November 27, 2013

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Finalists for 2014 Toy of the Year Awards Unveiled

TOTY 2014The toy industry has its toy, game, and property finalists for the 2014 Toy of the Year Awards (TOTY), as reported by the Toy Industry Association. The annual TOTY awards program recognizes the top toys available across 12 categories, including e-connected, activity, educational, and outdoor toys. A full list of nominees can be found at The Toy Book.
Through January 13, toy lovers of all ages can visit to vote for their favorite playthings. Each vote is a chance to win one of 12 TOTY prize packages filled with the toys and games featured in each category.
The winners will be announced during an awards ceremony held on February 15 as the kick-off to the 111th American International Toy Fair.

Recalls and Toy-Related Fatalities Down, CPSC Reports

This fiscal year, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued only 31 toy recalls, none of which involved a lead violation. This compares with 50 recalls in 2009 (14 for lead); 46 in fiscal year 2010 (three for lead); 34 in 2011 (four for lead); and 38 during 2012 (three for lead).
During the past five years, the CPSC and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have stopped more than 9.8 million units of about 3,000 different toys that violated applicable standards. A recent CPSC report indicates that overall, toy-related deaths involving children younger than 15 years decreased from 19 in 2010 to 17 in 2011, and 11 last year, based on reports to date.

NPD: Fashion Dolls Still in Fashion for the Holidays

According to retail sales data from The NPD Group, year-to-date through October, the doll category is entering the holiday season with dollar sales up 1 percent compared to a year ago. The fashion themed dolls segment is the main driver, with year-over-year sales growth of 6 percent through October.
This increase is due not only to several new brands, such as My Little Pony Equestria Girls and Sofia The First, but also growth in some of last year’s more popular brands, including Monster High, Doc McStuffins, and Lalaloopsy.
Within dolls, other subclasses that have experienced strong growth are Fashion Styling & Dressup and Fashion Themed Clothes, which include items such as Monster High Fashion Sets and Barbie Ultimate Closet.

Mega Bloks Brings the Holiday Spirit to Quebec

Mega BloksMega Brands, based in Montreal, Quebec, kicked off the holidays on November 23 at this year’s Destination Centre-ville Santa Claus Parade in Montreal with a 48-foot float featuring a Winter Wonderland theme. Mega Bloks will also sponsor Ludovica Miniland, a compilation of more than 600 reproductions of buildings and iconic monumental structures from around the globe, completely built out of Mega Bloks. Ludovica Miniland is on display until January at the Grand Marché de Wickham in Quebec.
Finally, Mega Bloks has invited children from the Sun Youth Organization and the Generations Foundation to come meet Santa Claus, visit the Mega Bloks factory, and personally receive a gift from Santa himself.




Survey Shows Kids Want Game Systems, iPads for Holidays

Non-traditional items are finding their way onto kids’ wish lists this year, according to a National Retail Federation (NRF) survey conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics. iPads are among the most popular gifts for both girls and boys, with slightly higher demand from girls. Meanwhile, 44.3 percent of consumers plan to buy toys as gifts this holiday season, and kids are still asking for timeless items such as Barbie, dolls, and Lego.

Modarri Kickstarts a New Breed of Toy Car on Kickstarter

ModarriThoughtFull Toys has launched a Kickstarter campaign for Modarri, which seeks to reinvent the toy car space. Modarri cars can be disassembled and redesigned by changing their parts, leading to hands-on experimentation with real physical objects for kids. Suitable for kids ages 6 and up, the planned color prototypes include the Street Car S1, Dirt Car X1, and Track Car T1.
David Silverglate, who invented, patented, and licensed the Woosh Ring and SkyBlaster, founded the company. Its chief design officer is Brian Gulassa, who has designed and consulted for Mattel, Hasbro, LeapFrog, and other companies.

Marvel Entertainment Partners with Huffy for New Bicycle Line

Marvel HuffyMarvel Entertainment LLC and Huffy have announced that they will develop a new line of bicycles, tricycles, scooters, and accessories. The new products will be an expansion in the bike category for Marvel; the Spider-Man bike is the first in the category to feature the character’s web design as a web trap that holds villain and hero toys. The new line will launch in stores next year.




New Lifestyle Brand Sugar Lulu Targets Tweens

Sugar LuluSugar Lulu, a new lifestyle brand that features DIY jewelry, room décor, and sleepover games for pre-adolescents ages 8 to 12, launches January 7 to 14 at the Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market. Featuring product names such as No Rules Jewels and Picture Perfect Pin-Ups, the brand offers a creative outlet for making jewelry, playing girlfriend games, room decorating, and more.
Shari Kaufman, the co-founder of innovativeKids and the mother of two boys and one tween girl, created Sugar Lulu. The initial product launch includes Bling String bead kits, games, sticker books, and more. On the brand’s website, kids can swap jewelry designs, share room décor inspiration, and contribute great ideas. They can also vote, review, blog, and vlog about new products and help shape the brand’s direction.

1996: The Best Christmas Ever

1996. It was the year of the New York Yankees, the Chicago Bulls, and the Dallas Cowboys. It was the year of Jerry Maguire and the Macarena. It was the year of Bill Clinton’s reelection. But, most importantly, 1996 marked the best Christmas ever, with toy companies cranking out some of kids’ favorite toys of all time. Read more…

It’s Alive! Cool Tech Brings Animal Toys to Life

Kids are always begging for pets, especially around the holidays. “Can I have a puppy?” “I want a pony!” I’m sure you’re hearing it all. But if you’re not ready to make that huge commitment to a pet and a messy house (and perhaps all of the dog-walking responsibilities), new technology that’s available is truly bringing animal toys to life. Read more…

Sonic the Hedgehog: 22 Years and Still Going Fast!

Faster than greased lightning, Sonic the Hedgehog is one tough Erinaceinae to keep up with, and admittedly, I haven’t been trying. I had the first Sonic the Hedgehog game when it came out way back in 1991, but, not long after, I went through a dry spell in which I kept away from video games. During the interim, Sonic evolved as both a pop culture icon and corporate mascot for video game publisher Sega, while I—well, I got slightly taller. Now here we are in 2013, and with the Sonic franchise still going strong, I thought I’d rekindle my relationship with him by checking out some recent Sonic games and toys. Read more…

Blue Box Founder and Chairman Peter Chan Pui Passes Away

Peter Chan Pui, founder and chairman of Blue Box Toys, passed away on November 15 in his hometown of Hong Kong. Pui founded the award-winning company in 1952, and, more than half a century later, under his direction, it has evolved into an integrated manufacturing, sales, and marketing organization, with a reputation for infant and preschool products.
Pui received the prestigious 2011 Outstanding Achievement Award by the Hong Kong Toys Council and The Toys Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong.

Saban Brands Appoints New Senior Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs

Saban Brands has appointed Michael Bayer as its new senior vice president of business and legal affairs. He will lead the global legal team, focusing on entertainment efforts and working with executives from TV production, network operations, worldwide distribution, and content acquisition and exploitation.
Bayer joins Saban Brands with a background as a business affairs and entertainment attorney, and as an experienced producer with numerous feature film and TV credits. He most recently served as executive vice president of business and legal affairs for Image/RLJ Entertainment.

GameStop Reports Third Quarter Results

Total global sales for the third quarter were $2.11 billion compared to $1.77 billion in the prior year quarter, an increase of 18.8 percent. Consolidated comparable store sales rose 20.5 percent, significantly above the forecasted range.
During the quarter, sales of new software increased by 43.1 percent, driven by the strong performance of recently released titles, such as Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto V. New hardware sales grew 15.3 percent, led by strong sell-through of Nintendo 2DS and 3DS. Each of these categories outperformed the overall market, leading to 675 basis points of market share gain during the quarter. GameStop’s net earnings for the third quarter were $68.6 million, a 45.3 percent increase compared to adjusted net income of $47.2 million in the prior year quarter.

Take-Two Repurchasing 12.02 Million Shares Held By Icahn Group

Take-Two Interactive Software Inc., as part of an ongoing strategy to buy back its shares, has purchased all of the Icahn Group’s stock at Monday’s closing price of $16.93 per share. Several years ago, the Icahn Group and Take-Two agreed that if the former sold its position, the Icahn Group’s designees would resign from the board. As such, Brett Icahn, Jim Nelson, and SungHwan Cho resigned from the Board this past Tuesday.
The total purchase price for the 12.02 million shares was approximately $203.5 million and will be funded from Take-Two’s cash and cash equivalents on hand. Following completion of the purchase, Take-Two’s basic shares outstanding will be approximately 81 million. The transaction was expected to be completed Tuesday.

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