IN THEIR OWN WORDS: Neighborhood Toy Store Day Lets Independent Retailers Shine!

by Phil Guie and Deanna Atkins

ExteriorofKaleidoscope(Editor’s note: This article was updated on November 11, 2014)

This past weekend, playtime was definitely on at mom-and-pop toy stores located throughout the U.S.

Saturday marked the fifth annual Neighborhood Toy Store Day (NTSD), an event started by the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association to support locally owned toy retailers. Community members were encouraged to visit the independent toy store in their midst, and in return, participating retailers hosted in-store arts and crafts, games, and other activities that appealed to families.

In honor of NTSD, The Toy Book’s editorial staff interviewed owners of several neighborhood toy stores in their home communities. In their responses below, the store owners touched on their NTSD plans, the support they give and receive from their neighborhoods, the reasons why shopping at a locally owned toy store is a great experience, and more.
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Sesame Workshop Celebrates 45 Years of Sesame Street with New Apps, Games, and More

Cookie Monster and Alan Muraoka at the recent Digital Playground event hosted by Sesame Workshop.

Sesame Street turns 45 this year, and this past Tuesday, Sesame Workshop hosted a digital playground event in New York City to show off new apps, e-books, and other multimedia offerings for children age 5 and younger. During the morning-long event, several dozen little ones got to play test the latest in Sesame Street-branded games, which were set up at iPad stations. They also watched long- and short-format clips of Sesame Street online, courtesy of the brand’s latest digital video platforms.

During his welcome to guests, Scott Chambers, senior vice president of worldwide media distribution for Sesame Workshop, said that Sesame Street currently has an audience of roughly 5 million viewers on PBS. However, he pointed out that among the most recent generation of viewers, 63 percent of that audience is introduced to the program digitally; hence, Sesame Workshop’s latest efforts to develop the brand across a number of digital platforms.

Chambers, along with guest speakers Cookie Monster and Alan Muraoka of Sesame Street fame, took turns emphasizing the importance of self-regulation for kids–a theme reflected in several apps on-hand. One of the newest, Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame, teaches kids ages 2 to 5 how to deal with tough emotions by letting them play as a cute horned monster. Kids are presented with a choice of problem scenarios, such as having trouble getting dressed or getting ready for school, and then a choice of possible solutions. [Read more...]

Rilakumma Heads to the Big Apple’s Big Toy Store

RilakkumaNew York City toy store FAO Schwarz will host a Rilakkuma Day to celebrate the brand’s extension from Asia to North America.

Guests will be able to interact with a life-size Rilakkuma mascot and Kawaii girls, and will have a chance to win giveaway prizes. A Rilakkuma pop-up shop featuring plush, apparel, accessories, electronics, and stationery based on the brand will remain in FAO Schwarz’s Great Hall until the end of the month.

The free event will be held on October 11, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Giveaways will be distributed to guests while supplies last.

TIF to Auction Off a Tour of Sesame Street and More

tif_logoThe Toy Industry Foundation (TIF) is launching an online fundraising auction to benefit TIF programs and grants, which help children in need around the world.

TIF partnered with global charity auction site, Charitybuzz, to host the auction—which includes a visit to the set of Sesame Street in New York, tickets to Nickelodeon’s 2015 Kids’ Choice Awards in Los Angeles, and private meetings with top toy executives.

Bids may be placed through September 30 at charitybuzz.com/tif.

Hasbro, Disney, and 3DPlusMe Team Up for Super Awesome Me

SuperAwesomeMeHasbro Inc. and 3DPlusMe are introducing Super Awesome Me, a personalized 3-D printing experience that allows kids (and those who are kids at heart) to become Captain America or Iron Man. The initiative provides fans with a customized, 12-inch action figure through an in-store experience. In conjunction with Disney Consumer Products’ Marvel Super Hero September celebration, the Super Awesome Me experience will launch at ten Wal-Mart and two Sam’s Club locations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston between September 19 and 28.

Fans visit an in-store scanning station, where a 3-D face scanner captures their likeness to create a 3-D model. Each Super Awesome Me figure, recommended for fans ages 4 years and up, features a traditional articulated plastic action figure body and full-color 3-D printed head. Figures are available for pick-up at Wal-Mart locations or shipped to Sam’s Club customers in four weeks.

More information on the Super Awesome Me experience, as well as a full list of participating Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club locations, is available at superawesomeme.com.

BubbleBall Inc. to Launch Bubble Soccer in New York City

BubbleA New York City-based start-up, BubbleBall Inc., is introducing bubble soccer to the United States. The sport is regular soccer played inside a giant, protective, and bouncing bubble suit, and is popular in Europe and Australia. BubbleBall Inc. is currently selling products nationwide and inviting people to play the sport in New York. In celebration of the World Cup, the company is also giving away free products through its Twitter sweepstakes.

Reservations can be made to play BubbleBall in New York at Chelsea Piers starting July 12.

Dedicated Rilakkuma Shop to Launch at FAO Schwarz in October

RilakkumaFAO Schwarz will convert three towers in the Grand Hall of its New York flagship store into a Rilakkuma destination for the month of October. Over the past decade, the Rilakkuma brand and its characters have become a key part of Japanese culture and the essence of the Kawaii lifestyle, which emphasizes cuteness and adorableness.

FAO Schwarz currently carries a variety of plush Rilakkuma product in its flagship store and online at fao.com. To celebrate the brand’s shop-within-a-shop launching in October, FAO Schwarz will expand its product assortment to include Kigurumis, hats, cell phone cases, ear buds, graphic t-shirts, and new plush items.

In 2003, San-X launched Rilakkuma in Japan, and Aliquantum International (AQI) has since brought the brand to North America.

Safe Kids Day 2014 Planned for Los Angeles, New York City

tia_logo[1]The Toy Industry Association (TIA) will sponsor Safe Kids Day 2014, hosted by Safe Kids Worldwide. The events for the nationwide initiative will take place on April 5th in Los Angeles and April 12th in New York City. The TIA will provide attendees with free tips, tools, and guidelines for choosing age-appropriate products to play with that will keep kids safe while they play. 

The bicoastal events will feature games, activities, guest appearances, and an opportunity for families to learn how to stay safe from preventable injuries.

Toy Fair 2014 to Be Biggest U.S. Toy Fair Yet

The American International Toy Fair in February is expected to be the largest toy trade show ever held in North America. Though registration has been open for just a few weeks, the Toy Industry Association (TIA) reports that the show has already surpassed a record-breaking 400,000 net square feet of exhibit space at New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

The 2013 event—which hosted the largest exhibit area since 2000—covered just over 366,000 net square feet at the Javits Center. As of press time, total registration for the 2014 American International Toy Fair is up 10 percent over the same period last year, while buyer registration is up 6 percent year-to-date, and international buyer attendance has surged 18 percent over last year’s point-in-time figures.

Approximately 30,000 visitors are expected to attend, exploring products on display by more than 1,000 exhibiting toy companies.

Ridemakerz Comes to FAO Schwarz Fifth Avenue

imagesRidemakerz is driving to New York City with the grand opening of the experimental Ridemakerz store-within-a-store at the FAO Schwarz Fifth Avenue location on the second level. The shop officially opens at 10 a.m. on November 11, and Ridemakerz will offer 100 complimentary Ridez to the first 100 people who arrive before 11 a.m. In celebration of Veteran’s Day, a complimentary Ridemakerz baseball cap will be offered to veterans who visit the store.

The Ridemakerz shop resembles the look and feel of an authentic race car garage and offers a unique experience for kids and adults to build their own toy cars. Customizers can choose from authentic cars, including Corvettes, Vipers, and Mustangs, and entertainment characters like Lightning McQueen, Iron Man, and Spider-Man. There are more than 649 million possible combinations to be made with customizable options, including lights, sounds, accessories, and decals.

For a unique experience, participants can also engage in the Pit Crew Challenge where their build times can be compared against family and friends. For special occasions such as birthdays, group outings, and company team-building, Ridemakers offers Revved Up Bashes, where friends can “Chooze, Customize, and Cruise” home with a one-of-a-kind Ridez. As the holidays approach, Ridemakerz will begin offering special, in-store events, as well as in-store and online deals on new products.

Interactive Ridemakerz retail shops have already opened in Downtown Disney in Anaheim, Calif.; Downtown Disney in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.; Branson Landing in Branson, Mo.; and Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach, S.C.