Playmobil Pirates from Gameloft Launch on iOS Devices

Gameloft’s Playmobil Pirates is now available from the App Store. This free-to-play title, which will be released subsequently on Android devices, takes place in a fun-filled environment based on the Playmobil line of pirate-themed toys.

Playmobil Pirates is currently available for the iPhone, iPad, and iPad Touch, and the Android version will hit the Google Play store soon.

Safari Ltd Supports Miami Children’s Hospital Foundation’s Holiday Toy Drive

Safari Ltd., a worldwide distributor of quality, hand-painted animal replicas, donated more than 2,000 of its toys to Miami Children’s Hospital Foundation’s annual Holiday Toy Drive last week.

The Holiday Toy Drive benefits children spending their holidays in the hospital. On Christmas morning, patients will wake up to a surprise toy package from “Santa Claus” containing a variety of donations. Other children visiting one of Miami Children’s Hospital’s nine outpatient centers will receive similar gifts. This is the first year Safari Ltd., has participated in this toy drive, and the company plans to make this an annual tradition.

Disney Store Announces its Top 10 Holiday Toys

Yesterday, The Toy Book attended a special holiday event at Disney Store Times Square at which the retailer announced its top 10 toys for this holiday season.

Special guests included Disney animator Mark Henn, host and reality TV star La La Vasquez (La La’s Full Court Life), New York socialite and reality TV star Alex McCord (The Real Housewives of New York City), actress Daya Vaidya (Unforgettable), actress Kelly Rutherford (Gossip Girl), and, of course, Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

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Report: Retailers Expect Growth in Online Businesses for the Holidays

This holiday season, most retailers expect strong demand and growth for their online businesses. According to Shop.org’s eHoliday survey, conducted by Bigresearch, nearly seven in 10 (68 percent) retailers expect their company’s online sales to grow at least 15 percent or more, compared to last holiday season. Last year, 63.8 percent of retailers had the same expectations.

When asked why they plan to spend more online this holiday season, four in 10 shoppers (43.2 percent) cited 24-hour convenience as their main reason. Other reasons included not having to fight crowds in stores (37. 2 percent), ease of comparing prices (29.6 percent), and free shipping offers (36.3 percent).

Anticipating customers to seek free shipping offers, nine in 10 online retailers (92.5 percent) said they plan to offer the service at some point, up from 84.8 percent last year. Additionally, 56.3 percent of retailers said their specific budgets for free shipping promotions are somewhat or significantly higher than last year.

To prepare for the holiday season, many online retailers have invested in new technologies and site and service features. More than half (51 percent) said they have significantly invested in mobile-optimized websites, and 19.6 percent have invested in tablet device applications. Additionally, 35.3 percent said they have significantly invested in QR codes in offline advertising. Of those who regularly use social media platforms, nearly three-quarters say they have already invested in their Facebook (72.5 percent) and Twitter (41.2 percent) accounts in advance of the holidays.

Report: Six in 10 Holiday Shoppers Plan to Buy Non-Gifts for Themselves

The National Retail Federation (NRF) has released its 2011 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, and the report predicts a slight decrease in the average amount each shopper will spend this holiday season. According to the survey, shoppers say they plan to shell out an average of $704.18 on holiday gifts and seasonal merchandise, down slightly from last year’s $718.98. NRF still forecasts overall holiday retail sales to grow 2.8 percent during November and December to $465.6 billion.

Holiday shoppers also plan to take advantage of sales and discounts to purchase goods for themselves. Nearly six in 10 holiday shoppers (59.9 percent) say they plan to purchase additional non-gifts for themselves and their families during the holiday season. The largest portion of a consumer’s holiday budget will go to family members, with the average person spending $403.26 on kids, parents, and other family members. Additionally, an average of $68.23 will be spent on friends, followed by $21.06 on co-workers, and $23.39 on other gifts. Consumers will also spend on decorations ($46.73), greeting cards ($26.52), candy and food ($96.75), and flowers ($18.23.) Gift cards will be popular with consumers again this year, with 57.7 percent of shoppers saying they’d like to receive a gift card this holiday season.

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Top Toy Trends This Holiday Season, According to Target

This holiday season there will be nearly 7,000 toys featured in Target stores and on Target.com. Stephanie Lucy, vice president of merchandising at Target, shares what she thinks will be the five key toy trends this season and the hot toys that match them.

Interactivity

“One of the key items we selected is Fijit Friends. You look at Fijit and the ability to put it in dance mode, and the voice-recognition and built-in responses. Also, Let’s Rock Elmo is interactive for a much younger child, but we believe interactivity is important.”

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From Factory to Shelf: An Inside Look at Target’s Holiday Toy Merchandising Strategies

Walking into the toy section of a store like Target during the holiday season can be overwhelming for shoppers, who are faced with toy aisle upon toy aisle of great products to choose from. Thousands of additional products can be found online. Those that make it onto store shelves during the season are often thought of as the crème de la crème, and being chosen for Target’s shelves can bring tremendous success to a toy manufacturer.

Stephanie Lucy, Target’s vice president of merchandising, chats with Elizabeth A. Reid of The Toy Book to talk about holiday merchandising strategies, how it makes its toy selections, and what Target is doing to become a top destination for holiday shopping.

The Toy Book: Let’s paint a picture of how great toys get to Target. How far in advance do you plan for each holiday season?

Stephanie Lucy: We actually start looking for content for the holiday season in September or October the year before. For example, we are going to market right now to look for products for next holiday season.

TB: So, how do you pick the toys? When you are at market, what do you look for?

SL: First of all, it starts with us evaluating what is currently working at Target—what’s selling and what’s not—and ensuring that we understand what the guest is interested in. Beyond that, it really is strong partnerships with our vendors. We do business with the largest toy manufacturers around the world. So, it’s sitting down with them and understanding what they believe the hottest toys are going to be, and what they believe content should look like for the year to come.

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NRF Forecasts an Average Holiday Season

The National Retail Federation (NRF) is expecting this year’s holiday season to be just average. Although last year’s holiday season outperformed most analysts’ expectations, NRF expects 2011 holiday retail sales to increase 2.8 percent to $465.6 billion, close to the 10-year average holiday sales increase of 2.6 percent. Last year, retailers experienced a 5.2 percent increase.

For the first time this year, NRF used its holiday forecasting model to create a projection for seasonal hiring in retail. According to NRF, retailers are expected to hire between 480,000 and 500,000 seasonal workers this holiday season, which is comparable to the 495,000 seasonal employees they hired last year.

Toys “R” Us Expands Layaway Service

Toys “R” Us, Inc. is expanding its layaway service for this holiday season for Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us stores nationwide. The retailer’s layaway service was introduced in 2009 for “big gift” items, such as bikes, sing sets, dollhouses, play kitchens, and more. Beginning Saturday, October 15, Toys “R” Us will offer layaway on nearly all of its products in 450 of its approximately 600 Toys “R” Us stores nationwide.

The in-store layaway option gives customers 90 days to pay for their items. A 20 percent down payment is required and there is a $5 service fee for layaway. In order to guarantee that items will be ready by Christmas, all layaway orders for toys must be paid in full by December 4. For more information, click here.

NPD Analyst: ‘Retailers Scrambling to Recover Lost Sales’

Marshall Cohen, chief industry analyst of The NPD Group, initially expected that the holiday 2010 season would “be remembered as a good year, not a great one.”

“To be great,” said Cohen right before Christmas, “the consumer would have to be in a frenzy and retailers would still be stocked with plenty of product to go around.” According to Cohen, retailers practiced the theory that it is better to sell out than to have leftovers.

On Monday, Cohen revised his outlook saying: “Holiday 2010 just went from a truly Merry Christmas for retailers to a lost weekend with retailers scrambling to recover lost sales.” Cohen called the post-Christmas weekend “brutal,” citing an already shortened post-holiday shopping weekend due to the holiday falling on a Saturday and the Sunday snowstorm in the Midwest and Northeast.

“All-in-all retailers will lose about 0.5 [percent] of sales with the loss of this big post-Christmas day. And by the time they make it up, the sales will fall out of the range of the ‘holiday numbers,’” Cohen said. “Consumers will now have to wait longer to use those gift cards and make their returns. This is an important part of the sales in that consumers tend to spend approximately an additional 16 percent above the face value of gift cards and returns.”