China Toy Fair


Sanrio Expands Hello Kitty Brand

hello_kitty001Sanrio Inc. has inked multiple partnership deals to expand the Hello Kitty brand across toys, sporting goods, and infant accessories

Blip Toys will produce dolls, plush, novelty, and play sets, while Just Play and International Playthings will create plush and soft toys. Fashion Angels and Ohio Art focus on creativity with sketch portfolios, hair chox, tapefitti, Etch A Sketch, doodle sketch, and nano blocks. MMA International and Street Flyer are responsible for sporting goods such as tennis, volleyball, basketball, and soccer equipment, as well as active skates, skateboards, and pogosticks. Baby Trend will create infant gear such as car seats, strollers, play yards, and high chairs, while Aden and Anais provide blankets, bibs, hooded towels, and washcloth sets. Ginsey will create bath accessories.

The Hello Kitty brand will also expand to the digital and publishing category with LeapFrog  and Viz Media.

COMMENTARY: Help! Kids Should Know the Beatles Too

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The Fab Four: George, Ringo, Paul, and John

I was commuting to work yesterday, minding my own business, when I heard a teenager telling her friend that her strawberry-themed bracelet symbolized her favorite song “Strawberry Fields” by Twintapes. Now as a rule of thumb, I normally tune out every single thing that I hear on the subway, but this particular statement stopped me in my tracks. To say that I am an avid Beatles fan is like saying that the band was “a little popular.” I have obsessed over their music for as long as I can remember, and I will stop there because I could go on and on for days on the topic. The band changed my life and made me fall in love with rock ‘n roll at a very young age, and it breaks my heart to know that teenagers and kids are being robbed of the tunes that made me love music.

The Beatles Yellow Submarine, released in 1999

The Beatles Yellow Submarine, released in 1999

This Beatles-oblivious teenager could not possibly go on thinking that one of the greatest songs of all time was written and recorded by the Twintapes, and this problem should be addressed in the future—for all our sakes. Presently, I have seven girlfriends expecting babies and a brand-new nephew—I know, there is something in that Alabama water—so I feel that it’s my duty to make sure that they are brought up listening to “Come Together,” “Revolution,” “Hey Jude,” and “She Loves You.” I want them to recognize the phrase, “We all live in a yellow submarine,” and I want them to know who wrote “Strawberry Fields Forever.” I took it upon myself to find kid-appropriate methods of Beatles introduction. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Disney Princesses Evolve with the Modern Woman

Princess2Since Disney’s first princess, Snow White, made her debut in 1937, Disney’s “princess criteria” has continued to evolve with the conventions of each generation. The brand has received a lot of negative commentary on the overly feminine, submissive nature of all of its earliest princesses. I would argue, however, that Disney has done a phenomenal job of representing the women of each generation. In the 30s, 40s, and 50s, when Snow White, Cinderella, and Princess Aurora reigned supreme, but still appeared—I will admit—a bit overly “damsel in distress,” this was the average woman of the early 1900s. Like it or not, many women of this time married for security or relied on men to do things that they did not realize they were capable of doing. In our day and age, Cinderella would take a trip to Century 21 and find something much trendier than that glass slipper, Aurora would wake up and smell the coffee, and Belle would text her dad to come pick her up from Beast’s castle.

You’ll notice that Disney did very little else with princesses after a few damsel films; then, in 1989, Ariel the underwater princess, was introduced. Since then, the princess craze has taken over a little at a time. I find that it’s because there’s a princess for every girl and every personality. While our generation has seen many women take a stand against oppression and inequality, Disney’s representation of women has changed as well. The brand presented its first women of color, Pocahantas, Mulan, and now Tiana in The Princess and the Frog. Today’s princess is a do-it-yourself girl like Merida, from Brave, who refuses to marry her betrothed and faces her fair share of adversity with, well, bravery. Jasmine stands up to her father and says she will only marry for love; Ariel goes after her man instead of waiting on him. Many parents fear that little girls are consumed with this idea of being a “royal highness,” but I think it’s healthy for children, especially now with the recent additions, to see this representation of bravery, courage, class, and elegance. And let’s be fair: every girl loves to play dress-up, whether it’s Snow White, Mulan, or Merida. [Read more...]

Report: Toys Imported into U.S. Dropped 9 Percent in September

Toys imports into the United States dropped 9 percent in September year-over-year, according to figures from The Journal of Commerce/PIERS. September was the eighth straight drop for toys coming into the U.S. The drop in container volume is attributed mostly to China.

The 60,616 20-foot-equivalent units arriving at ports in September, according to measurements by PIERS, marked a 7.6 percent year-to-date drop—or 30,430 fewer containers—from the same period last year. To date, 89 percent of overall inbound toy shipments this year have originated in China (including Hong Kong). China’s market share is down 2 percent compared to 2010, while toy shipments from Vietnam have grown 82 percent between 2001 and 2010. A full analysis of the JOC/PIERS findings is available online at www.joc.com.

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Moshi Monsters Signs 100th Partner

Mind Candy announced its “monstrous” licensing program for Moshi Monsters at Brand Licensing Europe. Mind Candy has more than 40 UK licensees on board and another 60 signed internationally.

For the UK, licensees for Moshi Monsters include Vivid as master toy partner, Penguin for publishing, Topps for trading cards, Winning Moves for Top Trumps, Ty for Beanie Babies, Activision for Nintendo DS, Mega Brands for construction blocks, E-max for claybuddies, Gemma International for greeting cards and party wear, H Grossman for wheeled products, and more. The U.S. program now has more than 50 partners for softlines, toys and games, hardlines, publishing, novelty, activity, back-to-school, and celebration, with more category announcements coming soon.

Moshi Monsters has also announced that a court injunction has banned the planned release of a music single from one of its Moshling characters, Lady Goo Goo. The injunction was granted to Lady Gaga, preventing Mind Candy from “promoting, advertising, selling, distributing, or otherwise making available to the public ‘The Moshi Dance’ or any musical work or video which purports to be performed by a character by the name of Lady Goo Goo.” Lady Gaga’s lawyers argued that the pop star and character singer were too similar.

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.”

[Read more...]

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.

[Read more...]

Garanimals Toys at Walmart

This summer, Garanimals will debut a new array of infant plush exclusively at Walmart. Inspired by the Garanimals newborn and infant apparel, the collection will include 28 soft, cuddly, and cute plush items available in a variety of colors and prints for boys and girls, as well as gender-neutral options. Prices range from $5-$12.

At Walmart in June, Garanimals is also introducing a wide-range of toys and accessories for infants through age 2, including activity gyms, crib mirrors, finger puppets, mini o-balls, rattles, soft squeakers, teethers, wood toys, and more. The toys range in price from $1 to $12.

The new lines will be available in the infant department of Walmart.

Kids Wish Network in Need of Dolls and Toy Cars

Kids Wish Network, a 501 (c) 3 organization that serves children with life-threatening illnesses, is in desperate need of donations of dolls and toy cars. Despite the demand for high-tech gadgets, dolls and toy cars remain on the top of the list of the most desirable toys. Playing with a toy is a calming and relaxing activity for kids who are suffering from illnesses, distressed while dealing with harsh circumstances like homelessness, or trying to cope with other traumatic situations such as abuse.

Through its gift giving Holiday of Hope Gift Bank program, Kids Wish Network distributes thousands of dollars worth of toys and games directly to children within approximately 150 hospitals and child care facilities per year across the country; there are no middle men involved.

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NPD Announces 2009 Toy Sales Results

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According to The NPD Group, U.S. retail sales of toys generated $21.47 billion in 2009 compared to $21.65 billion in 2008, a decline of less than 1 percent. In the fourth quarter of 2009 (October through December), although revenues were flat, unit sales were up 4 percent compared to the same period in 2008.

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