania Names Sarah Marsh as VP, Customer Loyalty

KidZania has appointed Sarah Marsh to the newly created position of vice president of customer loyalty. As part of her new role, Marsh has her sights set on KidZania’s global expansion and creating a new standard in loyalty programs. Marsh joins KidZania from Merkle, Inc. Additionally, for the past 11 years Marsh has advised and held several management posts across the travel, hospitality, retail, and entertainment industries, including at Virgin America, Discovery Communications, and KidZania’s headquarters is in San Jose, Calif. KidZania’s first U.S. park is slated to open in 2013. The company currently operates eight parks around the world.

Toys “R” Us Reports Financial Results for Third Quarter 2011

Toys “R” Us, Inc. has reported financial results for the third quarter 2011, which ended October 29. Net sales were $2.7 billion, compared to $2.719 billion last year. The learning and core toy categories continued to be strong, generating net sales growth of 3.8 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively. The entertainment category (which includes video game hardware and software) was down 14.5 percent, reflecting overall softness across the video game industry.
Comparable store net sales decreased by 2.2 percent in the domestic segment and 3.9 percent internationally. Gross margin dollars were $986 million, compared to $987 million last year. Gross margin, as a percentage of net sales, was 36.5 percent, an increase of 0.2 percent. Operating loss was $75 million, compared to $62 million last
year. Adjusted EBITDA was $36 million, compared to $49 million last year.
Net loss before income taxes improved by $39 million to a loss of $179 million, compared to a loss of $218 million last year. Net loss after income taxes was $93 million, consistent with the same period last year, and reflects a decrease in interest expense, which was offset by a decrease in income tax benefit and an increase in SG&A.

District Court Rules that Upper Deck Must Pay $3.95M

The U.S. District Court in Nevada has ruled that Upper Deck must pay anime company Aniplex $3.95 million, according to a report by The ruling is a result of Upper Deck’s failure to pay Aniplex the sum after it was agreed in a September settlement that was part of a long-running litigation between the companies. The court battle was in regards to Kiba, an anime and card game that was sponsored by Upper Deck. Upper Deck was also a potential U.S. licensing agent for Kiba. According to, the anime was licensed for the U.S. by ADV in 2008, and is now sold in the U.S. by Section 23.

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