February 04, 2010
Ming Minibus

NPD Announces 2009 Toy Sales Results

According to The NPD Group, U.S. retail sales of toys generated $21.47 billion in 2009 compared to $21.65 billion in 2008, a decline of less than 1 percent. In the fourth quarter of 2009 (October through December), although revenues were flat, unit sales were up 4 percent compared to the same period in 2008.
Building Sets and Arts & Crafts experienced the most sales increases, up 23 percent and 7 percent respectively. Action Figures and Games/Puzzles also saw revenue gain of 4 percent and 1 percent respectively. Compared to 2008, Youth Electronics and Plush experienced the largest declines at 17 percent and 13 percent respectively.
Despite the economy, unit share for toys priced under $5 decreased in 2009. More consumers bought toys priced between $5-$10 than under $5. The NPD Group’s report also states that toys for children ages 8 and under brought in the most sales with 69 percent of total toy sales, and the only age group to gain in share and absolute dollar sales was kids ages 9 to 12. 
Licensed toys represented 25 percent of total industry sales in 2009, compared to 27 percent in 2008. Top licenses for the year based on total dollar sales included (in alphabetical order) Cars: The Movie, Disney Princess, Dora the Explorer, Star Wars, and Thomas and Friends. Top properties for the year based on total dollar sales included (in alphabetical order) Bakugan, Barbie, Crayola, Star Wars, and Transformers. 

NYIGF to Premiere Upscale Kids Category in Summer 2010

The New York International Gift Fair (NYIGF) will see some changes, implemented in the next few years, including the creation of NYIGF Lifestyle, which will include Baby + Child, a new juried category debuting in summer 2010. Baby + Child will include a comprehensive collection of upscale products for babies, toddlers, and kids through age 10. The range of featured products will include arts & crafts, books, music, toys, games, puzzles, dolls and plush, gear (such as diaper bags, stroller accessories, and feeding accessories), wearables and accessories, layette, bedding accessories, and blankets. NYGIF expects that Baby + Child will feature approximately 200 companies on Level One of the convention center.
NYIFG will run from August 14-19 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and Passenger Ship Terminal Piers 92 and 94 in New York City. Information and registration is available online at www.nyigf.com.

Chorion Signs Master Toy Deal for the Octonauts

The OctonautsChorion has signed a master toy licensing agreement with Fisher-Price for the new animated property The Octonauts. Fisher-Price will produce a variety of items including plush, musical talking toys, vehicles, playsets, accessories, bath toys, roleplay toys, and Electronic Learning Aids.
The Octonauts is a new animated action adventure series for kids ages 3-5 years old. CBeebies, TF1, and ABC Australia have all pre-bought the series and will launch the show in 2010. The toy rollout is currently planned for 2011 following the broadcast debuts of the show.

HIT Partners with New Licensees for Thomas & Friends

Thomas the Tank EngineHit Entertainment has signed new licensees to develop, manufacture, and market new Thomas & Friends products. Tara Toys will develop a new arts and crafts line for the property including magnetic sets; rolling art desks; activity cases with pads, markers, crayons, and stampers; giant activity floorpads; Sit ’n Play activity trays, and 5-in-1 activity easels. All of Tara Toys’ Thomas items will be available at both mass and specialty stores starting this fall.
Think Wow Toys will launch a new line of Thomas & Friends pools, pool toys, and accessories, such as child-sized goggles, swim vests, swim rings, arm floaties, noodles, rafts, kick boards, and more. These products are slated to premiere by summer 2011.
The Toy Workshop will create and distribute a full line of wooden Thomas & Friends room décor items, from hangers and growth charts to bookcases, clothing racks, benches, toy boxes, and more. The company’s Thomas line will be available in specialty stores only.
Upper Deck has been appointed to produce collectible trading cards that will include pop-up, sticker, and temporary tattoo trading cards targeted to preschoolers ages 3-6. The company will also develop trading cards based on the characters from the Island of Sodor, to be distributed at mass and specialty retailers in June.
This is the first time that HIT has worked with the four companies.

Hidden City Changes Name

Hidden City EntertainmentAs Hidden City Games expands its children’s brands and licensing divisions, the company announces that its name has officially changed to Hidden City Entertainment. As the company continues to expand its various children’s brands and licensing division in North America and internationally, the change in name better encompasses the new goals and objectives for the company as it moves forward in 2010 and beyond. Hidden City Entertainment began as Hidden City Games in March 2007 and is a global developer of original and licensed children’s entertainment content and products. The company is best known as the worldwide master licensee of Bella Sara.


Tink and Friends Jewelry Sets Recalled by Playmates Toys

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Health Canada, in cooperation with Playmates Toys, have announced a voluntary recall of Tiny Tink and Friends Children’s Toy Jewelry Sets. This recall involves charms sold with the sets. The charm is attached to a cord using a metal ring and cylinder and included with the sets as a separate accessory that children can attach to the toy necklace, bracelet, or key chain. The cylindrical metal connector on the charm can contain levels of total lead in excess of 300 ppm, which is prohibited under federal law. No injuries have been reported.
Consumers should immediately take the charm and cord away from children, discard the items, and contact Playmates Toys for a replacement charm accessory. For additional information, contact Playmates toys at (888) 810-1133 or visit the company’s website at www.playmatestoys.com.

TIA Creates New Task Force to Revaluate Heavy Metal Requirements

The Toy Industry Association has formed a “task group of experts to consider the latest intelligence on heavy metals to determine what – if anything – needs to be done to enhance the long-standing requirements already in place within the toy industry,” said Joan Lawrence, TIA vice president for standards and regulatory affairs.
The new task force will report to the TIA Safety Standards Technical Committee (SSTC), to consider whether limits and test methods already established under ASTM F963/CPSIA should be updated to further strengthen the current U.S. safety system. The task group will also assist other children’s product industries that are reviewing similar standards. 
Under current procedures, independent laboratories accredited by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) must test toys and determine whether they meet all relevant standards and regulations before they can be sold in the United States.

Hasbro’s License for In the Night Garden Renewed

In the Night GardenBBC Worldwide has renewed Hasbro’s global master toy license for In the Night Garden. As part of the renewed agreement, Hasbro will extend its In the Night Garden product ranges, with the launch of the “friendship theme” this fall/winter. The theme will be extended across all BBC Worldwide-licensed categories.
In the Night Garden was launched in the UK in 2007, and became the fastest growing license in the toy and game market that year. In the Night Garden plush sales now exceed 4.4 million in UK.

Scholastic Media Partners with FAO Schwarz

BE BIG!Scholastic Media has announced the second year of its collaboration with FAO Schwarz in support of the Scholastic Clifford BE BIG! campaign. From now through the end of February, FAO Schwarz Fifth Avenue and FAO.com will feature a promotion on select Clifford merchandise, and Scholastic will donate 10 percent of the net proceeds from the sale of any BE BIG Clifford plush to the BE BIG fund at HandsOn Network. On Thursday, February 11 from 3:30–4:30 p.m., guests at FAO Schwarz Fifth Avenue can hear a reading of Norman Bridwell’s Clifford the Big Red Dog read by Sherri Shepherd, co-host of The View. The event will also include a costumed appearance by Clifford and a Make Your Own Valentine activity for kids.

TIA to Host Creative Factor Sessions about Working in Toy Industry

The Toy Industry Association (TIA) has organized a series of complementary educational sessions for inventors and other creative professionals on the ins and outs of working in the toy and game industry. The Creative Factor sessions (at booth #4822), will be hosted by co-founder of Bellybuds, LLC Brett Klisch and feature sessions by industry experts from across the toy industry.
Nancy Zwiers, CEO of Funosophy, Inc., and Steve Zuloff, owner of Can You Imagine Corp., will host the “Dreaming It” series. In the presentations, Zwiers will describe how Funosophy has harnessed the synergy and risk management benefits of Collaborative Invention to thrive in today’s toy industry. Zuloff’s session will explore the “Million dollar idea that lives in the attic of your mind.”
The “Making It” series will feature Richard Gottlieb, president of Richard Gottlieb’s USA Toy Experts, LLC, in a session that explores emerging global trends in manufacturing, retailing, and consuming. Yancey Strickler, co-founder of Kickstarter, Inc., will discuss new ways to fund ideas and endeavors.
Barry E. Negrin, partner for Pryor Cashman, LLP, will host the “Protecting It” series. Negrin will discuss IPR tools and techniques, and a follow-up course on how to “keep yourself out of trouble as you go into business and develop your brand.”
The “Selling It” series will include two sessions on virtual promotion. Behzad Amiri, vice president of sales and marketing, O’Halloran Advertising, will address marketing a business in the interactive age. Later, Stephanie Azzarone, president of Child’s Play Communications, will discuss the importance of connecting with moms through social media. Richard Levy and Ron Weingartner, authors of The Toy And Game Inventor's Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Pitch, License and Cash-In on Your Ideas, will review toy and game licensing ideas.
Sessions begin shortly after the show opens on Sunday, February 14 and continue through Tuesday, February 16.

Blue Plate Media to Host Panel Discussions with Disney, Nickelodeon

Blue Plate Media will host its 3rd annual Blue Plate Media Lounge on February 16 at Toy Fair (room 1B05, Jacob Javits Center). Serving as media advocate to industry marketers and Toy Industry Association (TIA) members, Blue Plate Media will host and moderate two panel discussions with Disney and Nickelodeon.
The panels will serve as an insider’s look at how to understand, reach, connect, and engage with kids and moms, across platforms such as television, online, and radio. Following the presentations, executives will be on hand to informally meet and greet, educate, answer questions, and review and present 2010 media opportunities. Blue Plate Media executives will also host informal, one-on-one, strategic media sessions with marketers to answer company-specific media questions, and to explain cross-platform media packages.
Attendance is free but due to limited seating, registration is encouraged. Participants are invited to email questions prior to attendance. To register or schedule a media strategy session with Blue Plate Media, call (908) 918-0202, or email info@blueplatemedia.net.

Nickelodeon UK Secures New Beyblade Series Broadcast Rights

BeybladeNickelodeon in the UK has secured the TV broadcast rights from Corus Entertainment’s Nelvana Enterprises for 51 episodes of the new series Beyblade: Metal Fusion. The show will join other titles in the boys’ action block when it premieres on NickToons in the UK this September.
Co-produced by Nelvana and d-rights, the series is a fresh spin on the original Beyblade, with new characters competing for dominance with their spinning Beyblade tops, battling against an evil organization, Dark Nebula.



PBS to Premiere New Girls’ Science Series

SciGirlsPBS will premiere a new weekly series, SciGirls, on PBS stations and online nationwide February 13. Each half-hour episode follows a different group of real SciGirls, who collaborate, communicate, engineer, and discover. They’re accompanied by two animated characters––Izzie and her best friend Jake––who tie the series together with their ongoing adventures. The goal of the show is to change how girls think about science, technology, engineering, and math. SciGirls is funded by National Science Foundation with additional support from ExxonMobil. For more information visit the SciGirls’ homepage, at www.pbskidsgo.org/scigirls.

H&A, Vivid Imagination Granted ZingZillas License

ZingZillasBBC Worldwide has granted H&A the license to produce toiletries including bath toys, soaps, and bathroom accessories based on its new CBeebies commission ZingZillas. Recently, Vivid Imaginations was named the master toy licensee for the property and will produce musically themed plush, plastics, playsets, roleplay, selected outdoor products, and games to hit retail in time for this fall/winter.
ZingZillas is a new musical show produced in-house by CBeebies for the BBC. The 52 x 22 minute show has just completed production. BBC Worldwide holds global distribution rights for TV, merchandise, DVD, and publishing.

Manhattan Toy Picked as Distributor for Quadrilla Products

QuadrillaManhattan Toy has finalized a worldwide licensing and distribution agreement with Quadrilla Spielzeug Design und Herstellung, creators of “Intelligent Play in Wood,” to manufacture and distribute Quadrilla’s complete range of Marble Runs and accessories starting in 2010.
Manhattan Toy will preview the collection at the Toy Fairs in New York and Nuremburg this month.


Griddly Games Hires New Director of Operations

Mary LinGriddly Games, Inc. has hired Mary Lin as director of operations. Lin will be responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the Griddly Games internal departments and will implement procedures to deliver the best productivity for the company's cornerstone Griddly Headz sport-themed games, as well as Griddly’s new Chronicles of the Mind and Words of the Wise brain games. Lin will report to Reisa Schwartzmann, president, providing input to the strategy, research, and development of new products.



A Squared Entertainment Makes Three Exec Appointments

A Squared (A2) Entertainment has expanded its executive team with three new appointments: Gregory Payne has been named COO and general counsel, Darren Romanelli appointed as creative director, and Sidney Iwanter as story editor. All three will report to A2 founder and CEO Andy Heyward, as well as co-founder Amy Moynihan Heyward.
Payne will oversee all legal, administrative, and day-to-day operations for the media company. Romanelli will develop and oversee all the creative materials that support the A2 brand and its projects, such as the company’s first two programs, Secret Millionaire’s Club and Gisele & The Green Team. Iwanter will be responsible for delivering plot twists and turns for A2 programming as well as editing.

Mattel Reports 2009 Financial Results

Mattel, Inc. has reported 2009 fourth quarter and full-year financial results. For the quarter, the company reported net income of $328.4 million, or $0.89 per share, compared to last year’s fourth quarter net income of $176.4 million, or $0.49 per share. For the year, the company reported net income of $528.7 million, or $1.45 per share, compared to last year’s net income of $379.6 million, or $1.04 per share.
For the quarter, net sales were $1.96 billion, a 1 percent increase from $1.94 billion last year, and included a favorable impact from changes in currency exchange rates of 4 percentage points. On a regional basis, fourth quarter gross sales were down 2 percent in the U.S. and were up 3 percent in international markets, which included a positive impact from changes in currency exchange rates of 8 percentage points. Operating income for the quarter was up 80 percent to $417.4 million.
For the year, net sales were $5.43 billion, an 8 percent decline from $5.92 billion last year, and included an unfavorable impact from changes in currency exchange rates of 2 percentage points. On a regional basis, full-year gross sales were down 4 percent in the U.S. and were down 13 percent in international markets, which included an unfavorable impact from changes in currency exchange rates of 4 percentage points. Operating income for the year was $731.2 million, up 35 percent compared to the prior year.
The company’s debt-to-total-capital ratio of 22.9 percent is in line with the company’s capital and investment framework, and its year-end cash balance was $1.12 billion.

Li & Fung Named Hong Kong Supplier for Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has signed a sourcing deal with merchandise provider Li & Fung Ltd. The agreement may generate an additional $2 billion of sales in the first year for Li & Fung. The alliance between the companies is expected to allow Wal-Mart to benefit by consolidating a part of its sourcing portfolio that supplies the goods it sells in stores. The core of the company's overall global sourcing strategy will be to continue increasing direct sourcing of its own brands, Wal-Mart said in a statement.
Li & Fung has been doing business with Wal-Mart as a wholesaler, but this is its first direct-sourcing deal. Li & Fung said it is forming a new company to manage its account with Wal-Mart. WSG, the buying unit supplying Wal-Mart under the agreement, will be based in Hong Kong and will eventually employ hundreds of employees, says Li & Fung.

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