A Letter to the Industry from Björn Jeffery, Co-Founder & CEO, Toca Boca

Toca Boca CEO & Cofounder Bjorn Jeffery Photo[1]Dear Toy Industry,

Hope all is well! I’m writing to you from the App Store, where Toca Boca just had the biggest holiday season ever—we even landed in the Top 10! While the App Store is a space for digital products, so much of what you know about toys can be applied here—and there’s room for you to excel in this space.

Toca Boca started researching your products a little more than three years ago. We looked at play patterns and blockbuster toys—searching for themes that could work for us. Since you were such a key influence, I thought I’d attempt to return the favor. So here are a few things that we’ve learned from the App Store over the past few years that I would like to share with you.

First, think of the App Store as a toy store. If it was Toys “R” Us, you wouldn’t be putting your marketing material on the shelves. Yet that is often what I see in the App Store—an app trying to sell something in the physical world. Put your best toys on the shelves! There’s infinite shelf space in the App Store and many other toys from which to choose. [Read more...]

Toys “R” Us Great Trade-In Event Reaches One Million Milestone

The Great Trade-In event by Toys “R” Us has resulted in the removal of more than one million pieces of used and potentially unsafe cribs, car seats, and other products since the program began in 2009. The company’s ninth “Great Trade-In” event began January 24 and run through February 17 in Babies “R” Us and Toys “R” Us stores nationwide. This year, Toys “R” Us has issued a call for action for customers to rid their homes of unsafe and old baby products and exchange them for savings on new items.

During the event, stores will accept any used cribs, car seats, bassinets, strollers, travel systems, play yards, high chairs, toddler/twin beds, swings, walkers, bouncers, and entertainers in exchange for a 25 percent savings on the purchase of a new baby item in any of these categories. This program gives customers an opportunity to remove or replace old and hazardous products from their homes, garages, and attics.

In addition to the event, Toys “R” Us offers supplementary resources to help parents and caregivers keep their children safe, such as the company’s dedicated safety website.

Toys “R” Us Brings Lego Movie Anticipation to Life

Jan20.ToysRUsToys “R” Us has created nearly 20 movie-inspired products in anticipation for the first feature length Lego film. These new items, coming to Toys “R” Us stores nationwide and on toysrus.com/lego, will be available from January 30 through March. The products will be showcased in feature shops in Toys “R” Us stores, including play sets that replicate adventures from the movie, minifigures, and vehicles. Fans can join Emmet, an ordinary Lego minifigure, on his quest to stop an evil Lego tyrant from gluing the universe together.

Toys “R” Us will also host an in-store event and offer additional gifts with Lego product purchases. On February 8, stores nationwide will host an event from noon to 2 p.m., where participants can construct and take home Emmet’s car. Customers can also try out the new The Lego Movie Nintendo 2DS video game. There will also be two raffle contests at the event and the prizes will be a $10 Toys “R” Us Gift Card and the Lord Business’ Evil Lair construction set. In addition, beginning on February 2, customers who make a $50 or more Lego construction purchase in-store will receive a complementary ticket to see The Lego Movie in theaters.

The Lego Movie will be in theaters beginning February 7.

Toys “R” Us Reports Holiday 2013 Sales Results

Toys “R” Us Inc. has reported its comparable store net sales for the five- and nine-week periods ending January 4.

For the five-week period, the domestic segment reported a comparable store net sales increase of 1.8 percent. The learning, seasonal, and core toy categories generated the strongest comparable store net sales growth. Internationally, comparable store net sales declined 1.1 percent for the five-week period. Australia, China, and Southeast Asia experienced positive comparable store net sales growth, offset by softness in Japan, Canada, and Europe.

Comparable store net sales for the nine-week period decreased 4.7 percent in the domestic segment and 3 percent in the international segment. The nine-week domestic comparable store net sales change is lower than the five-week change, due mainly to the late timing of Thanksgiving this year versus the prior year, which partially benefitted the current year five-week period. Internationally, Australia, China, and Southeast Asia experienced positive comparable store net sales growth, offset by softness in Japan, Canada, and Europe.

The five-week period refers to December 1, 2013 to January 4, 2014, as compared to December 2, 2012 to January 5, 2013 in the prior year. The nine-week period refers to November 3, 2013 to January 4, 2014, as compared to November 4, 2012 to January 5, 2013 in the prior year.

Toys “R” Us Stores Nationwide Remain Open 87 Continuous Hours Ahead of Christmas

toysrusToys “R” Us stores nationwide will remain open for 87 consecutive hours for last-minute shoppers. Beginning at 6 a.m. on December 21 and continuing through 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve, gift-givers can shop day and night for toys, including those that can only be found at Toys “R” Us.

Bargain hunters can also take advantage of savings and deals, as well as the company’s Price Match Guarantee, every day leading up to Christmas. Select discounts available at Toys “R” Us from December 20 through December 21 include buy one, get one free deals on all Chuggington Engines and Totally Me! by Victoria Justice crafts; buy one, get one 50 percent off all FAO Schwarz toys; and more.

Meanwhile, beginning December 22 through December 24, select discounts include buy one, get one free deals on all K’NEX building sets; buy one, get one 40 percent off all Disney Pixar Cars and Disney Planes die cast vehicles, and play sets; discounts on Disney Infinity Starter Packs; and more.

Toys “R” Us Signs On as U.S. Retailer of The Original Loom Boom

LoomBoomThis past week saw the launch of Jake and Crew LLC’s The Original Loom Boom, which is designed to display, organize, and share loom bracelet creations. Invented by a five-year-old who wanted to show off his loom bracelet collection in a neat, portable way, the product is being retailed exclusively by Toys “R” Us through the end of this year.

Available in five color combinations at Toys “R” Us stores across the U.S. and at toysrus.com, the Original Loom Boom features a brightly-colored tube that can hold up to 40 rubber band loom bracelets. Once detached from the base, loomers have easy access to bracelets at the bottom, so they can show off their handiwork as well as trade and share bracelets. The base also contains ample storage for extra loom bands.

Currently, loom band bracelets are enjoying a high level of popularity in the U.S.

Get “Ice” and Comfortable with Delta’s Disney Frozen Chair

Delta.FrozenChairDisney’s new animated film Frozen arrived in theaters this past weekend, and now here comes the new Disney Frozen Upholstered Chair by Delta. It’s constructed with suede material for close comfort, and features the movie’s goofy snowman, Olaf. Some assembly is required.

The Disney Frozen Upholstered Chair is available now at Toys “R” Us.

The Beatrix Girls Debuts Five Track EP Across Major Music Channels

The Beatrix Girls BandThe Beatrix Girls, a collectible line of pop-star dolls with their own original music, has developed a digital music platform to coincide with the dolls’ Toys “R” Us launch this holiday season. Their five-track EP, Meet The Beatrix, will be available everywhere music is consumed, including iTunes, Spotify, Amazon MP3, Muve Music, iHeart Radio, and Pandora.

Additionally, fans can receive an exclusive CD on Cyber Monday, December 2, at ToysRUs.com with the purchase of a doll. The age-appropriate tracks have been engineered by a talented team that promotes girl empowerment through the songs, “Just Bein’ Beatrix,” “Bend the Rules,” “Go Extreme,” “Doin’ My Thing,” and “Nice Try.”

The line was conceived by Sherry Gunther Shugerman, a two-time Emmy Award-winning producer and studio executive who has experience in producing The Simpsons, Rugrats, and Family Guy.

Fans can sing and dance along with The Beatrix Girls on its branded Pandora station, launching through December 31 on Pandora Internet Radio.

Walmart Matches Competitors’ Black Friday Deals One Week Early

logo-walmartHoliday shoppers don’t have to wait until Black Friday to start shopping for deals at Walmart. At of 8 a.m. on November 22, Walmart has started a pre-Black Friday savings event in stores and online, lowering the prices on popular toys and electronics, to match select Black Friday offers from Target, Toys “R” Us, and Best Buy one week early.

The retailer also extends its Christmas Ad Match to walmart.com customers. Customers who purchase an item on walmart.com, and find a lower price in a local competitor, can email christmasadmatch@walmart.com and receive the difference on a gift card. The same policy is in place for customers at Walmart stores for items purchased November 1 through December 24, excluding Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday.

Examples of toys and electronics that are part of Walmart’s pre-Black Friday saving event, while supplies last, include LeapPad 2, Little Tikes Cozy Coupe, Nerf Rebelle Crossbow, Monopoly Board Game, Hot Wheels Single Car, Skylanders and Disney Infinity Starter Packs, and select PS4 and Xbox One video games such as Call of Duty: Ghosts, NBA 2K14 and Battlefield 4. [Read more...]

Q&A with Michael Lillioja, President of Creata

CrocPot for PRCreata recently launched its new brand, Monster 500, exclusively at Toys “R” Us . The line features 10 characters that race for one of five teams in the Monster 500 speed competition. Each character will be sold as a small, 3-inch die-cast vehicle, but customers can also collect select large character feature vehicles standing 4 inches high and 5 inches long. Two play sets are also available.

The Toy Book had the opportunity to speak with Michael Lillioja, president of Creata, about thew new brand, and what launching its own brand meant for the future of Creata.

The Toy Book: Monster 500 is the first line that is produced by Creata as its own brand. What made you decide to launch your own brand after manufacturing for other companies for more than 30 years?

Michael Lillioja: Creata’s passion is toys. And we’re serious about fun. So it just seemed like a natural extension to use all of our expertise to create a line of toys that has the functions and features that kids expect today. We did a lot of research to make sure that Monster 500 provides the best experience possible.  

TBCan you describe the Monster 500 brand? What age groups is it for? Who is the target audience?

ML: Our target age-grading is kids ages 4 and up, with a sweet spot of 6- to10-year-old boys. Our secondary audience is the collectors or “fanboys.”

TB: Why did you decide on a Toys “R” Us exclusive?

ML: Toys “R” Us is the No. 1 specialty toy retailer that focuses exclusively on toys, and they are a great partner when it comes to launching a new product. We were fortunate to work with Toys “R” Us in the past, so it made perfect sense to continue that relationship with Monster 500. Our company history is rich with long-term partnerships. We see that the work we are doing on Monster 500 with Toys “R” Us is beneficial to both companies and has the potential to be a very long-term relationship.

Monster500screenshotTB: How does Monster 500 integrate classic physical play and new digital play? What sets it apart from other toys on the market that do this as well? 

ML: Every toy comes with a Monster Code that unlocks a virtual monster car in the free racing game app. It’s a best-in-class racing game experience, offered for free. And, with our “virtual blind box” unlock experience, you don’t know which Monster 500 character will be unleashed. It’s a surprise every time!

TB: What does the launch of Monster 500 mean for the future of your company? How has it changed the overall goals of the company? 

ML: Play patterns are changing. The Monster 500 launch is our recognition that the future of play will focus on the intersection of physical and digital. The creation of the Monster 500 line is an extension of Creata’s umbrella goal of adding play and fun to people’s lives.

Michael Lillioja is president of Creata, an insights-driven company working to bring brands and consumers together through play. Creata’s global brand activation capabilities include insights on how customers want to play; product design, development, and manufacturing; digital playground creation; and consumer promotion. Creata has 14 offices in 10 countries. www.creata.com.