March 27, 2014

China Toy Fair

Toys "R" Us Executives Outline TRU Transformation Strategy
Toys “R” Us Inc. recently outlined a four-point strategy, entitled TRU Transformation, intended to improve the company’s operational performance. At presentations for investors, industry analysts, and the media on Wednesday, Toys “R” Us executives discussed priorities and actions intended to slow the company’s sales decline, stabilize cash flow, and improve EBITDA to effectively position the company to grow revenue and profits next year and beyond.
TRU Transformation will focus on transforming both the in-store and online shopping experience; leveraging business partner relationships in both the U.S. and abroad to drive differentiation in products, events, and services, and create in-store excitement; hiring and retaining talent; and improving operational and financial performance, while positioning Toys “R” Us to capitalize on future growth opportunities.
As part of a renewed assessment of its operations and business structure, a number of opportunities were identified to streamline functions and reduce headcount.

McDonald’s Delivers Skylanders Happy Meals with Exclusive Toys

SkylandersFor the second consecutive year, Activision Publishing and McDonald’s will team up for a Skylanders Happy Meal program. From March 28 to April 24, participating McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S. and Puerto Rico will launch a new Skylanders Happy Meal featuring one of eight exclusive toys inspired by Skylanders Swap Force.
Each Happy Meal comes with a toy that has a unique play feature, as well as coupons for $10 off the Skylanders Swap Force Starter Pack and $1 off a Skylanders character. The figurines are inspired by fan-favorite Swap Force characters including Chompy, Eruptor, Free Ranger, Freeze Blade, Magna Charge, Prism Break, Rattle Shake, and Wash Buckler.


Hasbro Named as a 2014 World’s Most Ethical Company

HasbroHasbro Inc. has been recognized by the Ethisphere Institute, an independent center of research promoting best practices in corporate ethics and governance, as a 2014 World’s Most Ethical Company.
Scores were generated in five key categories: ethics and compliance program; reputation, leadership, and innovation; governance; corporate citizenship and responsibility; and culture of ethics. It marks the third time that Hasbro has been recognized with this award, which recognizes organizations that continuously raise the bar on ethical leadership and corporate behavior.



Wal-Mart’s Toy Supplier of the Year Award Goes to Spin Master

Wal-Mart chose Spin Master Ltd. as the recipient of its Toy Supplier of the Year award, presented at the company’s annual supplier summit in Orlando, Fla. on March 13.
“We are so honored to have received such great recognition from Wal-Mart,” says Ben Gadbois, global president and chief operating officer of Spin Master Ltd. “Our goal is to collaborate with all of our retail partners to be a world class supplier and deliver high quality and innovative products. Wal-Mart’s Supplier of the Year Award exudes excellence in the business, and we look forward to continuing our work with Wal-Mart for many years to come.”

Contest Lets Fans Decide on House Rules for Future Monopoly Games

Through April 3, the Monopoly Facebook page will host the Great Monopoly House Rules Debate. Fans are encouraged to debate the pros and cons of 10 house rules that were selected as a result of crowd-sourcing fans globally on the Facebook page.
Hasbro will identify the top house rules, and incorporate them into the Monopoly: House Rules Edition game available this fall.
The house rules in the Great Monopoly House Rules Debate include: Free Parking, Fast Cash, in which all taxes and fees will be collected in the middle of the game board, and if a player lands on Free Parking, he or she collects all the money from the middle of the board; Dash for the Cash, in which a player who lands on Go! gets 400 Monopoly dollars instead of 200; the Frozen Assets Rule, in which a player in jail cannot collect rent money from other players; and more.

Spin Master Sues Chinese Manufacturers for Patent and Copyright Infringement

Spin Master Ltd. has filed civil lawsuits against two Chinese manufacturers with the Shantou Intermediate People’s Court. Spin Master seeks to recover damages and enjoin Shantou Chenghai Hui Ying Toy Factory (Hui Ying) and Shantou Chenghai Hua Cai Ke Yi Industry and Trade Co. Ltd. (Hua Cai) from further manufacturing what Spin Master alleges are knock-offs of Spin Master’s Flutterbye Flying Fairy.
The law suits claim infringement of both Spin Master’s registered copyright and utility model patent.

FAO Schwarz Hosts a Rilakkuma Day of Fun

This Saturday, the world of Rilakkuma will take over FAO Schwarz in New York City. Rilakkuma, created by San-X, is one of Japan’s most popular characters, famous for its “bear in relaxed mood” lifestyle of eating, sleeping, and listening to music.
Consumers will have the opportunity to celebrate Rilakkuma Day and interact with a life-size Rilakkuma mascot and branded Lolita girls. There will also be merchandise giveaways while supplies last. The event is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at FAO Schwarz, 767 5th Ave., New York, NY.

Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved Will Feature New Music and The Hollow

FantasiaThe Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved video game, by Disney Interactive and Harmonix Music Systems, will include new songs from award-winning artists including Lorde and David Bowie. Players can collaborate and choose unique remix paths to discover new melodies and beats in the songs. Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved will be available for the Xbox One and Kinect this year.
The game also features The Hollow, an all-new interactive discovery realm. When users perform songs, they interact with the world to add light, color, and characters to its forest environment.

TIA Urges Resolution to Vancouver Truck Driver Labor Dispute

The Toy Industry Association (TIA) urges a swift resolution to the ongoing truck driver strike at one of Canada’s busiest ports, Port Metro Vancouver. As reported by the TIA, nearly 1,500 unionized and non-unionized container truck drivers have protested for more than three weeks. The protest impacted $126 million worth of goods and the drivers have turned down legislation introduced by the provincial government, seeking a negotiated agreement.

New Zeenie Dollz Animated Web Series Arrives in Time for Earth Day
On April 3, Zeenie Dollz will launch a new animated webisode series introducing its six “eco-warriors”:  Zennia, Yana, Evee, Kazumi, Lina, and Sini. The webisodes add to the continued expansion of the brand and offer another educational tool for parents to teach children about both preserving the environment and the power of teamwork.
Created in collaboration with Brandberry, each webisode will be two to three minutes long and take the Zeenies on eco-themed adventures. “A New Addition” will be available both on the Zeenie Dollz website and YouTube channel.

Captain Action Returns to Action, Courtesy of ZICA Toys

Captain ActionZica Toys and Action Enterprises have teamed up to produce a series of retro, 3.75-inch Captain Action figures, vehicles, and play sets. The first wave of new toys will include Captain Action, Action Boy, Dr. Evil, and the Silver Streak vehicle. They will be on sale internationally late this year.






Safe Kids Day 2014 Planned for Los Angeles, New York City

Safe Kids Day 2014, hosted by Safe Kids Worldwide and sponsored by the Toy Industry Association (TIA), will take place on April 5 in Los Angeles and April 12 in New York City. TIA will provide attendees with free tips, tools, and guidelines for choosing age-appropriate products to play with that will keep kids safe during play.
The bicoastal events will feature games, activities, guest appearances, and an opportunity for families to learn how to stay safe from preventable injuries.

Adora Dolls Collecting Entries for Designed by Kids for Kids Contest

Adora’s new campaign, Designed by Kids for Kids, invites kids to work with the Adora design team to create an outfit for the 18-inch Adora Friends dolls. Young designers can sign up by emailing the Adora Dolls Design Committee at, including their name, contact email, age, description of design (200 words or less), inspiration of design (200 words or less), six photos of the design concept or idea, and favorite charity for donation. The submission deadline is March 31.
The Adora Dolls Design Committee will select the top 10 entries and post them on the Adora Dolls Facebook page for voting. The design with the most likes will be produced in the 2015 Adora Doll collection, and a donation will be made in the winning entry to the charity of their choice. Full eligibility information can be found at the Adora website.

TIA Invites Nominations for Member Committees

Members of the Toy Industry Association (TIA) are invited to help set the association’s strategic direction by nominating candidates to serve on TIA’s member-led committees. The newest is the market research and data strategy committee, which identifies meaningful topics to study and business intelligence and data to collect that is relevant to the toy industry.
Full descriptions for committees can be found on the TIA website<<>>. By category, the various committees are divided into: Operations and administration, which includes credit and market research and data strategy committees; advocacy, which includes environmental sustainability, federal government affairs, responsible marketing to children, safety standards and technical, state government affairs, strategic marketing and communications, and the publicity and promotion subcommittee; and events and membership, which includes the membership, PlayCon, Toy Industry Hall of Fame, Toy of the Year, and trade events committees.
Nominations can be submitted, and requests made for more information, at or by completing the online form.

Inside the Mega Bloks Factory, Where Innovation Is Their Building Block

There’s been a trend of late among North American toy manufacturers to either move manufacturing back home or to stay put entirely. Recently, I had a chance to visit the Mega Bloks factory in Montreal, where Mega Bloks—the signature toys of Mega Brands Inc.—are produced, and it only strengthens the argument not to export toy-making abroad. Read more…

Singtrix Is a New Karaoke and Vocal Experience

If you’re tone deaf like me, then you’ll definitely enjoy the Singtrix from Sing Trix LLC. This new live vocal system, created by the same people that invented Guitar Hero, is a new singing experience for any fun setting. The Singtrix uses next-generation karaoke technology to make pretty much anyone sound good (or if you’re anything like me, pretty decent). So whether you’re performing solo or with friends, you don’t have to be embarrassed by not being able to sing. Read more…

Ries Resigns from NCircle Entertainment

Debbie Ries announced her resignation from NCircle Entertainment, the kidvid distribution company she founded in 2006. During the past seven-plus years, as senior vice president and general manager, Ries built NCircle into a distribution powerhouse in the industry. The company is ranked as the No. 1 independent children’s non-theatrical studio, and it is home to many top-quality programs and brands.
“I am proud of my team’s accomplishments, including our impeccable relationships with major retailers, and the many wonderful properties we’ve acquired,” said Ries. “Together we have built a first-class, brand-focused distribution business with an exemplary reputation in the industry. “I am excited to move forward into my next venture, with a focus on growing strong and respected properties through innovative marketing and retail solutions.”
Also leaving NCircle is Alexandra Ries, vice president of sales and business development. She has been with NCircle since its inception, leading its distribution strategy across retail with a creative approach.

Toys “R” Us Inc. Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year Fiscal 2013 Results

Toys “R” Us, Inc. has reported financial results for the fourth quarter and full year ended February 1. For the fourth quarter, the company reported net sales of $5.3 billion and adjusted EBITDA of $505 million.
For the fourth quarter, comparable store net sales were down 4.1 percent in the domestic segment and 2.2 percent in the international segment. The overall decrease in comparable store net sales resulted primarily from decreases in the entertainment, learning, and juvenile categories.
Net sales during the fourth quarter were $5.3 billion, a decrease of $503 million, or 8.7 percent compared to the prior year. Gross margin for the fourth quarter, as a percentage of net sales, was 31.8 percent versus 34.1 percent in the prior year, a decrease of 2.3 percentage points.
Adjusted EBITDA was $505 million, compared to $717 million in the prior year, a decline of $212 million. Net loss was $210 million, compared to net earnings of $239 million in the prior year, a decrease of $449 million.
For the full year, comparable store net sales were down 5.0 percent in the domestic segment and 3.3 percent in the international segment. Net sales were $12.5 billion, a decrease of $1.0 billion, or 7.4 percent, compared to the prior year.
Gross margin for the full year, as a percentage of net sales, was 35 percent versus 36.6 percent in the prior year, a decrease of 1.6 percentage points. Adjusted EBITDA for fiscal 2013 was $588 million, compared to $1,015 million in the prior year, a decline of $427 million.

Hastings Entertainment Inc. Reports Fourth Quarter Results

Hastings Entertainment Inc. reported results for the three months and fiscal year ended January 31. Net income was approximately $2.3 million, or $0.29 per diluted share, for the three months ended January 31 compared to net income of approximately $1.2 million, or $0.15 per diluted share, for the three months ended January 31 of last year. Net loss was approximately $10.2 million, or $1.25 per diluted share, for the fiscal year ended January 31 compared to a net loss of $9.3 million, or $1.14 per diluted share, for the fiscal year ended January 31 of last year.
Total revenues for the fourth quarter decreased approximately $5.2 million, or 3.7 percent, to $136.4 million compared to $141.6 million for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012. Trends comps increased 25.1 percent for the quarter, primarily due to increased sales in novelty gifts and toys, boxed games, action figures, children's toys, licensed and branded products, and recreational and lifestyle products.
For the fiscal year ended January 31, total revenues decreased approximately $26.5 million, or 5.7 percent, to $436.0 million compared to $462.5 million for the fiscal year ended January 31 of last year.

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