Merriam-Webster and Publications International to Launch Large-Print Puzzle Books

Merriam-Webster and Publications International have signed a licensing partnership to develop and market a line of large-print puzzle books under the Merriam-Webster brand. JRL Group, Merriam-Webster’s licensing agency, brokered the deal.

The Merriam-Webster 10-book Puzzle Set is a large-print, soft cover, easy-to-read set containing the titles Circle Worlds, Crosswords, Fill-Ins, Scramblers, Word Games, and Word Search.

Imports Dragon Grows Sales Team in Toronto

ImportsDragon.logoImports Dragon has added five new members to its Toronto sales team following the successful expansion of its Caillou and Johnny Test product lines in the U.S. market, as well as the continued success of its Shopkins, The Trash Pack, and The Zelfs product lines.

The new additions to the sales team will be working under the leadership of Renee Lochhead, director of sales, who has more than 16 years of experience and joined the Import Dragon team this past July. Other additions include Danny Machado, who has more than 13 years of experience working at Wal-Mart, and Blake Turvey, who has more than 14 years of managerial and corporate development experience.

Gail Benham, Jason Kiss, and Tyler Patriquin round out the new sales team that will be working out of the company’s Mississauga headquarters.

Play-Doh’s Year in Review Features Ice Buckets, Selfies, and More

Hasbro Inc.‘s Play-Doh brand is celebrating memorable moments and top trends for the past year with its second A Year in Play-Doh Moments, a year-in-review sculpted out of Play-Doh compound. There’s the Ice Bucket Challenge, selfies, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, the 20th anniversary of Friends, The Fault in Our Stars, smart watches, nostalgic ’90s-inspired fashion, and the polar vortex.

Play-Doh fans can visit the Play-Doh Facebook page to celebrate the past year with other Play-Doh fans.

TIA Discusses Industry Priorities at Annual Strategy Meeting

TIALast week, Toy Industry Association (TIA) members attended TIA’s Annual External Affairs Strategy Meeting held in Los Angeles to discuss key priorities for next year, and to strategize on new and emerging topics projected to impact the toy industry next year and beyond.

On December 3, there was an update and forecast of the industry’s short-term priority policy areas, including chemical regulation, product safety, environmental sustainability, marketing to children, and international trade. On December 4, TIA staff and member representatives participated in a full-day series of brainstorming sessions to discuss how TIA’s efforts on behalf of the toy industry could be enhanced, both domestically and abroad. [Read more...]

Spielwarenmesse eG Calls Upon Exhibitors to Donate to Charity

SpielwarenmesseegEach year, Spielwarenmesse exhibitors donate their products to charity. Spielwarenmesse eG collects these items on the last day of the fair and presents them to SOS Children’s Villages and regional institutions in Franconia.

The Spielwarenmesse eG fair team has been working with the Nuremberg SOS Children’s Village since Spielwarenmesse 2014 to give gifts to children all over Germany. That year, around 800 of the 2,700 exhibitors donated some of their products to the charity, and all in all, more than 8,000 products were collected and donated to social institutions throughout Germany. [Read more...]

Renne Fink Joins Rubie’s as New General Manager of Imagine by Rubie’s

Renne Fink has been promoted to general manager of the Imagine by Rubie’s Sales Division, as announced by The Rubie’s Group. She comes to Rubie’s with more than 20 years of consumer product sales experience, and served as vice president of sales at Tara Toy Corporation, and more recently, was national accounts manager at Playmobil USA.

Fink joined Rubie’s in April of this year to do new business development, and has been working closely with the Imagine team.

Toys “R” Us Inc. Reports Third Quarter Financial Results

toysrus.croppedOn Thursday, Toys “R” Us Inc. reported financial results for the third quarter ended November 1. Adjusted EBITDA for the third quarter improved by $43 million compared to the prior year period, while consolidated gross margin, as a percentage of net sales, increased by 90 basis points compared to the prior year period. Gross margin dollars were $908 million, compared to $896 million for the prior year period, an increase of $12 million.

Gross margin, as a percentage of net sales, was 36.9 percent, an increase of 0.9 percentage points versus the prior year period. The margin improvement was primarily attributable to the domestic segment, which increased by 1.8 percentage points, to 35.3 percent, as a result of promotional efficiencies. [Read more...]

FINRA Fines 10 Firms for Offering Favorable Research Coverage in Connection with Toys “R” Us IPO

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has fined 10 firms a total of $43.5 million for allowing their equity research analysts to solicit investment banking business and for offering favorable research coverage in connection with the 2010 planned initial public offering of Toys “R” Us.

FINRA fined the following firms: Barclays Capital Inc., $5 million; Citigroup Global Markets Inc., $5 million; Credit Suisse Securities (USA), LLC, $5 million; Goldman, Sachs & Co., $5 million; JP Morgan Securities LLC, $5 million; Deutsche Bank Securities Inc., $4 million; Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc., $4 million; Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC, $4 million; Wells Fargo Securities LLC, $4 million; Needham & Company LLC, $2.5 million.

In April 2010, Toys “R” Us and its private equity owners invited these 10 firms to compete for a role in Toys “R” Us’ planned IPO. FINRA found that each of the 10 firms used its equity research analyst as part of its solicitation for a role in the IPO. Specifically, Toys “R” Us asked equity research analysts from each of the 10 firms to make separate presentations to Toys “R” Us’ management and sponsors for the purpose of ensuring that the analysts’ views on key issues, including valuation factors, were aligned with the views expressed by the firms’ investment bankers. [Read more...]

SCEI Launches PlayStation Business in People’s Republic Of China

SONY COMPUTER ENTERTAINMENT AMERICA LLC LOGOSony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCEI) will launch its PlayStation 4 (PS4) and PlayStation Vita (PS Vita) in the People’s Republic of China on January 11. Along with the release of the two systems, SCEI will offer an after-sales service to ensure Chinese users have a smooth and positive experience on PlayStation.

Along with SCE Worldwide Studios, 70 third-party software developers and publishers plan to deliver a stream of software titles to gamers in China. In addition, a variety of titles created by Chinese game developers will be available on PlayStation.

In cooperation with modian.com and business partner Shanghai Oriental Pearl Suole Culture Development Ltd., SCEI will actively provide support to Chinese game developers to bring their content to PlayStation platforms.

TIA Considers Three for Board of Directors

TIAThe Toy Industry Association (TIA) nominating committee has submitted candidates for consideration by the membership, for election to the association’s board of directors. Successful candidates would serve a two-year term expiring at the annual meeting in 2017.

The proposed board members are: Bruce S. Raiffe, president of Gund; Howard Kahn, CEO of Kahn Lucas; and Kerry Cunnion, senior vice president of sales of Tomy International. Additional nominations, made in writing and signed by no less than 10 percent of the TIA’s membership, may be submitted to TIA President Carter Keithley at ckeithley@toyassociation.org no later than January 16.

Raiffe, Kahn, and Cunnion would fill the seats of retiring board members Joel Berger of Cardinal Industries Inc.; Peter Henseler of Tomy International; and D. Hugo Malan of Sears Holdings Corp.

The election of new board members will occur during the TIA Annual Business Meeting that will convene at 8 a.m. on February 16, in conjunction with North American International Toy Fair at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. The meeting is open to all stakeholders of the toy industry—both members and non-members.