February 27, 2014

China Toy Fair

Toy Fair 2014 Shows Increase in Attendees, Double-Digit Rise in International Visitors

Last week’s American International Toy Fair in New York City drew nearly 26,500 toy professionals from 94 countries, and boasted a record-breaking 414,060 net square feet of exhibit space. According to the Toy Industry Association (TIA), Toy Fair 2014 also welcomed an 11 percent surge in international buyers, an 8 percent rise in exhibitors, and a 5 percent spike in overall attendees, bringing the total attendance to 26,493.
There was an estimated 1,153 exhibiting manufacturers, distributors, importers, and sales agents, and nearly 10,000 buyers from more than 5,000 retail outlets, including delegations from Amazon, Target, and Toys “R” Us.
Next year’s Toy Fair has been scheduled for February 14 to 17—beginning on a Saturday—and will once again take place at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Show information will be available in the coming months at www.ToyFairNY.com.

NPD Report Shows 36 Percent of U.S. Plays Digitally Downloaded Games

According to The NPD Group’s Exploring Digital Gaming report, an estimated 36 percent of the U.S. population ages 13 and up are digital gamers, defined as currently playing digitally downloaded games on either a computer, video game console, or portable device. Of that percentage, 16 percent report only playing games downloaded digitally.
The computer is the most popular device for digital gaming, owning 90 percent of digital gamers playing on the device, while 28 percent play digitally downloaded games on a video game console. Although digital play is increasing among console players, only about two-thirds of primary console players—or those who play on consoles most often—purchase digital games more than once per year. Only 14 percent purchase on a regular, monthly basis.
When asked about their purchase preference if both physical and digital formats of a game are being offered at the same price, 44 percent of primary console players are more likely to choose physical in this scenario. Primary computer players do not automatically choose digital, with the group being split between 25 percent for digital, 28 percent for physical, and the remaining gamers being indecisive.

Jazwares Releases Minecraft Series 2 Figures

Jazwares will expand its core Minecraft action figure line to feature core-scale figure packs of Diamond Armor Steve, Iron Golem, Blacksmith Villager, and a deluxe Animal Mobs 6-pack.
The Diamond Armor Steve pack will include Steve with removable helmet, diamond sword, and diamond ore block. The Iron Golem pack will come with accessories including a poppy flower and a block of iron, while the Blacksmith Villager pack includes a removable apron and an anvil accessory. Meanwhile, the Animal Mobs 6-pack will include one of each of the following: Cow, Sheep, Tamed Wolf, Pig, Ocelot, and Chicken. The Series 2 items will all be available at retailers this spring.

CBeebies/Sesame Workshop’s The Furchester Hotel Begins Filming

The Furchester HotelThe Furchester Hotel, the new children’s series from CBeebies and Sesame Workshop, has begun filming at BBC Children's home in MediaCityUK, Salford. Filming will continue for more than three months at the enormous Furchester Hotel set, which fills all 700 square meters of the HQ2 studio at MediaCityUK.
The show is about a close-knit family of cheerfully incompetent Muppet monsters who own and operate an “almost” world-class hotel. The Furchester family is joined at the hotel by Elmo, a family relative, and Cookie Monster, who has landed his dream job as a room service and dining-room waiter.
The Furchester Hotel, which is set to debut on CBeebies in the UK this autumn, is co-produced by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street.

WIT Honors Outstanding Business Leaders with 10th Annual Wonder Women in Toys, Licensing & Entertainment Awards

At a February 18 dinner attended by more than 400 executives, Women in Toys (WIT) celebrated 10 visionary women business leaders with the 2014 Wonder Women in Toys, Licensing & Entertainment Awards. The award recipients are: Kiyomi Haverly of Mattel, Global Brands; Naz Cuevas of Rovio Entertainment Inc. and Donna Tobin of Hasbro Inc.; Rita Raiffe, design director at Gund; Stefanie Barone of MZ Berger; Susie Lecker of Fisher Price; Michele Litzky of Litzky Public Relations; Joan Packard Luks of The Seranata Group; Christina Jansa of Target; and Debra Sterling of GoldieBlox.
With support from major sponsors including Nickelodeon and Bandai, WIT also granted six scholarships to future toy industry leaders at toy design programs in universities worldwide.

Activision Teams Up with Frito-Lay to Let Fans Choose New Skylanders Hero
Activision Publishing Inc. and PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay North America division will provide fans with the opportunity to choose and name a new hero that will appear in the next Skylanders game, which is slated for release this year. The winner will also receive a $100,000 scholarship.
Between now and March 21, fans ages 18 and up can visit Frito-Lay’s official site to select one of three potential heroes and submit a suggested name and 200-character or less inspiration for the name they chose. In May, one fan-created name for each of the three potential heroes will be selected by a panel of judges and announced as finalists, and fans ages 13 years and up will be invited to vote online for the hero they want. Later this year, the winning hero will be revealed.

Tommo Completes Acquisition of Humongous Entertainment Brand

Tommo Inc. has completed the acquisition of the Humongous Entertainment Brand and most of its assets. The acquisition was initially announced last summer, when Tommo acquired the Humongous Entertainment Brand and over 100 classic game IP’s from Atari Inc. during the Atari assets bankruptcy auction. Humongous Entertainment was originally formed in 1992 and has sold more than 15 million games over 20 years.
Classic Humongous titles Putt-Putt Joins the Circus, Pajama Sam: Thunder and Lightning, and Spy Fox: Dry Cereal are currently available for download on the iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon App Stores.

Super Duper Going the Retail Route with Educational Products

Super DuperSuper Duper Publications will partner with U.S. retail and online resellers to sell its children’s educational products. The company has more than 750 common core and state standards-aligned card decks, games, workbooks, software programs, mobile apps, and more for kids ages 3 to 12.
Previously, the company mostly sold directly to consumers and educators, and only offered certain items to retailers. To date, the most popular Super Duper creations include the HearBuilder programs, which have helped students dramatically improve their early learning and pre-reading skills.


The Little Gym Active Toys Available at Target Canada

The Little GymThe Little Gym International has partnered with Aqua-Leisure Industries for children’s development and activity toys for kids ages 3 to 7. The brand’s first line of active toys will be available exclusively at Target Canada stores starting this month. The line includes products that emphasize physical development, imaginative play patterns, and experiential learning.
In addition, The Little Gym has launched music CDs available for download on iTunes and for purchase on Amazon.

Back to Basics: Sketch, Doodle, Paint, and Play

After Toy Fair 2013, the words “and there’s an app!” were ringing in my ears for weeks. This year, however, appcessories seemed more like a taboo than anything else, with most companies shying away from toys with app-enhanced features or reliability. Honestly, it was less than disappointing. I think keeping screen time and toy time separate is perfectly acceptable, and apparently, what kids and toy buyers prefer. This year will truly mark a return to traditional play patterns. Read more…

NBCUniversal Cable Appoints Nidia Caceros Kilde Vice President, Communications

NBCUniversal has named Nidia Caceros Kilde as its vice president, communications. She will be responsible for leading strategic communications for the cable entertainment group’s president and chief content officer, Jeff Wachtel, and the studios under his purview. Along with being responsible for all consumer and trade media relations on behalf of the studios, Caceros Kilde will work closely with Cory Shields, executive vice president, communications, for NBCU Cable Entertainment, in developing west coast communications strategy for the cable portfolio.
Prior to joining NBCUniversal, Caceros Kilde was director, corporate communications, at The Walt Disney Co. She brings more than 17 years of communications experience across the entertainment, licensing, technology, consumer goods, retail, and e-commerce industries working both in-house and at various PR firms.

Toys “R” Us Sales Down 4.1 Percent in Fourth Quarter

According to an SEC filing dated February 26, Toys “R” Us Inc. saw its domestic segment comparable store net sales decline 4.1 percent, compared to a decline of 4.5 percent during the same period last year. For the eight-week period from December 29 to February 22, the company’s domestic comparable store net sales were up 3 percent compared to the eight-week period from December 30, 2012 to February 23, 2013. The company’s domestic comparable store net sales were down 7.8 percent for the eight-week period from December 30, 2012 to February 23, 2013 versus the eight-week period from January 1, 2012 to February 25, 2012.
The domestic segment comparable store net sales for the current eight-week period were assisted by improved e-commerce sales primarily driven by the company’s enhanced free shipping program and improved in-store sales performance, which was primarily driven by the learning and entertainment categories.

Target Reports Fourth Quarter and Full-Year Earnings

On Wednesday, Target Corporation reported fourth quarter net earnings of $520 million, or $0.81 per share, and full-year net earnings of $1.97 billion, or $3.07 per share. Adjusted earnings per share were $1.30 in the fourth quarter of last year, down 21.2 percent from $1.65 in the previous year. The full-year adjusted earnings per share of $4.38 was down 8 percent from $4.76 in the prior year.
In the fourth quarter of last year, sales decreased 6.6 percent to $20.9 billion from $22.4 billion in the previous year, reflecting the impact of an additional accounting week in 2012 and a 2.5 percent decrease in comparable sales. Segment earnings before interest expense and income taxes (EBIT) were $1.4 billion in the fourth quarter of last year, a 22.4 percent decrease from $1,821 million in the prior year.
Fourth quarter EBITDA and EBIT margin rates were 9.2 percent and 6.8 percent, respectively, compared with 10.4 percent and 8.1 percent in the revised U.S. segment in the prior year. Fourth quarter gross margin rate was 27.6 percent compared with 27.8 percent in the prior year.
For the first quarter of this year, the company expects adjusted earnings per share of 60 cents to 75 cents, reflecting operating results in U.S. and Canadian segments. For the full year, Target expects adjusted earnings per share of $3.85 to $4.15, reflecting operating results in U.S. and Canadian Segments.

Jakks Pacific Reports Fourth Quarter and Year-End Results

On Wednesday, Jakks Pacific Inc. reported results for the fourth quarter and full year ended December 31. Net sales for the fourth quarter were $137.7 million, compared to $133.5 million reported in the comparable period during the previous year. The reported net loss for the fourth quarter was $16.1 million, or $0.73 per diluted share, which included a restructuring charge of $5 million, or $0.23 per share. This compares to a net loss of $119.5 million, or $5.45 per diluted share, reported in the comparable period during the previous year.
Net sales for the full year were $632.9 million, compared to $666.8 million during the previous year. The reported net loss for the full year was $53.9 million, or $2.43 per diluted share, which included charges for license minimum guarantee shortfalls of $14.4 million and inventory impairment of $14.9 million in addition to the restructuring charge of $5 million. This compares to a net loss for the full year of $104.8 million, or $4.37 per diluted share, reported in the previous year.

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