May 08, 2014

The Toy Insider Announces Top Toys for Spring and Summer

The Toy Insider Spring & SummerThe Toy Insider has released its spring edition online at Featuring six categories of spring and summer toys, the Toy Insider assists gift givers in selecting the best toys for the outdoor and travel season.
“After playing with and testing hundreds of toys, we created a list that is jam-packed with play value and includes something for everyone,” says Laurie Schacht, Toy Insider Mom. She reminds parents and gift givers to look for toys that provide active play or engaging play that will last for hours, and that will help kids “shut down” their devices and enjoy the great outdoors.
The six categories offer products for boys and girls of all ages, and include outdoor toys, water toys, travel toys and games, physical/active toys, nature and educational toys, and entertainment toys.

Target CEO Steps Down, Other Changes to Leadership Made

On Monday, Target's board of directors issued a statement announcing that chairman, president, and CEO Gregg Steinhafel would step down, effective immediately. John Mulligan, Target’s chief financial officer, has been appointed as interim president and CEO, while Roxanne S. Austin, a current member of Target’s board of directors, has been appointed as interim non-executive chair of the board.
The move comes after Steinhafel led the response to Target’s 2013 data breach, holding himself personally accountable and pledging that Target would emerge a better company. He will continue to serve in an advisory capacity during the transition period.
On the same day as the statement issued by Target’s board of directors, a signed letter by Steinhafel mentioning his resignation, as well as his continued confidence in the retail company, was made public.
“The last several months have tested Target in unprecedented ways. From the beginning, I have been committed to ensuring Target emerges from the data breach a better company, more focused than ever on delivering for our guests. We have already begun taking a number of steps to further enhance data security, putting the right people, processes, and systems in place. With several key milestones behind us, now is the right time for new leadership at Target,” wrote Steinhafel.

Mattel Named Among 100 Best Corporate Citizens

Mattel Inc. was recognized by Corporate Responsibility Magazine as one of America’s best corporate citizens. The magazine also recognized Mattel as the fifth most socially responsible public company in the U.S. This year’s ranking marks the sixth consecutive appearance by Mattel.
The 100 Best Corporate Citizens List documents hundreds of data points from publicly available information in seven categories: environment, climate change, employee relations, human rights, governance, finance, and philanthropy. The list can be found at

Saban and Lionsgate Team Up for Power Rangers Feature Film

Power RangersAfter more than 20 years of continuous production as a live-action TV series, Saban Brands’ Mighty Morphin Power Rangers will be re-envisioned as a new film franchise. Produced in partnership with Lionsgate, the live-action Power Rangers movie will center on a group of high school kids who are infused with unique super powers, and must harness and use them as a team if they are to save the world.
Currently, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers products include toys, apparel, costumes, video games, and other merchandise.


Wicked Cool and Sesame Street to Partner on Summer and Seasonal Toys

Wicked Cool ToysWicked Cool Toys has signed a multi-year licensing agreement with Sesame Workshop for summer and seasonal toys based on classic Sesame Street legacy characters, including Elmo, Cookie Monster, and Abby Cadabby. The licensing agreement covers North America, and the line is expected to include balls, hoppers, sprinklers, and sandboxes. These items will begin arriving at retail next spring.
“We are thrilled to be working with the talented entertainment innovators at Sesame Workshop, and to bring a line of engaging seasonal, sand, and water toys to market beginning next year,” said Jeremy Padawer, co-president of Wicked Cool Toys.

Hasbro, generationOn, and Points of Light Honor Young Volunteers

This week, Hasbro Inc., along with the youth service movement generationOn and the volunteer service organization Points of Light, will honor six young service leaders as Hasbro Community Action Heroes. Each honoree has addressed challenging issues in their local and global communities in unique ways. The six will receive their awards during the annual generationOn Benefit on May 8 at The Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City.
This year’s awardees include Ethan Cruikshank, age 15, of Mechanicsville, Va.; Gabriele Eggerling, age 10, of Huntington Beach, Calif.; Neha Gupta, age 17, of Yardley, Pa.; My’Kah Knowlin, age 13, of Lincoln, Neb.; Kellon Oldenette, age 5, of Jacksonville, Ill.; and Remington Youngblood, age 13, of Duluth, Ga.
Hasbro and generationOn selected the six new Hasbro Community Action Heroes, ages 5 to 17, from more than 400 nominations submitted on behalf of young people across the nation. Each honoree will receive a $1,000 educational scholarship.

ASTRA Takes Up New Strategic Goals

The board of directors for the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) has adopted four key goals to guide ASTRA’s work over the next few years.
They include building the viability of the specialty toy industry by developing a plan to increase and stabilize the number of independent toy stores over the next three to five years; promoting stronger cooperation and collaboration among ASTRA’s manufacturers, retailers, and sales reps to increase information flow, innovation, and efficiency among member segments; increasing the professionalism of the specialty toy industry by developing new educational and certification programs that address technology, marketing, child development, healthy play, and other issues; and providing tools that can help ASTRA members adopt technology to strengthen their businesses.
Members of the ASTRA board of directors will present these key goals to the membership during the annual ASTRA business meeting on Monday, June 9, at its Marketplace & Academy in Phoenix, Ariz.

Cuipo and Gund Join Forces to Save Endangered Rainforests

CuipoLifestyle brand Cuipo and Gund have teamed up for a new line of stuffed animals. For every stuffed animal sold, one square meter of endangered rainforest is saved. The partnership between Cuipo and Gund shows kids how they can help care for the Earth.
The line includes Sly, a squirrel monkey; Sampson & CoCo, a sun bear and coconut, respectively; Cezar the emperor monkey; Steve, a three-toed sloth; and Tiko the toucan.

Digital Properties and Toys Are a Match Made in Heaven

Today’s culture of apps and Internet memes has spawned a new category for licensees. These new digital brands have inspired toys that carry the excitement, reference, or joke of a digital property beyond its original state and into the physical world. Smartphones, apps, and the Internet have allowed people of all ages to swap images, play games, and contribute to digital communities faster than ever before. The appeal of a licensed toy can largely be attributed to an emotional connection—such as victory, challenge, or humor—to the property by a consumer. When I see a toy (or any other type of product) that I identify with a funny meme or a favorite app, I’m instantly drawn to it, almost like being in on an inside joke. Read more...

Sesame Workshop Appoints Lewis Kofsky as Vice President

Lewis KofskySesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, has named Lewis Kofsky to the position of vice president, international creative and global interactive strategy. He will oversee the creative direction for Sesame Workshop’s international co-productions and initiatives, and will lead its strategy for gaming projects, providing a library of interactive offerings on a global scale.
Most recently, Kofsky served as director of game services at the San Francisco-based startup Playnomics, where he developed product and ran player insights, analytics, and marketing for free-to-play games. As partner and executive producer at Curious Pictures for more than 13 years, Kofsky led a commercial production studio into TV, film, and video games.

The Walt Disney Company Reports Second Quarter and Six Month Earnings

The Walt Disney Company has reported record earnings for the second quarter. Diluted earnings per share (EPS) during this period increased 30 percent to $1.08 from $0.83 in the prior-year quarter. Excluding certain items affecting comparability, EPS for the quarter increased 41 percent to $1.11 from $0.79 in the prior-year quarter, and diluted EPS for the six months ended March 29 was $2.11 compared to $1.60 in the prior-year period. Excluding certain items affecting comparability, EPS for the six months increased 36 percent to $2.15.
On a segment basis, consumer products revenues for the quarter increased 16 percent to $885 million, and segment operating income increased 37 percent to $274 million. Higher operating income was due to increases at the company’s merchandise licensing and retail businesses.
Interactive revenues for the quarter increased 38 percent to $268 million and segment operating results improved from a loss of $54 million to an income of $14 million. These improved results were due to an increase in console games business driven by the strength of Disney Infinity, which was released in the fourth quarter of the prior year, and growth at the company’s Japan mobile business, due to higher licensing fees from game sales, subscribers, and sales of handsets.

LeapFrog Enterprises Reports First Quarter Financial Results

LeapFrog Enterprises Inc. reported financial results for the first quarter ended March 31. Net sales were $56.9 million, down 31 percent compared to $82.9 million during the previous year, and not materially impacted by changes in currency exchange rates. The company faced a tough sales comparison from last year’s record first quarter sales performance, which was driven by high post-season demand for LeapPads following an exceptional holiday 2012 performance.
Net sales were also impacted by the calendar shift of Easter, higher retail inventory levels than at the beginning of the previous year, and a tougher retail environment. In the U.S. segment, net sales were $39.1 million, down 33 percent compared to $58.1 million in the prior year, while in the International segment, net sales were $17.7 million, down 29 percent compared to $24.8 million in the previous year.
Loss from operations for the first quarter was $18.6 million, compared to $4.6 million last year. Net loss for the first quarter was $11.5 million, compared to $3.0 million in the prior year. 

Activision Blizzard Reports First Quarter Financial Results

On Tuesday, Activision Blizzard Inc. announced better-than-expected financial results for the first quarter. For the quarter ended March 31, Activision Blizzard’s GAAP net revenues were $1.11 billion, as compared with $1.32 billion for the first quarter last year. On a non-GAAP basis, the company’s net revenues were $772 million, as compared with $804 million for the first quarter of the previous year.
For the first quarter, GAAP net revenues from digital channels represented 34 percent of the company’s total revenues, while on a non-GAAP basis, net revenues from digital channels were a record 68 percent. For the quarter ended March 31, Activision Blizzard’s GAAP earnings per diluted share were $0.40, as compared with $0.40 for the first quarter last year. On a non-GAAP basis, the company’s earnings per diluted share were a record $0.19, as compared with $0.17 for the first quarter of the prior year.
Q1 GAAP results were higher-than-anticipated due to better-than-expected operating performance in an amount about equal to non-GAAP over performance and a recently identified forecast miscalculation with regard to deferred revenue recognition in the previous GAAP outlook.
For the first quarter, in North America and Europe combined, Activision Publishing had the No. 1 and No. 2 best-selling titles: Skylanders Swap Force and Call of Duty: Ghosts. In North America and Europe combined, Activision Publishing’s Skylanders Swap Force was the No. 1 best-selling kids game overall in dollars for the first quarter of this year.

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