Build-A-Bear Workshop, Toys for Tots Join Team Santa for the Holidays

BABW_NewCircleLogoBuild-A-Bear Workshop will launch a national Stuffed with Hugs event November 14 to 16, where guests will be invited to join Team Santa and make a special bear for free to donate to Toys For Tots. The store has supported The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation for the seventh year in a row during the holiday season, donating $7.8 million worth of toys.

Also through December 14, Build-A-Bear Workshop guests can visit any store nationwide to make or donate new, unwrapped toys for local children in need. The company will match each donation up to 20,000 with a Build-A-Bear stuffed animal. Donations can also be made at checkout in stores and online at buildabear.com through December 31.

FedEx and UPS Hiring More Workers to Avoid Holiday Delays

As reported by ABC News, FedEx and United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) are hiring more workers to avoid the delays that plagued last year’s holiday season.

FedEx plans to hire 50,000 seasonal workers, up from 40,000 last year, while UPS will add up to 95,000 people, up from 85,000. Last year, both companies scrambled to hire more seasonal employees than they had planned.

FedEx also expects to invest $1.2 billion in its ground-shipping network in its current fiscal year, with most of that going to increase capacity and automation. The company said that the improvements have sped up ground delivery by a day or more in more than two-thirds of the U.S. UPS has also invested to boost shipping capacity during the holidays.

Last December, the delivery giants were caught off-guard by bad weather and a surge in last-minute online shopping, leading to an estimated 2 million packages arriving late for the holidays.

About 1.3 million express packages handled by UPS and 618,000 carried by FedEx failed to get delivered on time last Christmas Eve, with UPS and FedEx at fault roughly 30 percent of the time, according to ShipMatrix Inc. In most cases, retailers promised guaranteed express delivery, but didn’t pay the delivery companies for that speedier service.

The retail federation’s online division, Shop.org, predicts that online sales in November and December will rise 8 to 11 percent over last year.

Pound Puppies to Come Back for the Holidays

The popular 1980s toy line, Pound Puppies, is making a comeback in time for the holiday season, courtesy of Funrise Toy Corp. The line is a collection of plush puppies that come complete with their own breed specific fun fact card and heart shaped dog tag. Kids can write their puppy’s name on he tag and register it online to receive a printable adoption certificate.

Kids can choose from a beagle, labrador, bulldog, or poodle that come in 12-inch plush, 6-inch plush, and a 3.5-inch plush keychain.

COMMENTARY: The (Other!) Reason for the Season

While I understand and respect that the holiday season has religious roots, toys, gifts, and giving have become a huge part of American tradition—and I don’t think this is such a bad thing. As frustrating as it can be to deal with 600 impossible twist ties and Hefty bags full of plastic packaging on Christmas morning, toys bring families together. After mom and dad (or in this case, Aunt Marissa!) get to see their elated kids (or super adorable nieces and nephew!) open exactly what they’ve wanted all year long, the first thing they want to do is start playing.

Courtney (8), Aunt Marissa, Matthew (5), and our pal Stomper!

Courtney (8), Aunt Marissa, Matthew (5), and our pal Stomper!

My niece Courtney can’t even get through unwrapping her mountain of presents before saying “Can I open this one?!” And that’s where the fun comes in: When Dad arrives wielding his trusty screwdriver and a Tupperware container full of batteries (and this super awesome plastic package ripper thingy that if you don’t have you need to go out and buy RIGHT now!), Mom stands by tossing wrapping paper into garbage bags (and putting everyone’s coffee mugs on coasters, thanks Mom!), and there I sit cross-legged on the floor, instruction booklet diligently in hand, reading glasses securely fastened. Even if Santa gets all of the Christmas glory, it’s the gift-givers who get the toy out of the package, insert the batteries, and help teach kids how to play. It’s the gift-givers who get to see the excitement on their kids’ faces, who get the big fat thank you hug, and who get to watch kids enjoy their Christmas prizes. It’s really just one giant bonding experience (with maybe a few “how do you turn the damn thing on?!” and “It’s like they don’t WANT you to open it!” comments thrown in between all of the sap-fest family time). [Read more...]

Hasbro Employees Worldwide Make the Holidays Brighter for Children in Need

HasbroHasbro Inc. helped spread joy to thousands of underserved children in 35 countries through its first Global Day of Joy. The initiative empowered Hasbro’s 5,000 employees from its global headquarters in Rhode Island to its offices across Latin America, Europe, and Asia Pacific to become holiday elves and to be a part of community service projects designed to bring joy over the holidays to children in need. Team Hasbro employees volunteered with more than 100 charitable organizations worldwide.

Examples of the different types of service projects that took place on Hasbro’s Global Day of Joy included a special celebration for children in Colombia who have received life changing cleft palate procedures from Operation Smile, featuring a contest that teamed Hasbro employees with the children to “create” their greatest smile using Play-Doh; working with SOS Children’s Villages in five countries to transform outdated play areas, host special Game Day events, and deliver toys and games to the orphaned children who live there, including those in Russia, Peru, and Austria; assembly and packaging of more than 136,000 meals that were delivered to 25 food pantries and schools across Rhode Island in partnership with Outreach Inc., a U.S.-based hunger relief organization; and the delivery of tens of thousands of toys and games to charitable organizations across the globe.

During the 2013 holiday season alone, Hasbro expects to donate more than $3 million worth of toys and games to children and approximately $15 million in total philanthropic support worldwide.

COMMENTARY: 1996: The Best Christmas Ever

1996. It was the year of the New York Yankees, the Chicago Bulls, 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.

Cabbage Patch Snacktime KidWho could forget the Cabbage Patch Snacktime Kids dolls, from Mattel? Those pudgy-faced, yarn-haired little cuties each had a motorized mouth, and kids could feed their doll a french fry, a pretzel stick, a banana, and other yummy snacks. This was one of the toys my mom admits to pushing other moms out of the way for at Toys “R” Us on Black Friday morning. The food, which the dolls realistically chewed when kids inserted it into their mouths, fell into a backpack on the doll’s back, so kids could feed them over and over again. Of course, this beacon of glory was shortly recalled after the holiday season, as kids were getting their hair, skin, and fingers stuck in the doll’s mouth (as you can imagine, this resulted in many unhappy parents and kids with bald spots). While I made sure my hair was secured tightly in a ponytail while playing, my Snacktime Kid remained one of my favorite toys through ’97.

[Read more...]

Fisher-Price Launches Share the Joy! Campaign

Laugh & LearnFisher-Price has launched a new holiday digital advertising campaign called, “Share the Joy,” which stems away from traditional product features to original video vignette-ads. The three videos each have its own distinct story line and feature a holiday carol including, “Jingle Bells,” “Deck the Halls,” and “Carol of the Bells” with re-written lyrics from a child’s point of view.

The brands and products highlighted in the videos include Laugh & Learn, Little People, and Imaginext. You can watch them and find sharable coupons on Fisher-Price.com/SharetheJoy.

The Mensch on a Bench is a New Hanukkah Tradition for the Whole Family

MosheThe Mensch on a Bench was created by Neal and Erin Hoffman, who were inspired to create an alternative to the Elf on a Shelf for their 4-year-old son Jacob.  After a successful Kickstarter campaign, The Mensch on a Bench makes its debut this holiday season.

The Mensch on a Bench book tells the story of Moshe the Mensch who was in temple with the Maccabees after they won the war against the Greeks. There was only enough oil for one night, so Moshe volunteered to sit on the bench and watch over the Menorah while the rest slept. Each night, Moshe incorporates a different Jewish tradition into the story.

In addition to the hardcover book, families receive their very own 12-inch plush Mensch to watch over their own Menorah. The Mensch loves to play dreidel, eat Latkes, sing songs, and be with family.

The Mensch on a Bench is available in limited quantities and available exclusively at themenschonabench.com.

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.

Little Tikes Big Holiday Offering

Little Tikes is introducing new products for the holidays. These products range from ages as early as 6 months up to 5 years. These toys allow kids to interact with art, funny characters, and animals. They all support early development, including learning to crawl. These products include:
  • Lil’ Blabberz: Oolie is a funny, crazy character in the shape of a soft, fuzzy ball for kids ages 3 and up.
  • Activity Garden: The garden incorporates a variety of baby toys and activities to develop motor skills and cognitive ability. This activity gym can be configured in different ways to keep play exciting from kids ages 6 months to 3 years.
  • GiddyUp ‘N Go Pony: A toy pony named Thunder that allows kids ages 3 to 5 to develop coordination and balance.
  • I’m an Artist Station: This product allows toddlers ages 3 and up to be creative in art. The paper spins, kids add paint, and make creations.
  • Wiggimals: This toy sheep can assist babies in learning to crawl with its movement. Wiggimals is suitable for babies ages 6 months and up.