ASTRA’s Neighborhood Toy Store Day Supports Increased Sales for Retailers

ASTRAlogoAccording to the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA), nearly two-thirds of ASTRA stores participating in Neighborhood Toy Store Day on Saturday, November 8, reported an increase in their year-over-year same store sales. An estimated 25 percent posted growth of 20 percent or more.

ASTRA retailers reached out to several hundred media outlets around the country and across multiple platforms, including print, radio, broadcast, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Of the ASTRA retailers who reached out to the media in their markets, 82 percent reported that they were successful in using the event to secure local media and blogger coverage.

ASTRA supports participation of its retailer members in Neighborhood Toy Store Day by offering free planning guides, templates for media outreach, Best Toys for Kids award program flyers, and more.

Disney Debuts New Approach to Early Learning with Disney Imagicademy

ImagicademyDisney Publishing Worldwide has created Disney Imagicademy, a technology-driven learning initiative designed for families with children ages 3 to 8 that encourage them to learn by creating, doing, and making. The new platform offers parents a way to expose their children to fundamental educational concepts by combining Disney characters with a research-driven curriculum developed with top academic and education experts.

The integrated program includes more than 30 app-based experiences, a companion app for parents, and books and other physical products. The material covers key subject matters, including math, creative arts, science, language arts, and social and emotional skills. Each in-app experience features progressive early math concepts, including counting forward and backward, sort and classify, skip count, numbers and shapes recognition, reason and logic, and more. The additional physical products and learning toys will be available for back-to-school 2015, featuring items from Smart Toys, Kid Designs, Wonder Forge, and Mercury Active[Read more...]

Nintendo Shares Details on Mario Maker, New Legend of Zelda Games

On Friday, Nintendo game designers Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma appeared via video at The Game Awards in Las Vegas to share new details on Mario Maker and The Legend of Zelda for Wii U.

Mario Maker lets users create their own Mario levels. This includes the ability to tap the Wii U GamePad screen to change the look of a level design to those of previous Super Mario games, such as Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and the New Super Mario Bros. U. Each style includes game mechanics unique to their respective games, and players can integrate these mechanics into designs for the various titles featured in the game. Mario Maker will launch next year, which marks the 30th anniversary of the original Super Mario Bros. game.

In the latest installment of The Legend of Zelda franchise, players can pinpoint locations on the map on the Wii U GamePad, which then appear as beacons in the game as navigation aids. Miyamoto and Aonuma shared information on Epona, Link’s horse, which in the new game avoids trees and obstacles, just as a real horse would do, leaving players free to use Link’s sword or shoot arrows.

Nintendo won four Game Awards on the night, including Developer of the Year, Best Fighting Game for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Best Sports/Racing Game for Mario Kart 8 and Best Family Game for Mario Kart 8. In other news, the company set a March 13 launch date for Code Name: S.T.E.A.M., which will have multiplayer mode that lets players compete against one another in local and online matches on their Nintendo 3DS.

Spielwarenmesse eG Takes Toy Manufacturers to Asia with World of Toys Program

Spielwarenmessee.croppedTwenty-six toy manufacturers from 12 countries are using Spielwarenmesse eG’s World of Toys program, which supports exhibitors wanting to develop business relationships in the Asian market, to exhibit at the Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair 2015.

The companies to exhibit in the World of Toys pavilion are as follows: Banbao Europe BV and SES Nederland BV from the Netherlands; Bruder Spielwaren GmbH + Co. KG, Dusyma, fischerwerke GmbH & Co. KG, Haba–Habermaass GmbH, Mertens GmbH, Spielwarenmesse eG, and SPM Schäfer Promotion Marketing from Germany; Ebulobo, Jouets Ecoiffier, Vulli S.A.S, and Petitcollin & Vilac from France; Furkan ITH. IHR. ve SIN. MAM. PAZ. LTD. STI., Perre Group Co., Ucar Oyuncak San. Tic. Ltd. Sti., and Pilsan Plastik from Turkey; Green Rubber Toys from Australia; Guidecraft and Kettler International Inc. from the U.S.; James Galt & Co. Ltd from the U.K.; Lilliputiens from Belgium; Micro Mobility Systems AG from Switzerland; Science4you SA from Portugal; and Taf Toys from Israel.

Nintendo and Best Buy Team Up for Game Showcase Events

NintendoOn December 7, Nintendo and Best Buy will team up to provide hands-on game play featuring Captain Toad, Pikachu, and other iconic Nintendo characters. At select stores, shoppers can play four of Nintendo’s recent releases: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, for Wii U; Pokémon Art Academy, for Nintendo 3DS; and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS. The four games are currently available in stores and in the Nintendo eShop.

The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. local time, and a full list of participating stores can be found at Best Buy’s web site. Visitors who play the demos become eligible to receive giveaways ranging from fun Pokémon items to in-store coupons, while supplies last. At the Best Buy store in Culver City, Calif., the Mario costumed character himself will pay a visit to take pictures with fans.

TIA Analysis Challenges PIRG’s Trouble in Toyland Reports

Toy_Industry_Association_Inc_logoThe Toy Industry Association (TIA) recently conducted an in-depth review of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Trouble in Toyland reports issued between 2008 and 2013. The TIA’s analysis found that PIRG’s reports were based on improper testing methods that are not approved by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and fail to support PIRG’s allegations that the identified toys present any danger to children at play.

Under federal legislation passed in 2008, toys sold at retail must be tested by a CPSC-accredited third-party testing lab, in order to prove compliance with more than 100 safety standard requirements. TIA’s examination, however, found that U.S. PIRG’s toy hazard claims and testing procedures over the past six years were not approved by the CPSC, and did not follow the same procedures that toy companies are required to follow by law.

Chiefly, none of the alleged safety issues named in PIRG’s reports were based on testing conducted by a CPSC-accredited lab; and out of the 88 products identified in PIRG’s Trouble in Toyland reports over the last six years, the CPSC has not recalled any toys as a result of PIRG’s allegations. In addition, 20 percent of the products named in PIRG’s reports between 2008 and 2013 are not classified as toys, and therefore are not governed by the same safety standards as children’s toys.

A copy of the complete TIA analysis of the 2008 to 2013 reports is available at the TIA website.

CWIST Relaunches Kids CWIST for Kids Holiday Charity Campaign

Dec3.CWISTCWIST has relaunched its Kids Cwist for Kids initiative for the holidays, and will donate $2,000 in toys to family-supporting charities. CWIST is an incentive-based digital learning platform where parents and educators share ideas, motivate kids to learn, and teach them life lessons.

Parents use the platform to assign an interactive learning challenge to their kids, called a cwist, which are ready-made or created by the parent. Usually, when a child completes a cwist, they can earn parent-designated rewards, such as a bowl of ice cream or an extra hour of TV. However, for a twist this holiday season, the Kids Cwist for Kids charity initiative connects a parent and a child to a child in need.

Parents assign their children cwists to complete, but instead of their child receiving a reward, a gift will be donated to a child whose family can’t afford holiday presents.

CPSC to Hold Briefing on Proposed Phthalate Rule Change on December 5

CPSCThe U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) will hold a briefing on a proposed rule change that would prohibit the use of certain phthalates in children’s toys and childcare articles. As reported by the Toy Industry Association (TIA), the briefing, which will be held on December 5, comes after the Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel (CHAP) released a final report this past July, which detailed the potential health effects of phthalates and phthalate alternatives. Following the report, the CPSC had 180 days to propose a regulation change.

The CPSC proposal would expand the interim ban of DINP to a permanent ban in quantities greater than 0.1 percent in all children’s toys and childcare articles. It also calls for a continuation of the current permanent ban of DEHP, DBP, and BBP above 0.1 percent in all accessible toy and child care article components. The proposal would also lift existing interim prohibitions on DIDP and DnO.

A decision will be made whether to adopt the CHAP’s recommendations during a CPSC meeting scheduled for December 17. Any questions may be directed to Alan Kaufman, TIA senior vice president of technical affairs, at (646) 520-4868.

Target to Use Interactive Game to Transform Stores into Winter Wonderlands

Target LogoTarget has partnered with Google on its latest Art, Copy & Code project, Bullseye’s Playground, an interactive, in-store mobile experience. Bullseye’s Playground is a mobile game experience that features Target’s bull terrior mascot Bullseye and other characters. In addition, guests can use Google’s new Project Tango Development Tablet in select stores.

Beginning December 2, Target guests can use their mobile devices to access Bullseye’s Playground both in and out of stores. They can play six interactive games, including sledding, ice fishing, and snowball fights. In-store signage will prompt guests to play and discover special codes throughout the store to unlock characters and new game levels. For every game played on Bullseye’s Platform, Target will donate $1 to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital up to $1 million.

In select Target stores, guests can be some of the first to test out Google’s Project Tango Development Tablets. The tablet screen can transform the store into a winter wonderland that changes as the guests move around the store. They can also interact with characters like Bullseye and Zoomer Dino as they travel around the location, while they discover virtual activities like taking part in a snowball fight or playing a xylophone made of icicles. [Read more...]