April 17, 2014
 

Total Easter Spending in U.S. to Reach $15.9 Billion, NRF Reports

According to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Easter Spending Survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, the average American celebrating the holiday will spend an average of $137.46 on apparel, food, candy, and gifts. This is slightly less than the $145.13 spent last year. Total spending for the holiday is expected to reach $15.9 billion.
Since the holiday traditionally marks the beginning of spring, an estimated 42.9 percent are expected to purchase new spring attire, such as Easter dress clothes for children. Additionally, roughly nine in 10 revelers will purchase Easter candy, spending a total of $2.2 billion. Families will also spend an estimated $2.4 billion on gifts, $1.1 billion on flowers, and $1.1 billion on decorations.
Nearly one in four smartphone owners, or 23.4 percent, will use their device to research Easter products or compare prices, though just 12.2 percent will actually make a purchase with their smartphone. One in five tablet owners, or 19.2 percent, will make a purchase using their device.

FTC Approves Toys “R” Us Petition to Reopen and Modify 1998 Final Commission Order

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has approved a petition submitted by Toys “R” Us Inc. to reopen and modify a final commission order issued in 1998. The commission had determined that Toys “R” Us had used its significant market power to orchestrate a “hub and spoke” conspiracy among manufacturers, which would have restricted access to toys by competitors.
According to Toys “R” Us’ petition submitted this past January, the growth of Walmart and Target, and the emergence of online retailers such as Amazon.com, has reshaped the competitive landscape among purchasers and sellers of toys. The commission has modified the 1998 order to set aside provisions that restricted Toys “R” Us’ ability to enter into certain conditional supply relationships. Toys “R” Us contended that eliminating these sections would allow it to compete more effectively.

Jakks Pacific Teams Up with Marvel and Nickelodeon’s TMNT for New Toys

Jakks Pacific Inc. will launch a line of toys based on existing and upcoming Marvel characters and properties. The collection will include R/C vehicles, electric- and battery-operated train and track sets, and handheld 3-D character flashlights based on the Marvel animated series Ultimate Spider-Man, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., and Marvel’s Avengers Assemble. There will also be toys based on Marvel theatrical releases, including the upcoming Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and Marvel’s Ant-Man. These are expected on retailers’ shelves nationwide next year.
Jakks Pacific Inc. has also entered a licensing agreement with Nickelodeon to manufacture, distribute, and market specialty figures and toys in the U.S. based on the network’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series. The agreement will include items for Jakks Pacific’s Hero Portal TV video game platform, Plug It In & Play TV Games products, and large-scale figures. The new line will launch this fall, coinciding with the August 8 release of Paramount Pictures’ feature film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Final Skylanders Swap Force Figure to Be Unveiled at Times Square Event

On April 23, Activision Publishing Inc. and Toys “R” Us will host a special Skylanders Day event in New York’s Times Square. The final Skylanders Swap Force character, Doom Stone, will be released to the public, and the first 500 to line up at the retail store will receive the figure.
The event begins at 4 p.m. at Toys “R” Us Times Square, Lower Level, located at 1514 Broadway at 44th Street. Consumers will be able to take advantage of discounts on Skylanders Swap Force Starter Packs, and deals on figures and accessories.

Toys “R” Us Canada Honors Jakks Pacific for Cabbage Patch Kids Launch

Cabbage Patch KidsJakks Pacific was honored with the 2013 Product Launch of the Year award from Toys “R” Us Canada. The retailer recognized Jakks Pacific both for its overall business partnership, as well as the exceptional launch of the 30th anniversary of Cabbage Patch Kids last year.
“We accept this award with gratitude and look forward to continually growing our partnership with Toys ‘R’ Us, as we bring innovative products to all children,” said Steve Morris, senior vice president of Jakks Pacific Canada.
For the anniversary, Jakks Pacific Canada and Toys “R” Us Canada appealed to multiple generations with a program that included media events, exclusive product offerings, and a 30th birthday celebration at select Toys “R” Us stores throughout Canada. The award marks the third consecutive year that Jakks has received an honor by the toy retailer.

ASTRA Hosts Special Session on Succession

The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) will feature a special session at its annual Marketplace & Academy that focuses on helping specialty toy retailers build succession plans for their businesses. The key takeaways will include critical factors to determine the value of an independent toy store, how to get stores ready for a sale or transfer of ownership, and establishing a timeline for an independent retailer to make a smooth exit. Lynn Switanowski of the Creative Business Consulting Group will lead the session.
ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy is scheduled for June 8 to 11 in Phoenix. Following the convention, the topic will be continued in member-only discussion groups on ASTRA’s website.

PAX South to Launch in San Antonio in 2015

ReedPOP and Penny Arcade have announced the addition of a new PAX event to the calendar: PAX South. Slated to debut in San Antonio, from January 23 to 25 of next year, it will mark the fourth PAX show and the third in the U.S. The others take place in Seattle, Boston, and Melbourne, Australia.
Following the PAX format, the new show will focus on video games, tabletop games, game-inspired music, competitive gameplay, and insights from leaders in the gaming world.

K’nex Education to Exhibit at USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo

K’nex Education will participate in the third USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo and Book Fair, hosted by founding and presenting sponsor Lockheed Martin. Designed to inspire the next generation of innovators, the K’nex Education Build and Learn Zone invites kids of all ages to have fun with hands-on learning while designing, building, investigating, problem solving, and evaluating scientific and design principles using K’nex rods, connectors, gears, tires, and hubs.
The Festival Expo is scheduled for the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. on April 26 and 27, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Radio Flyer’s Chicago Headquarters Goes LEED Platinum

Radio Flyer LEEDThe Chicago headquarters of Radio Flyer Inc. has received platinum certification for its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Focused on environmentally sustainable practices, the certification acknowledges key design decisions, including the renovation of existing warehouse space to be more environmentally friendly, dedicated on-site recycling areas, and geo-thermal heating and cooling systems.
Radio Flyer renovated 70,000 of its 150,000 square foot space into an open concept area featuring wooden beams, natural lighting, an indoor and outdoor play lab, eco-friendly parking lot, and landscaped backyard complete with native prairie plants. Other green solutions include cisterns that retain 10,000 gallons of storm water, which is repurposed for fertilizer-free irrigation, bike storage and locker rooms for employees who bike to work, and a preferred parking area for high efficiency, low emission cars.

Kohl’s Cares Offers Deal on Exclusive Rio 2 Merchandise

Rio 2Kohl’s Department Stores, in partnership with Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products, will offer exclusive Rio 2 merchandise for just $5 through the Kohl’s Cares merchandise program. Through the Kohl’s Cares program, 100 percent of the net profit from the collection supports children’s health and education initiatives nationwide.
The Kohl’s Cares collection includes the Rio 2 Blu’s Wild Journey storybook; plush toys based on the characters Blu, Gabi, and Luiz; and a family-style jigsaw puzzle featuring artwork from the animated film.

NRF to Launch Information-Sharing Platform

The National Retail Federation (NRF) will create a program that will provide retailers with access to information on cybersecurity threats identified by retailers, government, and law enforcement agencies and partners in the financial services sector. Developed in consultation with the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC), the program will launch with the establishment of an information-sharing platform for retail industry security specialists.
The NRF has been working closely with cyber-security professionals from The Chertoff Group, and has retained the services of Kim Peretti, a partner at Alston and Bird LLC and part of the firm’s White Collar Crime Group. She is a former senior litigator for the Department of Justice's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section.

TIF Donates $19 Million in Toys in 2013

According to the Toy Industry Foundation’s (TIF) annual report, its program, The Toy Bank, donated nearly $19 million in toys last year, and served more than 3 million children in need. The latter figure marks a 69 percent increase in the number of children who received toys in 2012.
Boys & Girls Clubs of America, a TIF national partner, distributed more than 88,000 toys to the children of troops at 33 U.S. military bases at home and abroad. Meanwhile, TIF’s Play Connects grant cycle, the mission of which is to improve the lives of children in Toy Industry Association members’ local communities, had three programs selected for grants and $30,000 in funds granted last year.

Easter Is the Other Big Holiday

I don’t know about you, but in my family, Easter is the “other” big holiday. It gets as much attention as Christmas and Thanksgiving, complete with family from near and far, a feast, candy, and, of course, Easter baskets. My sister and I are both in our 20s, but who says grown-ups can’t still get excited to open their Easter baskets and see what goodies await? While Easter isn’t the time for lots of presents, our baskets usually contain some candy, a few small trinkets, and one bigger gift. This Sunday, when kids across the country open their Easter baskets, some may be lucky enough to receive any of the following fun spring toys. Read more…

Kids Can Safely Get Behind the Wheel with New Ride-Ons

It’s difficult to recall when I first began dreaming about getting my driver’s license. Sure, there was that one time I accidentally shifted my parents’ car into neutral and rolled it out of the driveway (sorry again, Mom), but even at a young age, I had a desire to drive. The first ride-on I instantly became obsessed with was my friend’s Power Wheels Barbie Jeep, circa 1990-something. It was love at first sight and I just had to have it. It was battery-operated, so I could just push down the pedal and go. It even had a roomy passenger seat, which was perfect for driving around my younger brothers and sister—and I probably tried to get my cat in it with me, too. Read more…

WIT Restructures, Unveils New Committee-Based Structure

Women in Toys (WIT), which recognizes and promotes the achievements of outstanding female leaders within the toy industry, recently underwent an organizational change and restructuring. Along with appointing Ashley Mady, president of Brandberry Inc., as its new board president, WIT’s other board appointments are as follows: Stephanie Barone, vice president of product development for Innovative Designs, as treasurer; Caitlin Gutekunst, senior manager, content acquisition and business development at LeapFrog, as regional chapter chair; Jennifer Quattrock, independent design contractor, as design chair; and Mali Baum, CEO of Beezeebee, as chair of international chapters.
WIT also has a new committee-based structure to support the organization’s goals and mission. These committees will focus on such topics as community involvement, empowerment initiatives, public relations, scholarships, and more.
Anyone seeking information about WIT should contact Heidi Schwartz at hschwartz14@gmail.com, or visit the WIT homepage.

U.S. Senate Approves New FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny

As reported by the Toy Industry Association, Terrell McSweeny, who has advised three presidential candidates on domestic policy, was approved by the U.S. Senate to become the third Democratic commissioner on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). She was nominated by President Obama last June to fill the vacancy left by former FTC chair Jon Leibowitz.
McSweeny, a U.S. Department of Justice attorney, graduated Harvard University and Georgetown University Law School, and was an attorney at O'Melveny & Myers LLP.

Ken Forsse, Creator of Teddy Ruxpin, Passes Away

The toy industry mourns the passing of Ken Forsse, who died on March 19 in Laguna Woods, Calif., at the age of 77. He was the creator of the talking teddy bear, Teddy Ruxpin, which is considered one of the top toys of the 1980s. According to Jan Hornbeck, his wife of 26 years, Forsse died of congestive heart failure.
As reported by The New York Times, Forsse’s main innovation for Teddy Ruxpin was devising electronic decoders to stuff inside the plush toy's head. These allowed the bear to yawn, giggle, and frown along to words emitted from a cassette implanted in its back. Teddy Ruxpin proved to be a huge success, selling more than 41,000 dolls in September of 1985, which was the month after its release.
Forsse previously worked for Disney, helping to develop the company’s theme park attractions. After 12 years, he went on to work in children’s television before starting his own company, Alchemy II.

Cheryl Gotthelf Joins TPL as New Managing Director

Veteran children’s industry expert Cheryl Gotthelf joins The Pineapple Lounge (TPL), a UK-based research and consulting firm, as it launches the U.S. branch of its business. She will serve as the company’s managing director.
Gotthelf brings more than 25 years of experience in building world-class children’s brands across multiple platforms. Previously, she served as an executive at Chorion, Nickelodeon’s Noggin, and Sesame Workshop.

Independent Firms Recommend Shareholders Vote for Mega Brands Acquisition

Two independent proxy advisory firms, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (ISS) and Glass, Lewis & Co. LLC (Glass Lewis), have both recommended that Mega Brands Inc. shareholders vote for the previously announced arrangement providing for the acquisition of all outstanding common shares in the capital of Mega Brands. Mattel-Mega Holdings Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Mattel Inc., would acquire the shares for cash consideration of CA$17.75 per common share.
The board of directors had unanimously approved the arrangement and recommends that shareholders vote in favor of it. The special meeting of shareholders to consider the proposal will be held at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP on April 23 at 9:00 a.m. ET, and the record date for voting at the special meeting is March 18. The firm is located at 1000 De La Gauchetière Street West, Suite 2100, Montréal, Québec, H3B 4W5.
Shareholders with questions or requiring assistance in voting can contact the corporation’s proxy solicitation agent, CST Phoenix Advisors, at 1-(800)-330-8705 or by email at inquiries@phoenixadvisorscst.com.

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