The Toy Book Chats with Sherry Gunther-Shugarman, CEO, Popstar Club

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Sherry Gunther-Shugarman, CEO of Popstar Club, which is the manufacturer of the fresh, new doll line, The Beatrix Girls. Sherry gave me an overview of what makes her doll line so unique, and why girls are going to be clamoring for them this holiday season.

SherryGunther.BeatrixCEO

 

Where did you get the idea for Beatrix Girls?

The Beatrix Girls came out of the idea of tying music and dolls together. Ultimately the approach to this was to create a multiplatform brand that really reaches kids everywhere that they are, recognizing that kids are not just watching TV and they’re not just playing with dolls or toys, they’re not just online playing games or being social, they’re doing all of the above. A forward-thinking property really needed to have presence in all of those mediums and to have an integration between all of those formats ingrained in its DNA.

The webisodes are done in a very unique way. How did you come about using that style?

It’s interesting because the natural for me was to go with animation as I spent over 20 years in animation, but there were a lot of things that attracted me to doing it this way, creating webisodes that have the dolls featured interacting in real life. It comes out of the fact that the concept itself has the girls as real. So they’re real and they interact in our world. They’re a real pop star band, we9’re creating real music, not composed music like we would for a toy property or an animated show, but real, credible, pop music written by a platinum-winning writer/producer, mixed by a Grammy-winning engineer, so this is really relevant, today, great music and so we really want to sell them as true pop stars.

Animation oftentimes, especially when doing them based on a product or especially dolls, skews a little bit younger, and we really wanted to have the cool factor and have these be edgier. The medium that we used felt so much more current and fresh and innovative and YouTube generation-like and it felt much more fitting to the brand itself. It gives the dolls the credibility of being real in our world. They have a real human manager, they perform in real venues, so it allows us to play up that real factor for them. And then the scale gives us a lot of humor opportunities for 12-inch dolls interacting in a life-size world.

The really nice side effect that we found is that girls are really responding to the fact that they can relate to the way it was done because it was shot on purpose with hands showing and manipulating the dolls. The idea was that kids could really relate to it and feel like I can do that, I can get four dolls and with my friends create a scene and a scenario.

 

For some reason it reminds me of Mr. Bill, the old SNL skit.

That’s kind of what we were going for. We were going for rather than just sort of just straight, weak, almost too young-skewing animation. We wanted it to be edgier and quirky and fun and hilarious and this medium allowed us to do that, to have that feel to it.

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The Beatrix Girls Sign New Licensees

The Beatrix GirlsWith an official launch still to come this year, The Beatrix Girls brand has already announced nine new licensing agreements after its successful introduction at the International Licensing Show. The new line of collectible pop-star dolls has expanded since its promotional agreement with Peavey Electronics to add new brand partners in the teen/tween market. Licensing deals, including apparel, bags and backpacks, accessories, back-to-school, bedding, stationery, footwear, headwear, and more, were brokered by the licensing firm AALMG.

The U.S. licensees The Beatrix Girls have recently signed include Children’s Apparel Network for branded tops, bottoms, sets, dress, and outerwear; Berkshire Fashions for branded baseball caps, fashion headwear, fleece hats, gloves, mittens, scarves, head bands, ear muffs, leg and arm warmers, socks, slipper socks, rain slickers, ponchos, and umbrellas; Hanover Group for branded necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings, anklets, charms, headbands, barrettes, ponytail holders, hair clips, hair scarves, lanyards, coin purses, purses, zipper pulls, flashlights, key chains, backpack clips, shoelaces, novelty headbands, tiaras, wands, eye masks, brushes, sunglasses, and gift sets; Skyhigh International LLC for branded back-to-school stationery, including notebooks, memo books, portfolios, binders, planners, journals, address books, list pads, book covers, stationery sets, stickers, pens, and pencils; Jay Franco & Sons for branded bedding, bath, room décor, beach towels, beach blankets, and beach backpacks; AME for branded girls sleepwear; Playa Vista Designs for branded footwear; and Fast Forward for branded handbags, backpacks, totes, sports bags, small leather goods, cell phone cases, luggage, lunch juts, and beverage bottles.

The Beatrix Girls band members—Brayden, Ainsley, Lark, and Chantal—produce real music that kids can collect. Each pop-star has her own developed personality, making it not only possible for her to live and interact in the human world, but for kids to vicariously live the fantasy of being a pop-star through play.

Average Parent Will Spend $600-plus While Back-to-School Shopping

The National Retail Federation’s 2012 Back-to-School spending survey, conducted by BIGinsight, reveals that the average American with children in grades K-12 will spend $688.62 on their children, up nearly $80.00 from last year. Total spending is expected to reach $30.3 billion. Combined, K-12 and college spending will reach $83.8 billion, making the back-to-school shopping season the second biggest consumer spending event for retailers, behind the winter holidays.

NRF attributes the jump to more children entering elementary and middle school this fall and parents hitting the stores to replace and replenish what kids had to “make-do” with last year. This summer, parents are expected to spend the most on clothing, accessories, and electronics—approximately $246.10 on clothes and $217.88 on electronics. Nearly 60 percent will invest in an electronic device. Additionally, the average person with children in grades K-12 will spend $129.20 on shoes and $95.44 on school supplies such as notebooks, pencils, and backpacks.

More families say they will shop at department stores and online for school items as they look to get the best bang for their buck. Nearly 60 percent will take advantage of department stores’ private label offerings and exclusive product lines, up from 57 percent last year and the highest in the survey’s 10-year history.  Parents will also scour the Internet for free-shipping and other promotions. Nearly 40 percent will take their school shopping lists online, up from 31.7 percent last year and nearly doubling since 2007, when 21.4 percent planned to shop online.

This post was originally written by Lindsay Gordon and published by ToyBook.com. For more news, visit www.toybook.com, follow The Toy Book on Twitter, and like The Toy Book on Facebook. The Toy Book is a bimonthly trade magazine covering the toy industry, published by Adventure Publishing Group.

NPD Releases Answers to July Survey: Where Are Parents Back-to-School Shopping?

The NPD Kids Industry Data Service (KIDS) provides monthly insight into purchases made on behalf of kids ages 0-14 across product categories with an emphasis on licenses and brands. In addition, each month the company asks an open-ended, unaided question designed to provide insight into what is top-of-mind with kids today. In July, the question was: “Where do you plan to do most of the back to school shopping for your child(ren)?” The NPD KIDS compiled 1,760 mentions of retailers where parents indicated they plan to do back-to-school shopping on behalf of their kids.

Thirty-six percent of respondents indicated Walmart; 20 percent indicated Target; 4 percent indicated Kohls and JC Penney; 3 percent indicated Staples and dollar stores, including Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Dollar Stores and Family Dollar; and 2 percent indicated Kmart, Old Navy, a shopping mall, or wherever there is a sale.

According to the NPD KIDS, the 2 percent of respondents indicating that they will shop “wherever there is a sale,” represents willingness on the part of shoppers to wait and hunt for promotions on school supplies. This is a response that has not shown up in previous iterations of the survey question.

This post was originally written by Sierra McCleary-Harris and published by ToyBook.com. For more news, visit www.toybook.com, follow The Toy Book on Twitter, and like The Toy Book on Facebook. The Toy Book is a bimonthly trade magazine covering the toy industry, published by Adventure Publishing Group.

Electric Friends Launches New Speaker Line

Electric Friends, a new speaker line for the iPhone and iPod, announced the release of animal-themed speakers. The four varieties, including Sing Sing the Panda, Chew Chew the Dog, Kwack Kwack the Duck, and Ki Ki the Cat,  are on sale now.

As the back-to-school season approaches, these speakers can serve as a new classroom accessory and charging dock. The speakers are compatible with  iPhone (4/4S, 3GS/3G), iPod Touch, iPod Classic, and iPod Nano (1st-6th generations).

This post was originally written by Gigi Rubin and published by ToyBook.com. For more news, visit www.toybook.com, follow The Toy Book on Twitter, and like The Toy Book on Facebook. The Toy Book is a bimonthly trade magazine covering the toy industry, published by Adventure Publishing Group.

Allergy-Conscious Mom Takes Action with AllerMates

Children with allergies will feel a little safer this summer with the launch of AllerMates, a new line of character-driven wristbands, dog tags, and lunch boxes designed to present a more personalized, visual representation of specific allergies. Iris Shamus, founder and CEO of AllerMates, created the line after her son’s struggle with allergies.

“No matter how many forms I signed or how many times I spoke to the teacher, the inevitable happened” Shamus said.  “I set out to create something more personalized so that a camp counselor, caregiver, or teacher would always be aware of his allergies.”

The line is based on 14 fun, original characters that represent the most common allergies: peanut, nut, gluten/wheat, milk, egg, shellfish, penicillin, insect sting, latex, pollen, fish, soy, sesame, and cat. All products are hypo-allergenic, nickel and latex free, and have passed rigorous safety standards and testing

In addition to the products, AllerMates offers tips, facts, and general information about allergies, as well as games and activities on its website. The website also has a fully functional social community allowing its members free and easy interaction and sharing of the latest blogs, news, videos, and information within the allergy community.

AllerMates products can be purchased at www.allermates.com, Amazon.com and at independent retailers throughout the U.S. as well as stores in Canada, United Kingdom, Portugal and South America.

This post was originally written by Leah Rocketto and published by ToyBook.com. For more news, visit www.toybook.com, follow The Toy Book on Twitter, and like The Toy Book on Facebook. The Toy Book is a bimonthly trade magazine covering the toy industry, published by Adventure Publishing Group.

Report: Nearly Half of Dollars Spent on Kids Were Requested by Children

According to a new study by The NPD Group, Spotlight on Kids: Understanding Cross-Category Purchasing: Data from July 2010—Back To School, 49 percent of all dollars spent on kids in July were specifically requested by the children. The survey also found that girls were more likely to request apparel and books and boys typically asked for sporting goods and video games.

In July, most products purchased for kids were apparel (20 percent), then footwear (13 percent), toys (8 percent), and video game consoles (7 percent). Apparel also took the No. 1 spot (56 percent) in terms of the percentage of dollars spent on sale items, followed by arts & crafts, consumer electronics, and school gear.

Nearly two-thirds of dollars spent on kids came from their parents, followed by grandparents with 19 percent. When comparing the percentage of dollars spent on used and pre-owned items by category, video game software, books, and video game hardware were the leaders at 19 percent, 11 percent, and 9 percent, respectively.

In terms of dollars spent, 28 percent were on licensed goods. Forty-two (42) percent of all dollars spent on kids ages 3 to 5 were for licensed products.

July Retail Sales Increase Year-Over-Year for Back-to-School Season

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), as back-to-school sales start, retail industry sales for July (excluding automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) increased 3.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Retail industry sales also declined 0.2 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month.

July retail sales released by the U.S. Commerce Department show that total retail sales (including non-general merchandise categories such as automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) increased 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted from June and increased 5.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

Back-to-school related categories also saw year-over-year gains, according to the NRF. Clothing and accessories stores were up 4.7 percent over last July, but declined 0.7 percent from June. Electronics and appliance stores increased 8.1 percent year-over-year and declined 0.1 percent from last month. Furniture and home furnishing stores increased 0.4 percent from the same period a year ago and declined 0.3 percent from June.

A survey conducted by NRF, released in July, found that the average family of students in grades K-12 would spend $594.24 on back-to-school this year, an increase of 8.3 percent compared to $548.72 last year.