Potential Port Strike Would Impact Toy Industry in Fourth Quarter
The Toy Industry Association has notified its members of a potential labor strike that could occur at 14 East Coast and Gulf Coast ports this fall if a settlement between the Longshoremen’s Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance is not reached by September 30, according to a statement from the TIA.
A strike would have a long-term negative impact on the toy industry and the U.S. economy as a whole, as 95 percent of all container shipments to the East Coast are handled through these 14 ports. The TIA has become engaged in the issue to prevent any disruptions to the toy industry’s fourth quarter shipping. The association is now collecting data about how a strike would impact toy companies and retailers should it occur before the holidays.
TIA will continue to monitor the issue and keep members apprised of any developments. Click here to read more.
In additional news, import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to increase 8.5 percent in September compared to last year. Strong increases are also expected into the holiday season despite talk of a possible strike at East Coast and Gulf Coast ports, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
In the case that a port strike goes unaverted, retailers are considering a variety of contingency plans, including diverting cargo to West Coast ports, which are represented by a separate union and not affected.
August was estimated at 1.43 million TEU, up 4.4 percent from last year. September is forecast at 1.49 million TEU, up 8.5 percent; October at 1.48 million TEU, up 11.7 percent; November at 1.32 million TEU, up 1.9 percent; and December at 1.25 million TEU, up 2.7 percent. Next January is forecast at 1.23 million TEU, down 3.8 percent from this January.
As a whole, this year is expected to total 16 million TEU, up 4.2 percent from 2011.
For more information, visit www.nrf.com/PortTracker.
ShopperTrak Predicts Increase in Holiday Season Sales
Consumers will shop more during the peak holiday shopping months of November and December compared to last year, according to forecasts from ShopperTrak, an analyzer of retail foot traffic.
National retail sales, when compared to the same period last year, will rise 3.3 percent during November and December. Retail foot traffic will increase 2.8 percent.
Holiday sales and foot traffic historically account for about 20 percent of annual retail activity. The retail sales and traffic holiday forecast is a key marker of the nation’s economic health. ShopperTrak’s 3.3 percent holiday sales increase forecast follows 34 months of year-over-year U.S. retail sales growth. The expected increase of 2.8 percent in foot traffic trumps the last holiday season’s 2.2 percent traffic decrease from the previous year.
Nuremberg Toy Fair Highlights Digital Toys
The Spielwarenmesse International Toy Fair Nürnberg 2013 will tackle the increasing digitization of classic toys with the fair’s key theme, “Toys 3.0—The Next Generation.” Exhibitors and manufacturers can present and try out iToys, also called “appcessories,” and toys with digital and virtual components.
Spielwarenmesse eG is also examining consumer and user behavior of so-called “digital natives” in a new study. The results of the analysis will be presented in the Toys 3.0 area at the central entrance during the International Toy Fair.
Saban Brands and MarVista Entertainment Present Julius Jr. Series
Saban Brands has introduced the new animated preschool series Julius Jr., and has named MarVista Entertainment the international television distributor for the 2D animated series.
Saban Brands and Brain Power Studio are currently in production on 26 half-hour episodes (or 52 x 11 minute episodes) of Julius Jr., starring characters based on the Paul Frank brand, which MarVista will debut to international television buyers at this year’s MIP Junior market. Saban Brands will support Julius Jr. with a global consumer products campaign currently in development.
Learning Express Releases Resource for Special Needs Children
Educational toy retailer Learning Express Toys has introduced Skill Builders for Children with Special Needs, a resource that offers toy suggestions to help children accomplish their developmental goals.
To develop this resource, Learning Express Toys worked with several special needs professionals, including occupational therapists and a registered play therapist. The resource classifies skill-building toys into one or more of eight categories: Fine Motor, Gross Motor, Language and Speech, Cognitive, Visual and Spatial Perception, Social Skills and Self-Esteem, Sensory Processing, and Oral Motor.
The featured skill-building toys can be found in the Skill Building Toy Guide for Children with Special Needs, an online magazine-catalog hybrid that also includes helpful articles, insight from parents of kids with special needs, and top toy picks from kids with special needs. It is available at www.learningexpress.com/skill-building.
Activision Trash Pack Video Game to Launch in October
Moose Toys has added six new licensees to its Trash Pack merchandise in the U.S. and Canada. They include Activision, Candyrific, Rasta Imposta, SGI Apparel, X-Treme Worldwide, and Pioneer Balloons.
With the new additions, Activision’s The Trash Pack video game for Nintendo 3DS and DS handheld will hit retail in October. The game allows players to pick from 30 characters and to collect more than 160 Trashies. Players can earn bonuses by catching falling waste by getting on the Trash Pack garbage truck.
Karmin International to Create Baby Genius Jigsaw Puzzles
Genius Brands International, Inc., developer of the Baby Genius product line, has granted Karmin International the right to manufacture jigsaw puzzles using Baby Genius characters. Karmin will distribute the product throughout the U.S. and Canada.
The three-year agreement will allow Karmin to produce floor puzzles, dry erase puzzles, book and puzzle combinations, two-sized puzzles, 4-in-1 progressive puzzles, multi-pack puzzles, and musical puzzles for preschoolers.
James Dean and MerryMakers Partner for Pete the Cat Licensing Program
Pete the Cat creator James Dean and MerryMakers, Inc., have partnered to launch an exclusive worldwide licensing program featuring Pete the Cat, the character featured in four children’s picture books published by HarperCollins, including a new book, Pete the Cat Saves Christmas, due out in late September.
James Dean’s original art featuring Pete the Cat is exhibited in galleries with the latest opened in Tokyo this year. Pete the Cat is also a YouTube sensation with a broad age-range and fan base. MerryMakers is offering the property to licensees immediately, and plans a retail collection for next year’s holiday season.
Bleacher Creatures to Launch Line of Dress-Up Toys
Bleacher Creatures will launch a line of dress-up toys, including masks made with patent-pending technology that uses photos of professional athletes to create realistic details. Players include Tim Tebow, Derek Jeter, Bryce Harper, Justin Verlander, Eli Manning, and Troy Polamalu.
Other items include a princess tiara and magic wand, allowing fans to become a New York Yankees princess or a Dallas Cowboys princess, along with hero capes, allowing fans to be a Green Bay Packers superhero or Boston Red Sox superhero.
The Bleacher Creatures dress-up collection will include the National Football League, the Major League Baseball, and major colleges and universities. Masks will include players in partnership with Major League Baseball Players Association and the NFL. Products will be available at major toy stores, sports stores, stadiums, arenas, and party stores.
Aurora World Nabs Garfield License Through 2015
Aurora World, Inc., has signed a plush license for Garfield. The new collection will launch in October and includes Wide Eyed Garfield Sitting, Garfield Floppy, and Garfield Just Clinging Around, which features suction cups that attach to a glass surface. All Garfield products will include a double-sided Cattitude hangtag featuring the classic Garfield cartoon. Garfield will be distributed to specialty shops, gift stores, and retailers in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand through the end of 2015.
Captain Action Arctic Adventurer Line to Launch in Late October
Round 2 and Captain Action Enterprises will release the first official variant figure set for the new Captain Action toy line, Captain Action Arctic Adventurer. To camouflage himself against the stark whiteness of the Arctic, Captain Action is equipped with a customized white and blue permafrost insulated suit, white gloves, and white boots.
Captain Action, the superhero and “master of disguise” toy from the 1960s, returned to toy shelves earlier this year along with new costume sets featuring characters from Marvel Comics.
The Arctic Adventurer includes the 11.5-inch super-posable Captain Action body introduced earlier this year, cloth costume with a new color scheme, a hat, gloves, and boots in variant colors. Spy equipment includes a laser gun, a belt and a holster, a lightning sword and a sword holder, and an additional set of ungloved hands. Captain Action Arctic Adventurer will be available in one style and offered in limited quantities at Toys “R” Us, hobby shops, and comic shops nationwide next month.
K’nex Introduces Tinkertoy Line
K’nex is welcoming Tinkertoy to the K’nex Brands family. The new Tinkertoy sets snap together and stay together so kids can play with their own creations. Tinkertoy, designed for children 3 years and up, is made of sturdy kid-friendly plastic rods and spools. The Tinkertoy line includes Tinkertoy Transit Building Set, Tinkertoy Animals Building Set, Tinkertoy Vehicles Building Set, Tinkertoy Big Top Building Set, and the Tinkertoy Pink Building Set (only available at Toys “R” Us).
MeeGenius Partners with Sesame Workshop for E-Book Titles
MeeGenius has partnered with Sesame Workshop to bring six Sesame Street e-book titles to the web, iOS, and Android platforms. The first release, Celebrate School: First Day, is available free until September 19 at www.meegenius.com/coupon, with the coupon code “Sesame.”
The additional Sesame Street titles, debuting every Wednesday, include Count to 10, Elmo and Abby’s Wacky Weather Day, Get Ready for School: Colors, It’s Check-up Time, and Elmo and The ABCs of Cookies. Each title features audio narration and text highlighting. A set of questions and activities at the end of each story extends the learning beyond the book and also helps build reading comprehension skills. Many of the titles are available for free.