Matchbox Kicks Off 60th Anniversary Campaign

matchboxTo commemorate its 60-year anniversary, Matchbox, from Mattel, is kicking off a three-month national campaign that will include the Matchbox Heroes Wanted Sweepstakes with a $60,000 college scholarship award and a national retail promotion for fans to purchase Matchbox die-cast vehicles for 60 cents for a limited time at participating retailers now through March 10.

The Matchbox Heroes Wanted Sweepstakes calls on parents to celebrate the heroic attributes of their children by submitting a picture and caption of their hero-in-training dressed as their favorite real-life icon. Submissions will be showcased on the Matchbox Heroes Wanted Facebook gallery and are automatically entered to win a $60,000 college scholarship. Parents with children between the ages of 3 and 10 can enter the contest now through May 13. Sixty prize pack giveaways will be awarded weekly consisting of a Matchbox-branded gift box, a personalized photo-frame thank you card, and four heroic Matchbox vehicles. To learn more about the contest and read stories from the heroes that inspired Matchbox vehicles, visit

COMMENTARY: Dolls Aim to End Bullying, Teach Virtues

Bullying is often written off as a normal part of childhood—growing up as a boy with a girl’s name, I was an easy target for schoolyard taunts. But it might be fair to say that this current generation of kids has it harder than ever. Consider Lee Hirsch’s recent documentary Bully, the countless news stories about youth being victimized by their peers through social media, and the It Gets Better Project aimed at ending the alarming trend of kids senselessly taking their own lives.

myfriendhugglesAt Toy Fair, I was pulled aside by a man holding up a child-sized doll with an adorable face and yarn hair. I later learned the doll was part of the My Friend Huggles line, which is among a growing number of toys that have a larger message. My Friend Huggles seeks to teach kids virtues such as kindness, fairness, and generosity. Each doll features a satin ribbon with a poem about the doll’s virtue. In addition to the regular doll collection, the My Friend Huggles line also includes a brother-sister duo dressed as anti-bullying superheroes.

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Storch Stepping Down as CEO of Toys “R” Us, Remains Chairman

Toys “R” Us Inc. has announced that Gerald L. Storch will transition from his role as CEO of the company, while remaining in his capacity as chairman of the board. The company will begin a search for a successor CEO, and Storch will continue in his position as CEO during the transition period.

Storch, 56, joined the company in February 2006 following its acquisition by an investment group consisting of affiliates of Bain Capital Partners LLC, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., and Vornado Realty Trust. As chairman of the board, Storch will continue to provide strategic guidance and play a key role in its growth initiatives.

The Toys “R” Us board of directors released a statement, which read, “Jerry has done an exceptional job in rebuilding the company, while successfully leading it through an extremely difficult global economic environment. We are grateful for his leadership over the past seven years and for the strong foundation he has built for the future. Jerry has delivered some of the best financial results in the more than 60-year history of the company, including multiple years of achieving $1 billion or more in adjusted EBITDA. He has been tireless in his efforts to develop best-in-class e-commerce and omnichannel capabilities and in significantly expanding the development of proprietary and differentiated products. Under Jerry’s leadership, we rolled out the integrated store strategy around the world and made a number of strategic acquisitions. Most recently, in acquiring the majority stake in the company’s business in Southeast Asia and Greater China, he has provided the company with a long runway for growth abroad. We thank Jerry for his strategic repositioning of the business.”

“I am incredibly proud of what we have accomplished together over the past seven years,” said Storch. “The Toys ‘R’ Us brand is stronger than ever due to the hard work and dedication of our talented team around the world. Looking to the future, we will always ‘Play to Win.’’’

Barbie to Leave Malibu and Search for a New Dreamhouse Location

Barbie is officially putting her Malibu, Calif. Dreamhouse on the market and is packing up her three-story pink palace, signaling the launch of a year-long global brand campaign by Mattel. Over the next few months, Barbie will embark on a worldwide tour to find a new dream home. This year’s campaign will feature real-life, life-sized experiences, online engagement, and retail touch points that bring the Barbie Dreamhouse to life for Barbie fans.

Fictitiously valued at $25 million (see the Trulia listing), her scaled 8,500 square foot, three-story, one-bedroom, one-bathroom mansion is the only house in Malibu with unobstructed views of the ocean—after all, it only has three walls.

Barbie will open the doors to her Dreamhouse with the “Barbie The Dreamhouse Experience,” which will debut in Florida in the U.S. and Berlin in March. Inspired by the popular web series, Barbie Life in the Dreamhouse, this interactive installation celebrates Barbie’s fabulous life, allowing fans a look inside her pink palace.

In addition, Mega Bloks and Barbie are transforming the way girls can build, design and decorate their Barbie world with the global launch of Mega Bloks Barbie, the first-ever Barbie building collection designed specifically for girls. The complete construction toy line—including a Dreamhouse-inspired Luxury Mansion—lets girls literally build Barbie doll’s world, piece by piece.

Women In Toys Extends Application Deadline for Walmart Pitch Event

The application deadline for Women in Toys‘ (WIT) and Walmart’s Women’s Global Economic Empowerment Initiative, has been extended to January 30. About 40 women-owned businesses have already signed up to participate in the Walmart Pitch event on February 11 during New York Toy Fair, which allows WIT members to pitch their products to Walmart. [Read more...]

The Big Toy Book Hosts Biggest Day of Holiday Play

The Big Toy Book’s holiday toy showcase, the Biggest Day of Holiday Play, took place December 8 at the ultra-chic Yotel, hosting more than 100 bloggers and their children. Participants had the opportunity to visit eight cabin spaces sponsored by various toy companies, including Hasbro, The Bridge Direct, Innovation First, Delta Children’s Products, Poof-Slinky, Play Hut, among many others. Stations exhibiting the hottest holiday toys were set up throughout the Yotel lounge space. [Read more...]

FTC Report: Little Progress in Privacy Concerns Surrounding Kids’ Apps

The Federal Trade Commission issued a new staff report, Mobile Apps for Kids: Disclosures Still Not Making the Grade, examining the privacy disclosures and practices of apps offered for children in the Google Play and the Apple App stores. Since FTC staff’s first survey of kids’ mobile apps last year, little progress was found toward giving parents the information they need to determine what data is being collected from their children, how it is being shared, or who will have access to it.  The report also finds that many of the apps surveyed included interactive features, such as connecting to social media, and sent information from the mobile device to advertising networks, analytics companies, or other third parties, without disclosing these practices to parents. [Read more...]

Cody Simpson Helps Kick-off Build-A-Bear’s Toys for Tots Drive

Australian teen pop singer Cody Simpson helped Build-A-Bear Workshop kick-off a nationwide weekend campaign to make donations of more than 25,000 stuffed animals to the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation.

The 15-year-old singer, whose album Paradise was released this month, posed for photos with young fans and helped stuff bears with Marine families at the Build-A-Bear Workshop store on New York City’s Fifth Avenue. Build-A-Bear’s “Stuffed with Hugs” campaign will take place this weekend at stores across the country. The company is inviting guests to help make stuffed animals for free that will be donated to local Toys for Tots Foundation programs. The first 100 guests in all U.S. stores on Saturday and Sunday will have a chance to craft a stuffed animal that will be given to a needy child. More than one in five children under the age of 18 live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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Ematic Releases Kid’s Tablet

Ematic has released  its 7-inch Android 4.0 FunTab Pro, a new tablet tailored to children. FunTab Pro has a rubberized texture and ergonomic design, ensuring a secure grip and a shape that fits in small hands.

FunTab Pro features include interactive story books, video mail, and an art studio.  Interactive story books allow parents to make a video recording of themselves reading to the child using or the device’s built-in camera. The video mail feature allows invited family members to send short video messages to the FunTab Pro from

The tablet comes with a games bundle that includes Angry Birds, Where’s My Water?, Cut the Rope, Skitch, School Assistant, Fruit Ninja, and educational apps from Intellijoy. A kid-safe web browser is also included.

The tablet runs on an Android 4.0 operating system and has a 1 GHz processor. The tablet comes with 1 GB RAM, 8 GB of internal storage, and a MicroSD card slot, allowing for an additional 32 GB of storage. The FunTab Pro has a 7-inch 800 x 480 multi-touch screen, front and back cameras, and built-in WiFi. Its HD Video player supports up to 1080p HD videos. The tablet also features an HDMI output for connecting to a TV. Its battery life allows for up to eight hours of continuous playtime.

Kmart and Sears Prep for Holiday Shopping

Anticipating a busy holiday shopping season, Kmart and Sears have announced plans to eliminate layaway service fees and make shopping more convenient through mobile checkout and curbside pick-up.

Kmart has eliminated layaway service fees until November 17, and Sears has eliminated online and in-store layaway service fees to October 29, and November 2 to December 3. Online layaway items can be picked up at the closest Kmart or Sears store. For the first time, the stores will also provide the option for items to be shipped to a customer’s home.

Customers who use Kmart layaway this year will also be entered into The Big Layaway Giveaway special promotion. Each week from now to November 17, one customer at every Kmart store across the country will win the opportunity to have their remaining layaway balance paid off. As part of the promotion, Kmart anticipates paying off more than 13,000 layaway contracts during the holiday season.

In an effort to make holiday shopping more convenient, Sears stores throughout the country will roll out mobile point-of-sale devices. Customers paying with credit or debit cards can make a purchase right where they are standing. In addition, sales associates at 500 Sears and Kmart stores will use tablet devices to check available inventory, access product information and videos, and sell merchandise available on the company’s websites right from the selling floor.

Sears will also offer customers a five minute curbside pick-up guarantee. Customers can purchase items online, specify the store where they would like to pick up their items, and have their purchase brought to their car in five minutes or less. Customers will receive a $5 coupon if the expectation is not met.

When it comes to holiday gifts, Kmart says it will have thousands of items at budget-friendly price points of $5, $10, and $20 throughout the holidays. Kmart also released its Fab 15 toys for the holiday season. Items include the LeapFrog LeapPad 2, the Air Hogs Hover Assault by Spin Master, and Furby by Hasbro. The list also includes several items exclusive to Kmart stores, including FurReal Friends Bouncy My Happy-To-See-Me Pup by Hasbro, the Holiday Brunette Barbie 2012 Doll by Mattel, the Monster High Skultimate Roller Maze Set, and the Power Wheels Hot Wheels Dune Racer.