February 13, 2014

China Toy Fair

Grammy-Winner Alicia Keys to Cut Ribbon at Toy Fair Opening Ceremony

As reported by the Toy Industry Association (TIA), Grammy Award-winner Alicia Keys, co-creator of the interactive children’s app The Journals of Mama Mae & LeeLee, will help cut the ribbon at the American International Toy Fair’s opening ceremony, scheduled for February 16 at 10 a.m. Immediately afterward, Keys will hold a press conference on the app with Marian Bossard, TIA’s vice president of meetings and events.
The ribbon-cutting will officially kick off the largest toy show ever held in North America, with more than 30,000 anticipated attendees from 100 countries, and a record-breaking 411,500-plus square feet of exhibit space.
The 111th American International Toy Fair will take place February 16 to 19 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. After-hours and networking events during Toy Fair week include the 14th annual TOTY (Toy of the Year) Awards on February 15 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City.

National Survey by ASTRA and Partners Finds Holiday Sales Growth for Independent Retailers

According to results from a national survey of more than 2,600 independent business owners, shop local initiatives such as the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association’s (ASTRA) annual Neighborhood Toy Store Day are boosting customer traffic and improving the outlook on Main Street. However, policymakers need to do more to create a level playing field and ensure that small local businesses have an equal opportunity to compete.
The survey—conducted by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in partnership with the Advocates for Independent Business coalition, of which ASTRA is a founding member—also found that independent retailers experienced a 1.4 percent increase in same-store holiday sales, comparable to many competing chains. More than 75 percent of businesses located in cities with Local First campaigns reported increased customer traffic, and sales growth of 7 percent on average last year, compared to 2.3 percent for independent businesses in places without such an initiative.
The full 2014 Independent Business Survey can be viewed and downloaded at the ASTRA homepage.

Fisher-Price, Neat-Oh! Partner for Thomas & Friends ZipBin Products

Neat-Oh! Entertainment International LLC has signed an agreement with Fisher-Price to develop Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway storage products for Neat-Oh!’s ZipBin line. When zipped up, the ZipBin is decorated to look like Thomas, but when the bin is unzipped, a play mat is revealed.
Kids can use their Wooden Railway engines and accessories to play on the mat, which features scenes, destinations, and friends from the TV show. Thomas & Friends ZipBin products by Fisher-Price are expected to arrive in stores next year.

Rainbow Loom Weaves Licensing Deal with Brand Central

Choon’s Design LLC, the inventor of the Rainbow Loom and original creator of the rubber band weaving process, has signed on with Brand Central LLC, a premiere brand licensing and consulting agency, to develop a full consumer products licensing program. Brand Central and Rainbow Loom will license the brand into new product categories and will acquire new brands for their products.
Created less than three years ago, Rainbow Loom has sold over 3 million kits with distribution throughout the world at over 1,000 big box retailers. Brand Central is targeting strategic categories for Choon’s Design LLC’s partnerships, including apparel and accessories, crafts, back-to-school, toys & games, party supplies, home products, and digital and media.

NRF Reports Retail Sales Growth in 2014

According to the 2014 economic forecast released by the National Retail Federation (NRF), retail industry sales are projected to increase by 4.1 percent, up from the 3.7 percent growth seen last year. Online sales for this year are expected to grow between 9 and 12 percent.
The NRF’s 2014 economic outlook is based on several factors, including early estimates for economic growth as measured by real GDP fluctuating between 2.6 and 3 percent, which is an improvement over the previous year and the fastest pace in the past three years. In addition, the labor market is expected to continue its modest recovery, averaging approximately 185,000 jobs per month, and inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index is predicted to inch higher, to as much as 1.7 percent this year.

Jazwares to Serve as North American Master Toy Partner for Peppa Pig

Peppa PigJazwares Inc. has entered into a licensing partnership with Entertainment One Licensing to serve as the new master toy partner for Peppa Pig. Jazwares will produce products for preschoolers across multiple categories, including plush, plastic figures, dolls, play sets, role-play toys, musical and talking toys, toy vehicles, and bath toys. The first Peppa Pig toy collection is scheduled to launch in mass and specialty retailers nationwide in spring of next year. 
Airing seven days a week, Peppa Pig was the No. 1 program on Nick Jr. with kids ages 2 to 5 years old in the fourth quarter of 2013. Globally, the show airs in 180 countries around the world and is translated into 40 languages.




Spin Master Ltd. Expands Ionix with DreamWorks Dragons and Pokémon

Spin Master’s Ionix construction system is expanding its portfolio to include characters from DreamWorks Animation’s movie How to Train Your Dragon 2, as well as the world of Pokémon. Ionix construction bricks shape-shift into characters and allow kids to train, evolve, and build characters from Dragons and Pokémon in a new way. Ionix bricks are 100-percent compatible with other leading construction systems.
How to Train Your Dragon by Ionix will be available at major retailers in May. Pokémon by Ionix arrives in October, and will feature such iconic characters as Pikachu, Chespin, Fennekin, and Froakie.

Saban Brands Reveals Next Season of Power Rangers, Partners with Cirque du Soleil

The next season of Saban Brands’ Power Rangers franchise, Power Rangers Dino Charge, will debut on Nickelodeon next year, and roll out globally next year. Bandai America Incorporated will continue as the global master toy licensee for the franchise, creating an all-new dinosaur-themed product line.
Saban Brands has also partnered with Cirque du Soleil Media to develop an original kids’ property inspired by the Cirque du Soleil brand. The deal includes a new TV series, web and interactive content, and merchandise. Creative Artists Agency (CAA) brokered the deal with Saban Brands on behalf of Cirque du Soleil Media.

Little Pim CEO Pimsleur to Speak at Digital Kids Conference

Julia PimsleurLittle Pim will debut its expanded product line for young children at American International Toy Fair. In addition, CEO and founder Julia Pimsleur will be a speaker at the Digital Kids Conference taking place during Toy Fair, presenting a case study entitled, “Taking Little Pim ‘Big’ through Venture Capital.”
The conference is scheduled for Wednesday, February 19, from 11:15 to 11:30 a.m. at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. Pimsleur will discuss how she raised $2 million in venture capital for Little Pim, share the impact on her business, and offer tips on securing capital in a highly competitive space.
Pimsleur and Little Pim are also nominated for a Wonder Woman Award in Entertainment at Licensing at this year’s 10th Annual Wonder Woman in Toys, Licensing & Entertainment Awards Dinner, scheduled for February 17.


Crayola Launches My Virtual Fashion Show

My Virtual Fashion ShowCrayola has launched My Virtual Fashion Show, a product that lets kids design their own fashions and bring them to life on a virtual runway. Kids can create their designs in their Crayola sketchbook, which transforms into a virtual fashion show on their device, bridging the offline and online playing experience.
The product contains a fashion portfolio, 20-page fashion sketchbook, 12 short colored pencils, and the My Virtual Fashion Show app, compatible with iOS and Android devices. It is available in stores and online at select retailers nationwide.

Laser Pegs’ Pegasaur to Greet Guests at Toy Fair Entrance

Laser Pegs will construct a 15-foot-tall, 10-foot-long dinosaur, the Pegasaur, to greet guests at the entrance of the 2014 American International Toy Fair this weekend. A team of four spent more than a month building the mammoth creature, which is illuminated in shades of purple, yellow, green, and red by thousands of LED lights, which are encased inside the tiny Laser Pegs pieces used to build it.
A video, “Building the Pegasaur,” showing the time-lapse construction process, can be found at Laser Pegs’ YouTube site.

Marshmallow Fun Has Ghostbusters, Animal-Themed Toys Ready to Launch

Marshmallow Fun Company has finalized a new licensing deal with Sony Entertainment that allows the toy manufacturer to utilize the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, which was made famous in the 1984 film Ghostbusters. The company is taking its new Ghostbusters line to the American International Toy Fair in New York City.
Marshmallow Fun is also releasing a set of animal shooters featuring interchangeable ammo types. The first animal shooter released will be the Beaver Blaster. Pulling back on its tail spring-loads a small foam ball or marshmallow. After releasing the tail, the object launches up to 30 feet.

Research Shows $15.39 Billion Spent on Video Games in U.S. Last Year

According to the 2013 Games Market Dynamics: U.S. report from The NPD Group, $6.34 billion was spent in the U.S. by consumers on new physical video and PC game software last year. The total consumer spend on other physical forms of content reached $1.83 billion, and content in digital format—full game and add-on content downloads, subscriptions, mobile games, and social network games—generated $7.22 billion.
Particularly strong growth for full-game downloads and downloadable content on consoles, PCs, and portable devices, along with growth in mobile games, more than offset an 11 percent decline in new physical sales, leading to a 1 percent annual growth for total content spending.
The strong performance of hardware in the fourth quarter led to a positive year for the category, which ended the year 5 percent higher than 2012. Content growth, coupled with hardware growth, led to a 2 percent increase in overall consumer spending over 2012.

These Valentine’s Day Toys and Activities Have Lots of Heart

Valentine’s Day is coming up, and many people will give roses, chocolates, and jewelry to the objects of their affections. But lest we forget, toys and games also make fine presents. Looking around the toy industry, it’s clear that a number of companies were aware of potential opportunities, and responded with cool Valentine’s Day-themed products. But I also found some items that, even if they weren’t packaged specifically for the hearts-and-flowers holiday, are still perfect for the occasion. Here’s a brief rundown, though as usual, this is by no means an exhaustive list. Read more…

Lori Rotter to Lead Marketing at The Bridge Direct

Lori RotterThe Bridge Direct Inc. has named Lori Rotter as general manager of marketing across all brands, including the company’s new Basic Fun division. In her role, Rotter will oversee and help grow the company’s girls’, boys’, preschool, and activity/novelty businesses, while driving the marketing and design vision. She will report directly to the company president, Jay Foreman.
Rotter comes to The Bridge Direct with more than 25 years of toy consumer product experience. Prior to joining The Bridge Direct, she was vice president of girls’ design at Blip Toys, where she spearheaded the launch of successful, award-winning product lines such as Disney Princess Palace Pets and Squinkies. In 2012, Rotter was honored with the Wonder Women in Toys Award for Designer/Inventor of the Year.

Hasbro Reports Fourth Quarter and Full-Year Results, Record-Level Girls Business

Hasbro Inc. has reported financial results for the full year and fourth quarter of last year. Net revenues for the full year were $4.08 billion, flat with the prior year’s full-year revenues of $4.09 billion. Net earnings for the full year were $286.2 million, or $2.17 per diluted share, versus $336.0 million, or $2.55 per diluted share, in the previous year. Net earnings for the full year include pre-tax charges of $36.7 million associated with restructuring, $7 million of related pension costs, $61.1 million associated with the settlement of a previously disclosed adverse arbitration award, $40.6 million of charges related to certain non-strategic brands, and a $23.6 million favorable tax adjustment. Excluding these items, net earnings for the full year were $372.4 million, or $2.83 per diluted share.
For the fourth quarter of last year, the company reported net revenues of $1.28 billion, which were flat with $1.28 billion in the prior year. The company reported net earnings for the fourth quarter of last year of $129.8 million, or $0.98 per diluted share, including pre-tax charges of $48.8 million associated with restructuring and related pension costs and product-related charges, and a benefit of $15.4 million related to the settlement of an adverse arbitration award.
Looking at full-year major segment performance, U.S. and Canada segment net revenues were $2.01 billion compared to $2.12 billion in the prior year. Net revenues in the boys category decreased 22 percent to $1.24 billion, while the girls category posted its sixth straight quarter of growth and reported $1 billion in revenues for the year, a record level for Hasbro’s girls business.

LeapFrog Reports 2013 Financial Results
On Thursday, LeapFrog Enterprises Inc. released financial results for the fourth quarter and year ended December 31. Consolidated net sales were $553.6 million, down 5 percent, while U.S. segment net sales were down 9 percent and international segment net sales were up 6 percent. Net income per diluted share was $1.19, down 4 percent, and operating cash flow was $78.9 million, up 16 percent. Cash and cash equivalents were $168.1 million as of December 31, up 40 percent compared to the balance as of December 31 of the previous year.
Fourth quarter net sales were $186.7 million, down 24 percent compared to $244.7 million in the previous year, and were not materially impacted by changes in currency exchange rates. Net sales declined primarily due to lower sales of LeapFrog’s multimedia product line given the very challenging retail, promotional, and competitive environment. In the U.S. segment, net sales were $123.7 million, down 30 percent compared to $177.8 million in the prior year.
Income from operations for the fourth quarter was $1.5 million, compared to $43.2 million reported in the prior year. Income from operations as a percentage of net sales was 0.8 percent, compared to 17.7 percent in the prior year.
Full-year net sales were $553.6 million, down 5 percent compared to $581.3 million the previous year. In the U.S. segment, net sales were $387.0 million, down 9 percent compared to $424.8 million in the prior year.

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