March 30, 2010

PBS KIDS Joins Forces with Happy Kid Toy Group to Develop New Toys

PBS KidsHappy KidPBS KIDS has signed Happy Kid Toy Group, Ltd. as its master toy licensee to launch a new educational line for preschoolers. The new toys, being developed as part of the multi-year licensing agreement, will debut in 2011, and will be sold by a range of retailers including toy specialty, catalogue, internet, department stores, and all major mass retailers. Each PBS KIDS item will be packaged with information on the importance of child-driven play and ideas for parent or caregiver interaction.
PBS will invest the revenue earned from the new deal into the creation of the next generation of educational content for children.

Nintendo to Release 3-D Portable Console

Nintendo has announced that it will release a 3-D portable console, the Nintendo 3DS. The system will use two screens, will be backwards compatible with current DS and DSi games, and—most likely the biggest feature—players won’t have to wear any special glasses to see the game in 3-D.
Last month, Ars Technica posted a video of a downloadable game that is currently out in Japan, which allows the user to see a 3-D effect by peering into the game and moving the console back and forth. The 3DS may use similar technology.
The Nintendo 3DS is scheduled to be released before the end of the fiscal year, sometime before March 2011. The company has yet to release any images or videos of the upcoming system, or explain how the games will look or be played.

Ex-controller at Cepia Charged with Embezzling $400,000

Zhu Zhu PetsAccording to the St. Louis Business Journal, a former controller for Cepia, LLC, manufacturer of Zhu Zhu Pets robotic hamsters, was indicted for mail fraud for allegedly embezzling more than $400,000 from the company. Joseph Van Gronigen was indicted by a federal grand jury on two felony counts of mail fraud, the U.S. attorney’s office said
According to the indictment, between September 2007 and January 2010, Van Gronigen allegedly embezzled more than $400,000 from Cepia for his own use and to pay his own expenses. He was employed by Cepia from 2005 to January 2010 and had been the company’s controller since 2008.

Hobby Store Game Sales Up

Magic: The GatheringGame sales in hobby stores were up from 5 to 10 percent in 2009 despite the worst economy in generations, according to a report in the new issue of Internal Correspondence. The growth was driven by a resurgence in Magic: The Gathering sales and by board game sales being up by double-digit percentages. Yu-Gi-Oh! and the return of HeroClix also helped support improved sales. Non-collectible miniature sales were slightly down, and RPG sales were down approximately 10 percent in 2009.




Low Prices Replace Customer Service as Top Loyalty Driver

Walmart dominated the 2010 Colloquy Retail Loyalty Index, in results that reflect a reality of the Great Recession—low prices drove consumer loyalty. Colloquy, the publishing, education, and research division of LoyaltyOne, previously published the Colloquy Retail Loyalty Index in 2008. Colloquy’s index ranks the top U.S. retailers according to customer loyalty ratings.
The 2010 index was built from a December 2009 survey of 3,500 U.S. consumers in five regions: Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, and Northwest. “Our 2008 index showed that… customer service, store environment, and a wide product selection were the underlying factors for customers' self-professed loyalty. But our 2010 index proves that the Great Recession became the great equalizer,” said Colloquy Partner Kelly Hlavinka. “Low prices have stepped up to become retail’s strongest loyalty lure according to consumers.”
The 2010 Colloquy Retail Loyalty Index is available free of charge at

Scholastic Named Master Publisher for Chuggington

ChuggingtonScholastic has been named master publisher in the U.S. for Chuggington, Ludorum’s new preschool property, which premiered in the U.S. on Disney Channel in January. Scholastic holds all storybook and novelty rights for the Chuggington children’s book program and will publish and deliver the titles through all of its distribution channels.
Chuggington is a CGI-animated train-centric preschool series that follows the adventures of Koko, Brewster, and Wilson as they learn to explore, work, and play in a safe and exciting world.

Aurora, Ty Jury Trial Date Set

Aurora World, Inc., which filed a federal copyright lawsuit against competitor Ty, Inc. alleging that Ty’s Beanie Boos infringe on its YooHoo & Friends plush, has announced that the court has set January 18, 2011 as the trial date in that lawsuit (a photo comparing the two product lines is available here: A pretrial conference is scheduled to take place on December 20, 2010.
In papers filed with the Court, Ty informed the Court that it had no intention of selling “Cleo” and “Bubblegum” in the U.S. pending the outcome of this case. Ty’s lawyers also advised the Court that Ty had ceased sending out display racks and sell sheets containing images of “Cleo” and “Bubblegum.”

Chorion Appoints French Licensing Agent

Eric CarleChorion has appointed Marathon Media as the merchandising and licensing agent for France. The two companies will work closely together to develop a licensing program for The World of Eric Carle. Marathon Media will manage all French licensing opportunities for the brand. The expected range of products will include apparel, plush, toys and games, stationery, health and beauty, arts and crafts, and giftware.


NYGIF and Consultant Firm to Host “Market Readiness” Seminars

The New York International Gift Fair (NYIGF) and Right Angle Strategies, a business strategy and coaching consultancy, is producing four webinars for the show’s exhibitors. The webinars will be part of a monthly series of “Market Readiness” seminars that will begin in May for exhibitors of the summer show.

The first three pre-show webinars will focus on pre-show marketing (“Pre-show Marketing to Drive Your Sales”), sales techniques (“How to Attract Buyers and Close the Sale”), and tradeshow operations (“NYIGF Operations Made Easy”); and the fourth and final webinar (“How to Manage Orders and Leads Generated”), will be held post-show and will address market follow-up. Registration is available online at The summer edition of NYIGF will be held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, from August 14 through August 19.

Licensing VP Departs Corus Entertainment

Mark Northwood, former vice president of worldwide licensing for Corus Entertainment, has stepped down from his position. His last day was March 26.
Northwood will take on the new role of co-CEO and president of Earth Rangers, an organization that educates children about the environment and supports biodiversity of species for future generations.

Toys "R" Us Announces Positive Results

Toys “R” Us, Inc. has reported financial results for its fourth quarter and fiscal year ended January 30, 2010. For the 2009 fiscal year ended January 30, 2010, the company reported net earnings of $312 million, an increase of 43.1 percent compared to net earnings of $218 million for the 2008 fiscal year. Net earnings for the fourth quarter were $387 million, compared to net earnings of $345 million for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2008.
Fiscal 2009 operating earnings increased to $784 million from $621 million for fiscal 2008. EBITDA for the year was $1.168 billion, the highest in the history of the company since it was founded in 1948. Adjusted EBITDA for fiscal 2009 increased to $1.062 billion, up from $1.002 billion in fiscal 2008.

MEGA Brands Receives Court Approval in Canada for Recapitalization

MEGA Brands, Inc. has received court approval in Canada for its recapitalization transaction initiated on January 14, 2010. The final order approving the plan of arrangement under the Canada Business Corporations Act was granted in the Superior Court of Quebec. This allows the corporation to proceed with the remaining steps towards the completion of the transaction, which include recognition of the Canadian proceeding in the U.S. and the satisfaction of customary closing conditions. Subject to the satisfaction or waiver of these remaining steps, the corporation expects to complete the transaction on or about March 31, 2010.
Under the transaction, which was previously approved by overwhelming majorities of common shareholders and debt holders, the corporation will reduce its debt by approximately $286.6 million and its annual interest expenses by approximately $30.0 million.

4Kids Entertainment Receives NYSE Listing Notice

4Kids Entertainment, Inc. has been notified by NYSE Regulation, Inc. that it is not in compliance with one of the continued listing standards of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). 4Kids is considered below criteria for the continued listing standards because over a 30 trading-day period its total market capitalization was less than $50 million and its most recently reported stockholders’ equity was $35.1 million, below the minimum threshold of $50 million.
If, over a 30 trading-day period, 4Kids’ average market capitalization falls below the $15 million minimum threshold, the plan and cure process otherwise available under NYSE rules would be pre-empted and suspension and delisting procedures would be initiated. As of March 25, the company’s 30 trading-day average market capitalization was
approximately $17.3 million, with the absolute market capitalization of approximately $15.2 million. In addition, if, over a 30 trading-day period, the average closing price of a share of 4Kids’ common stock is less than $1.00, 4Kids must bring its share price back above $1.00 within six months of receiving notification from NYSE.

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