Toys & Family Entertainment, April 2009

Page 1



Volume 4, No. 5

April 2009

Features

20 Toy Fair Trend: Keeping Up with Mommy Bloggers by Beth Feldman and Bill Southard

22 Toy Fair Trend: Low Price Point but Packed with Play Value by Nancy Lombardi

24 Fantasy and Fun: Roleplay by Paul Narula

25 Roleplay: Product Presentation by Paul Narula

26 Cuddly, Collectible, and Cutting Edge by Paul Narula

28 Plush: Product Presentation by Paul Narula

:

32 Russimco by Paul Narula

:

34

Product Presentation by Laurie Hahn

Departments Observations & Opinions

page 4

Sizzlers

page 6

Specialty Sizzlers

page 8

The Ticker

page 10

Entertainment Marketplace: Where the Wild Things Are

page 12

Merchandise Makers: Hooga Loo

page 14

Industry Forum: TIA

page 16

Industry Forum: ASTRA

page 18

You’re Hired!

page 36

Calendar of Events

page 38

ON THIS PAGE (CLOCKWISE FROM THE TOP): North American Bear Company’s NouNou My Own Bear, Pretty Ugly’s Ox Uglydoll, and Hasbro’s Transformers Bumblebee Movie Voice Mixer Helmet

ON THE COVER: Hasbro’s FurReal Friends Lulu My Cuddlin’ Kitten, FisherPrice’s Elmo Tickle Hands, Folkmanis’ Frog Prince, Zizzle’s R-Doggee, Gund’s Kalluk, and Jakks Pacific’s Domo plush COVER BY DESIGN EDGE


OBSERVATIONS & OPINIONS

WWW.ANBMEDIA.COM

BOOK YOUR FLIGHT BY

TO

VEGAS

BOB GLASER

T

he licensing industry is in a transitional period with

regard to its U.S.-based trade show, just as the toy industry experienced a few years ago. Since its inception,

Licensing Show has always been held in New York City. This year it is moving to Las Vegas. Much like when the

Toy Industry Association (TIA), moved its Fall Toy Preview to Dallas, some people are resisting the change.

The Friday morning before Toy Fair this past February, Advanstar,

the company that produces Licensing Show, and the Licensing Industry

Merchandisers’ Association (LIMA), held an informational breakfast to address questions and inform everyone about the show’s progress. At that time, opinions were re-stated by industry pro-

fessionals for and against the move to Las Vegas. As many of my aNb Media co-workers can tell you, I am not happy about this

venue relocation. (In fact, my co-workers are not happy about it either.) However, the time for expressing opinions is over. The

show has relocated to Las Vegas. It is a done deal. Now is the time for planning to ensure that Licensing Show will continue to

be the vital component of the business that it has always been,

allowing licensors to promote their properties to potential licensees.

Industry chatter has the licensing business in quiet mode right now. I

beg to differ with this assessment. Just look at the Sizzlers list on page 6

of this issue. You will find licensed properties from top to bottom. From a boys’ action figures, to the iconic Barbie, to a Millennium Falcon made out of LEGO pieces, licensing continues to play a huge role in toy sales.

PUBLISHED

BY ANB

MEDIA • Volume 4, Number 5

PUBLISHER BOB GLASER BOB@ANBMEDIA.COM ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER ANDY KRINNER ANDY@ANBMEDIA.COM ADVERTISING MANAGER AMY LAND AMY@ANBMEDIA.COM CONTROLLER MARY GROGAN MARY@ANBMEDIA.COM EDITOR IN CHIEF JIM SILVER JIM@ANBMEDIA.COM EDITORIAL DIRECTOR NANCY LOMBARDI NANCY@ANBMEDIA.COM MANAGING EDITOR CHRIS ADAMS CHRISA@ANBMEDIA.COM EDITOR AT LARGE CHRISTOPHER BYRNE CHRISB@ANBMEDIA.COM ASSISTANT EDITORS LAURIE HAHN; LAURIE@ANBMEDIA.COM PAUL NARULA; PAUL@ANBMEDIA.COM WEB MASTER ERIK KIECKHAFER ERIK@ANBMEDIA.COM WEB CONTENT MANAGER BRENDAN SANABRIA BRENDAN@ANBMEDIA.COM CONTRIBUTORS BETH FELDMAN; KATHLEEN MCHUGH; MATT NUCCIO, MATT@DESIGNEDGE.NET; BILL SOUTHARD; BENJAMIN THRUSH

Last month, against my better judgment, but being a baseball fan, I

HONG KONG REPRESENTATIVE TONY LEE SMART REGENT PRODUCTIONS LTD., 66–72 STANLEY STREET, ROOM 603, KAI TAK COMMERCIAL BUILDING, CENTRAL HONG KONG PHONE: 2815 0166 • FAX: 2815 6911 • SREGENT@NETVIGATOR.COM

overwhelming. Having purchased sports-related apparel in the past, I’m

PUBLIC RELATIONS REPRESENTATIVE JOSSLYNNE WELCH LITZKY PUBLIC RELATIONS, 320 SINATRA DRIVE, HOBOKEN, N.J. 07030 (201) 222–9118 EXT. 13 • JWELCH@LITZKYPR.COM

watched some of the World Baseball Classic. The amount of licensed

goods, most notably team jerseys and hats, being worn by spectators was sure most of the purchased items were quite expensive. Much like toy licensing, if the consumer wants it, they buy it.

My belief is that, just like what transpired with the TIA’s Fall Preview

move to Dallas, exhibitors and attendees alike will support the Las Vegas location for Licensing Show and make it a success for all involved.

4 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2009

INTERESTED IN A SUBSCRIPTION? CONTACT SUBSCRIPTIONS@ANBMEDIA.COM ANB MEDIA, INC. 229 WEST 28TH STREET, SUITE 401, NEW YORK, N.Y. 10001 PHONE: (646) 763–8710 • FAX: (646) 763–8727 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT and SPECIALTY EMPORIUM are published monthly by aNb Media, Inc. Copyright 2009 aNb Media, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. Printed in the U.S.A. TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT and SPECIALTY EMPORIUM are registered trademarks of aNb Media, Inc. Opinions and comments expressed in this publication by editors, contributing writers, or solicited or unsolicited documents are not necessarily those of management.



SIZZLERS

SIZZLERS: WHAT ’S MOVING OFF STORE SHELVES? WHAT ARE THE HOTTEST WEB ORDERS? Here is an alphabetical listing of the hottest-selling items in the toy industry, based on a combined survey of both offline and online retailers, reflecting the previous month’s sales.

MARIO KART FOR WII Nintendo BAKUGAN BATTLE BRAWLERS Spin Master

STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS CLONE TROOPER VOICE CHANGER HELMET Hasbro

BARBIE 50TH ANNIVERSARY DOLL Mattel BATHING SUIT BARBIE THEN AND NOW DOLL Mattel

Barbie 50th Anniversary Doll

GIRL GOURMET CUPCAKE MAKER Jakks Pacific

TAG LeapFrog TECH DECK BOARDS Spin Master

HYPER DASH Wild Planet LEGO STAR WARS ASSORTMENT LEGO

Girl Gourmet Cupcake Maker

WII FIT Nintendo WWE FIGURE ASSORTMENT Jakks Pacific

Clone Trooper Voice Changer Helmet

6 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2009

STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS FIGURES Hasbro



SPECIALTY SIZZLERS

SPECIALTY SIZZLERS: WHAT ’S MOVING OFF STORE SHELVES IN THE SPECIALTY MARKET? This is an alphabetical listing of the hottest-selling items in the specialty segment of the toy industry, based on a survey of independent toy and gift retailers, reflecting the previous month’s sales.

BANANAGRAMS Bananagrams

JUNIOR STOMP ROCKET D&L Company

CALICO CRITTERS ASSORTMENT International Playthings

PLASMACAR PlaSmart Calin Bananagrams

CALIN DOLL ASSORTMENT Corolle EMILY GOES WILD PLUSH ASSORTMENT Kids Preferred JAPANESE ERASERS BC USA

8 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2009

Calico Critters

SPIFFY SPA Alex TWILIGHT L ADYBUG Cloud B

PlasmaCar

Z WIND UPS California Creations



THE TICKER

A RECAP OF INDUSTRY HEADLINES TIA TO RECOMMEND LEAD TESTING PROTOCOL

The Toy Industry Association, Inc., (TIA) recently announced that it will be submitting for consideration to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) a recommended testing protocol to efficiently verify lead paint limits on toys and children’s products defined in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). As adopted, the CPSIA required the CPSC to begin enforcement of new lead and phthalate standards for children’s products on February 10, 2009. Testing must be done to determine compliance with the new limits, but the necessary testing and certification requirements did not exist as the lead enforcement implementation deadline approached. As a result, the CPSC postponed the deadline until February 10, 2010, to allow time for the development of clear and reasonable guidance. TIA called for the CPSC to move quickly in determining the necessary protocols so that manufacturers and importers would have adequate time to test product and demonstrate compliance with the law. Since the law was passed last summer, TIA has been working to obtain reasonable enforcement of CPSIA requirements and assist the industry in compliance with the law’s requirements. This demonstration of compliance was made easier when TIA launched its Electronic Certification System (ECS). This web-based platform provides a comprehensive workflow to help domestic manufacturers and importers of toys to the U.S. meet the General Certificates of Compliance (GCC) requirements of the CPSIA. Launch of the ECS is the first phase of TIA’s new Toy Safety Certification ProgramSM (TSCPSM), a comprehensive and sustainable system that will provide reasonable verification that toys meet applicable mandatory U.S. toy safety standards.

FAO NAMES NEW CEO

The Associated Press reported that FAO Schwarz, Inc., replaced its CEO Ed Schmults with a former Bluefly.com executive, effective immediately. New CEO Barry Erdos is the former president, COO, and acting CFO at Bluefly.com. He was previously president and COO of Build a Bear Workshop, Inc. Schmults had been CEO at FAO Schwarz since 2005.

HIT L AUNCHES MOVIE DIVISION

HIT Entertainment announced the launch of HIT Movies, a new division dedicated to making family-oriented movies out of HIT’s library of children’s properties, as well as identifying and developing new stories and characters for future HIT family movies. To head HIT’s Los Angeles office and film division, HIT Entertainment president and CEO Jeff Dunn has tapped industry veteran Julia Pistor to run HIT Movies. Most recently, Pistor served as Nickelodeon’s executive vice-president of movies where she developed and produced a total of 16 movies that grossed more than $1.5 billion combined at the box office. The new film division will initially focus on developing family film franchises based on HIT’s properties, such as Thomas & Friends, Barney, Bob the Builder, and Angelina Ballerina.

TRANSFORMERS 3 HAS RELEASE DATE

Variety reported that the yet-to-be-named Transformers 3 film is scheduled for release July 1, 2011. The release date was secured to obviously capitalize on the July 4 holiday weekend. However, it was also reported by Variety that director Michael Bay, actors Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox, or the writers have not yet been signed for movie number three. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the sequel to the original 2007 Transformers, is due in theaters June 24, 2009.

10 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2009


On March 9, Mattel hosted a star-studded birthday party for Barbie at a real-life version of the Malibu Dream House. Designed by Jonathan Adler and hosted by Colin Cowie, more than 250 people attended the event. Some celebrities at the party included Heidi Klum, Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian, Lauren Bosworth, and Ginnifer Goodwin. Also in attendance were ANB MEDIA’S JIM SILVER and CHRISTOPHER BYRNE, THE TOY GUY. The 3,500-square-foot Malibu Dream House featured a wall-mounted mirror made out of 65 black and white, bathing-suit-clad Barbie dolls; Lucite tables filled with more than 1,800 pairs of Barbie sunglasses, 3,500 tiny shoes, and 3,500 dollsized handbags; and a custom closet, housing all 50 pairs of pink Louboutins from the New York’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week runway show. Not to be outdone, designer Chris March from season 4 of Project Runway created a chandelier for the sitting room, fashioned out of more than 30 blonde wigs. Also, an on-site Barbie museum not only showcased 25 of the most iconic Barbie dolls, but also the first reveal of the new Barbie face. Select pieces from the Dream House will be traveling to Las Vegas, where they’ll adorn the new Barbie suite at The Palms. The suite is due to open for bachelorette parties, girls’ nights out, and pink pampering this May.

Heidi Klum posed for pictures in the new customdesigned pink Volkswagen Beetle convertible. The trunk has been replaced with a pink and white pin-striped pop-up vanity with Barbie cosmetics, an MP3 player, LED lights, and two drawers filled with beauty accessories. White rims, a pink airbrushed steering wheel, and plenty of rhinestone detailing complete the look.

APRIL 2009 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 11


ENTERTAINMENT MARKETPLACE

WARNER BROS. CONSUMER PRODUCTS BY LAURIE

HAHN

or a mischievous little boy sent to his room without supper, the only thing to do is create an imaginary world full of mythical creatures. This is the world author and illustrator Maurice Sendak created for the main character of his 1963 book Where the Wild Things Are. Now this classic book, which has sold more than 20 million books worldwide, gets a big-screen adaptation this year, as well as an accompanying licensing program. Originally published by Harper & Row (now HarperCollins), the book follows Max, a little boy who wears a wolf costume, who gets sent to his room without supper for causing mischief. Cooped up in his

F

a scene from Where the Wild Things Are

12 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2009

room, Max creates and travels to an imaginary land where he encounters the Wild Things. The Wild Things are fearsomelooking monsters, but Max conquers them by “staring into all their yellow eyes without blinking once.” Subsequently, the Wild Things crown Max the King of All Wild Things. But the little boy soon finds himself homesick and lonely, so he returns to his bedroom, where he finds his still-hot supper waiting for him. It might seem a challenge to take such a short book and create a fulllength movie for it, but that is exactly what director/writer Spike Jonze and writer Dave Eggers did for Where the Wild Things Are, which releases October 16. Inspired by the book, the movie version brings this classic tale to life. Warner Bros. Pictures, in association with Legendary Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures, will release the film, which stars big names, such as Catherine Keener, Max Records, Mark Ruffalo, Lauren Ambrose, Chris Cooper, James Gandolfini, Catherine O’Hara, and Forest Whitaker. Warner Bros. Consumer Products has created a licensing program for the film that spans key product categories and will target young kids, tweens, and teens. Licensed product will utilize key moments and art from the film, as well as the classic book artwork. Already signed on are Mudpuppy, Saramax, Funko, Crocodile Creek, and Junk Food for licensed products that will transport consumers to where the Wild Things are.

NEED

TO

KNOW

• Where the Wild Things Are was awarded a Caldecott Medal in 1964. It also won a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and was an ALA Notable Book. • In 2006, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp depicting a Wild Thing in a series called “Favorite Children’s Book Animals.” • The book is only 10 sentences long.

• Maurice Sendak has received the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, the National Medal of Arts, and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.


SARAMAX

Saramax’s Max pajamas, based on the main character from Where the Wild Things Are, are made from coral fleece. They will be available in sizes 2/4 and 4/7.

MUDPUPPY

Mudpuppy will produce a variety of puzzles for Where the Wild Things Are. The 36-piece Mini Cube Puzzle (shown) measures 16 by 16 inches when completed. The nine-piece, double-sided two-in-one puzzle features asleep and awake images. The First Puzzle has four different color-coded four-piece puzzles in one box with a cardboard handle. The 24-piece Floor Puzzle is two by three feet when completed. The Block Puzzle forms six different images depending on which side of the cube is up.

JUNK FOOD

Junk Food signed on to produce Where the Wild Things Are apparel for men and women. The T-shirts feature images from the book and fun phrases.

CROCODILE CREEK

The classic Where the Wild Things Are plush toys from Crocodile Creek were designed by Mel Birkenkrant and Bonnie Erickson, both of Muppet fame, under the careful watch of Maurice Sendak more than 30 years ago. The four characters are available in three sizes of plush toys as well as puppets.

FUNKO

Straight from the pages of Maurice Sendak’s book come classic character bobbleheads, including Max and Carol (shown).

APRIL 2009 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 13


MERCHANDISE MAKERS

TOYS

FROM A

PAUL NARULA

TOY

ot many pink plush hippo experience in management, marketing, and toys can claim to have finance. They chose the name “Hooga Loo” founded a company, but based on the Danish word hygge (interpreted Hooga Loo’s website gives as “happiness” or “well-being”), and created credit to its “Chief the company’s logo and Herman A. Hipp. Imagination Officer” Herman A. Hipp as a coHooga Loo started with a successful founder. Indeed, a 30-year-old toy might have licensed line early on. The company signed a some interesting insights on breaking into the deal with DreamWorks for the rights to plush toy industry. However, since most toys don’t based on characters from Madagascar: possess the means to get such a job done, toy Escape 2 Africa, the sequel to DreamWorks’ industry veteran William Beebe and entertain- Madagascar. This gave Hooga Loo a strong ment veteran Kim McQuilken are the execu- start and helped establish the company early. tives who keep Hooga Loo running. This deal has also lead to new opportunities Beebe and McQuilken co-founded Hooga for Hooga Loo as DreamWorks teams up with Loo in November 2007. The two men had Nickelodeon to produce the upcoming televiknown each other for some time, having sion series Penguins of Madagascar. Hooga worked together on a number of projects. Loo will be the master toy licensee for the Prior to founding Hooga Loo, McQuilken property. In addition, thanks to McQuilken’s worked as an executive vice-president at connections, Hooga Loo was able to partner Cartoon Network in promotions and Beebe with the U.S. government and become an offiheld a senior position at cial licensee of the U.S. Bandai that put him in Armed Forces. The comcontact with McQuilken pany has created the quite often. “We always Freedom Ops line of said to one another that action figures and vehiif we ever got a chance cles based on these licensto work together, we es. “We’re the only offishould do it,” says cially authorized manuBeebe, who is cofacturer, so we try to founder and managing make things as accurate as director for Hooga Loo. possible,” says Beebe. “Things worked out, one Freedom Ops features an after another, and we online play component realized this was the perbased on codes delivered fect time to get togethvia dog tags included in er.” The two friends product packaging. brought in a third partMoving from cartoonHooga Loo is an official licensee of ner, Neil Chur, who has based plush to official BY

N

the U.S. Armed Forces.

14 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2009

military action figures may seem like a huge disparity for a company, but that illustrates a part of what Beebe feels makes Hooga Loo a unique company. “We are not a boys’ company, a girls’ company, or a preschool company,” he says. “We’re a well-rounded company.” Beebe doesn’t want Hooga Loo to become focused on only one genre or demographic. Instead, he believes that success will come from being able to explore multiple options. In addition to its licensed products, Hooga Loo has partnered with European companies to repackage and distribute successful European products for the American market. Most recently, the company has taken the successful Twisterz brand of toy cars in Europe and translated them into a successful product in the U.S. Hooga Loo’s successes also come from its ability to make the journey from product concept to on-the-shelf product quickly and efficiently. “We have a great nucleus of toy people who have been in the business a long time and that lets us make decisions faster,” says Beebe. Hooga Loo has a number of new licensed product lines coming up. The company has teamed up with Skate Monster to produce a new line of fingerboards, which will be accessory-oriented and highly customizable. The company will also be working with Gummybear International on a line based on the company’s new mascot character Gummibär. Hooga Loo will continue to look at new licenses and opportunities. “When we’re in the right place at the right time, we can react fast,” says Beebe. “That’s our competitive advantage over big companies in these rough economic times.”


I ts

about

Winning

Find out why retailers like you swear by ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy.

“Whether the convention is in my own back yard or across the country, it’s worth everything it takes to get there.” Mary Sisson Kazoodles

“My first time at ASTRA has set the tone for the success of my business—this was essential knowledge I could not have gotten anywhere else.” Melissa Vanpopering Wishes Toy Wonderland “Between the top notch seminars and the deals offered at Marketplace, I make it a priority to attend the ASTRA convention every year.” Katherine Hodges Tookie’s Toys

in the 4th Quarter

ASTRA’s 2009 Marketplace & Academy The year’s biggest gathering of the specialty toy industry June 14-17, 2009 St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN IN COOPERATION WITH

Visit www.astratoy.org or call 1-800-591-0490


INDUSTRY FORUM

TRADE CREDIT INSURANCE BY

BENJAMIN THRUSH, HUB INTERNATIONAL

he rocky climate of today’s economy creates and amplifies the risks associated with doing business. In particular, the U.S. toy market has already begun to see the effects of a major shakeout in the industry. This is evidenced by declining consumer demand, increased industry consolidation, constricted credit availability, and the emerging costs associated with new trade laws. Toy manufacturers are at the fault line of this ground shift. In this environment, many toy manufacturers have learned the hard way that a general indication of when a retailer is about to go under is when they change payment practices or try to switch from letters of credit to an open account.

T

REDUCING YOUR RISK

In this environment, where big-name companies are filing for bankruptcy, smallto mid-sized toy manufacturers need to be doubly careful about the credit worthiness of their buyers. A company’s cash flow, earnings, and capital that were once vulnerable to bad debt charge-offs are now in acute danger of defaulted payments. In the face of this risk, trade credit insurance is a concrete coverage solution that offers protection against unforeseen bad-

FOR

TODAY’S ECONOMIC CLIMATE

debt losses. Particularly relevant to today’s toy manufacturer, this insurance product extends the capabilities of a company’s credit management practices by reimbursing you against losses from non-payment of a commercial trade debt. The following are some of the many benefits that come with purchasing this additional coverage as part of your insurance program: • Makes a company more efficient and improves the bottom line • Protects a company’s profits, reduces credit risk, and improves financial planning • Expands sales without increasing exposure • Complements existing credit management practices • Ensures continuity of business operations • Helps policyholder negotiate better deals from banks and provide better credit terms to their customers

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Of a company’s assets, 40–70 percent are derived from accounts receivable. This vital component of a company’s balance sheet is easily affected by business cycles and most vulnerable to unexpected losses. If a major retailer is unable to pay its obligations, or several smaller retailers are unable to pay their invoices, the negative impact on a toy manufacturer becomes evident.

Trade credit insurance can be considered a strong safety net. With this protection in place, a policyholder is assured that their non-disputed accounts receivable will be paid, either by the debtor (retailer) or the trade credit insurer within the terms and conditions of their policy. This insurance ensures balance sheet strength, cash flow protection, and loan servicing, cost, and asset-valuation enhancement. Small to mid-sized toy manufacturers, distributors, etc., can especially benefit from this risk protection. The use of a trade credit insurer makes business decisions less personal as it handles the accounts receivable credit approval process and evaluates retailers’ credit worthiness. Manage your risks by entering a relationship with an established credit management partner.

As the exclusive insurance brokerage working with members of the Toy Industry Association (TIA), HUB International understands the unique risks that businesses in the toy industry face. As a leading commercial insurance brokerage with more than 200 offices throughout the U.S. and Canada, its experience in this industry has grown its client base to include toy manufacturers, distributors, and importers. TIA members are invited to learn more about trade credit insurance during the member-exclusive webinar “Trade Credit Insurance— Protect Against Bad-Debt Losses” presented by HUB International on April 21, 2009, at 2 P.M. EDT. Visit www.members.toyassociation.org to log in and register. For more information on HUB’s insurance offerings to the toy industry, please visit www.hub-tia.com or contact Benjamin Thrush, VP of business development, at (800) 706–3023 or by email at Benjamin.Thrush@HUBInternational.com.

16 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2009



INDUSTRY FORUM

RECESSION? WHAT RECESSION? ASTRA’S TIPS FOR STAYING ON TOP OF YOUR GAME WHEN TIMES ARE TOUGH BY KATHLEEN MCHUGH, ASTRA

pend five minutes listening to the news and you’ll hear enough doom and gloom about the economy that you’ll start to wish a superhero would come along and rescue us all. One constant in business, however, is that dreaming of superhero interventions rarely works as well as tackling the problem head on. After you do all the economizing and strategic tinkering your business can stand, what’s left to do? According to several leaders of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA), keeping your spirits up is just as important as keeping costs down. What do you do to stay positive and energized during tough times like these? Here are some tips from ASTRA members on the frontlines.

S

• STOP LISTENING TO ALL THE BAD NEWS Sue Warfield, a sales representative and retail consultant with Retail Specialties, Inc., has a quick and easy way to feel more upbeat. “Turn off all media! Immediately!” she says. “It doesn’t matter who you listen to—the message is that we’re inches away from unmitigated disaster. The more you hear it, the more likely you are to believe it and then you risk it becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy. Yet most businesses are surviving and our jobs are reasonably stable. Don’t lose sight of that.”

• UNDERSTAND THAT THIS, TOO, SHALL PASS “We have empty storefronts on either side of us and our sales over the past three months were down 7 percent from last year,” says Mary Sisson, owner of

18 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2009

Kazoodles in Vancouver, Wash. “But down cycles don’t last forever, and they push you to try new things. We’re part of an exciting shop local campaign that will launch on Earth Day, and we’re experimenting with new outreach techniques using social networking, blogging, and Twitter. We’re spending time on activities with longerterm payoffs such as heavy involvement in ASTRA and the shop local group. The recession is temporary, and we intend to come out the other side as survivors.”

• USE THE DOWNTURN TO STRENGTHEN “The recession? It’s doing me a big favor,” says Melissa Bernstein, co-CEO of Melissa & Doug. “I love times like this. It gets us focused on the reasons we’re in business and how we can step up our game. It forces us to take a harder look at everything we do and why we do it. When we get to the other side of this, we expect our business to be better positioned in the marketplace. It’s hard not to get positive energy from going through that process.”

• TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF “Everyone experiences stress at times like this,” says Kate Tanner, owner of Kidstop Toys & Book Store in Scottsdale, Ariz., and chair of the ASTRA board of directors. “Your specialty toy store should be a place where customers know they can relax and have fun. But you can’t help others feel good if you don’t feel good yourself. So make sure you have a strategy for keeping a healthy, positive perspective. Climb a mountain. Get a massage. Shut out the world a couple of hours a week by losing yourself in a good

book. Whatever it takes to make yourself upbeat, do it—because it’s your role to create an atmosphere in your store that makes customers want to be there.”

• KEEP YOUR CONNECTIONS STRONG “Look, we’re all in this together, so let’s have some fun working our way out of it,” says Bill Benda, vice-president of sales at Creativity for Kids/Faber-Castell. “ASTRA is a great place to do reality checks and get moral support because your fellow manufacturers, sales reps, and retailers know what you’re going through. This year it’s a smart business decision to get to the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy in St. Paul, Minn., not just to keep your products in front of retailers or to find the newest hot sellers, but also to get the positive energy that comes with the fun and fresh ideas you’ll find there.” Whatever your strategy for keeping it positive, maybe this year it’s important enough to write it in your business plan and post it on a big sign in your office. Not only does it make each day more productive, it makes customers want to do business with you. “Trust me, customers come in your store to smile, not to feel a negative, toughtimes attitude,” says Kidstop’s Tanner. “The best experience consumers have all day should start the minute they walk in your door, and you can only make that happen if you are thinking positive yourself.”

Kathleen McHugh is president of the American Specialty Retailing Association (ASTRA). She can be reached at (312) 222–0984 or at kmchugh@astratoy.org.



TOY FAIR TREND: KEEPING UP BETH FELDMAN

AND

I

Some of the most popular mom blogs got their start more than five years ago when writers began journaling their personal experiences online. While they initially expected their anecdotal tales to be seen by a handful of friends and family members, the juicier the post, the more eyeballs they would attract. Suddenly, blogs like Dooce were reaching millions of individuals and garnering significant income for this mom blogging pioneer who eventually landed an agent and wrote several bestselling books about her dysfunctional life. With the advent of BlogHer, founded in 2005 by Lisa Stone, Jory DesJardin, and Elisa Camahort, female writers began to have a powerful voice online where they began influencing the masses through a combination of blogs and in-person events that brought these influential women together and put them in front of major brands. Over the past two years, however, an interesting evolution has occurred in the mom blogger arena. While there are tens of thousands of blogs devoted to parenting, politics, and entrepreneurialism, now the internet is buzzing with blogs dedicated to product reviews by moms and for moms. This new wave of blogging can work to the advantage or detriment of manufacturers—depending upon how successfully they interact with this valuable and influential market. Many of today’s blogging moms are former publicists and mar-

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

• Cool Mom Picks • Classy Mommy • Skimbaco Lifestyle • Ciaran Blumenfeld • Jessica Gottlieb • Mom in the City • Selfish Mom • Traveling Mom • Momma Said • Mom Advice • This Full House • Because I Said So • Scribbit • Jessica Knows • Wii Mommies

SOME

OF THE

THE MOMMY BLOGGERS

BILL SOUTHARD, SOUTHARD COMMUNICATIONS

f you’ve never heard of a mommy blog before, then get ready for a crash course on the women who are on the front lines of some of the most successful marketing and PR campaigns today. They are savvy, resourceful, and are a force to be reckoned with. Companies such as Wal-Mart, Target, and Nintendo, among so many others, have tapped into this market of moms who readily review products and collectively reach millions with their “must have” product picks featuring items launching or already available at retail.

BY

WITH

MOST INFLUENTIAL MOM BLOGGERS INCLUDE:

• Twittermoms • SV Moms Blog—as in Silicon Valley (also comprises New York City, Los Angeles, Deep South, and others)

POWERFUL MOM COMMUNITIES:

20 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2009

keters who have taken their promotional talents online—building highly trafficked social networking and blogging communities like Twittermoms with the help of Ning, and sharing their message links and blog posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Digg as well as videos through YouTube, Vimeo, Viddler, and Ustream, just to name a few.

So how do you determine which mom bloggers are the most influential? It’s simple, just take a look at some of the moms who are being tapped by major companies to tout brands. The Wal-Mart Eleven Moms are a conglomeration of bloggers from across the country that have become a powerful voice as a result of being integrated into a multiplatform brand offering podcasts on Blog Talk Radio, individual postings on their blogs, and video blogs (or vlogs) on the Wal-Mart website. From a manufacturer’s standpoint, mom bloggers can generate quick, effective results. Instead of waiting six months to a year for a possible placement in a long-lead parenting magazine, mom bloggers can review items within a matter of days after receiving a product and, depending upon the traffic of the site, could directly impact sales. If you are searching for a direct-to-consumer experience that can potentially translate into instant online sales, then look no further than the mommy blog. However, before reaching out to these mom bloggers, you’ll need to do your homework the same way you would when pitching “traditional” media. Read their blog, listen to their podcast, follow them on Twitter and determine if the products they are featuring will make sense for your brand.

IDENTIFYING

THE

MOST INFLUENTIAL MOM BLOGGERS

As the rate of mom blogs continues to rise, enterprising dads have also thrown their hat into the blogging ring. On the mommydaddyblog (www.mommydaddyblog.com) women swap reviewing and blogging duties with their significant other. If you’ve got a product geared toward men—especially tech toys—then this is a great group to tap into. As new moms continue to rely on the advice of other mothers, the mommy blog phenomenon will continue to grow for years to come.

WHERE

THE

DADS ARE

Beth Feldman is founder of RoleMommy.com. Bill Southard is president and CEO of Southard Communications. Feldman is the digital media consultant for Southard Communications.



TOY FAIR TREND: LOW P RICE POINT BUT PACKED WITH P LAY VALUE NANCY LOMBARDI

ver the past few years, it was not unusual to see toys with price points of $75, $100, $200, or even $300. In just about every case the price was justified given what the item was able to do. And consumers agreed, purchasing high-ticket items without even thinking twice about it. Times certainly have changed over the past year. As the global recession deepens, the once recession-proof toy industry has been battered and bruised in some ways as consumers no longer shell out big bucks for highpriced toys. Instead consumers went back to BY

O

Cadaco

Cadaco’s Big Draw Chalk Drawing Machine features easy-to-follow instructions inviting kids to create enormous chalk drawings on sidewalks and driveways that can look perfect every time, according to Cadaco. The trick is the Big Draw’s unique set up. Using a simple “recipe card,” children use Big Draw’s corresponding letter and number system to plot points for the drawing, then simply connect the dots and color it in. This item is designed for ages 7 and up, for a suggested retail price of $14.99.

22 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2009

basics—classics always make a comeback in tough times. Suddenly items such as basic board games, crayons, Play-Doh, activity sets, LEGO, and other simple play patterns become all the rage. Consumers look for the comfort and nostalgia in the items’ simplicity and certainly love the back-to-basics price points. In fact, Crayola and LEGO both reported excellent results this past holiday season. The one exception to this back-to-basics trend has been video games, which are also reporting record results. The reason seems to be that a game system and a few games will entertain the whole family for an extended period of time, making it a wise investment.

Hasbro

Debuting this fall from Hasbro is Kota & Pals Stompers Dinosaur for ages 3 and up. Push a sensor on the dinosaur’s back to see it march, throw its head back, and make sound effects. A few styles are available and each roaring dinosaur is sold separately. It requires three “AA” batteries, which are included for $24.99.

At this year’s Toy Fair, $40 was considered “expensive” for the latest crop of toys. Many toymakers are focusing their efforts on items under $30 and even under $20 for many key products. For board games, in particular, $15 seemed to be the magic number to grab consumers’ attention. At this year’s Toy Fair, we saw numerous items with low price points but packed with play value. There were too many to feature in this space but there were certainly a lot of great items from Crayola, K’NEX, Learning Curve, Step 2, and Toy Island, among many others, all under $40. A sampling are shown here from other manufacturers.

I Can Do That! Games

I Can Do That! Games introduces an extensive line of games featuring both the Dr. Seuss and Curious George licenses, all of which are expected to retail for under $20. In Curious George Discovery Beach Game, kids ages 3–8 go on a scavenger hunt. Flip a card to reveal the challenge then search through the five secret beach locations to find the objects. If the spinner lands on a wave, shake the box and the treasure will slide and hide into a new location. This no-mess game (the treasures and sand are sealed inside) is available now for $12.99.


Mattel

Mattel’s Bye Bye Bad Hair comes with a brush, a seat for Barbie, and a specially formulated hair detangling spray. Use the spray to smooth Barbie’s hair, create different styles, and make her look new again. It is designed for use on most types of Barbie hair and not on human hair. This is designed for ages 3 and up for a suggested retail of $9.99.

MEGA Brands

Available this fall from MEGA Brands is the Play ’n Go Table. Designed for babies ages 1 and up, the easy-to-fold legs allow for quick clean up and storage. The table features building plates that allow for multiple building configurations and the integrated tracks work with all MEGA Bloks vehicles. It comes with 20 Maxi MEGA Bloks pieces. The suggested retail price is $34.99.

Wild Planet

Jakks Pacific

The Girl Gourmet Sweets Candy Jewelry Factory allows kids to design, bake, wear, and eat the creations including necklaces, bracelets, and rings. The set features a small baking oven and a variety of molds to create jewelry charms and gems. Fill the molds with the candy chips and pellets included in the set and add colorful sprinkles to decorate. Bake for seven minutes and the jewelry is ready. The set comes with an oven, two silicone molds, two packs of translucent hard candy chips/pellets for melting in strawberry and green apple flavors, sprinkles in a variety of shapes, two plastic ring bases, two clear plastic ring covers, one clear plastic locket to protect charms, oven tool for removing molds, and an instruction booklet. The set is designed for ages 8 and up and is available for $29.99.

Wild Planet’s product line at this year’s Toy Fair was touted as $25 or less. The company says it hit upon this number based on retail feedback between Fall Toy Preview in Dallas and February’s Toy Fair. While all the items in this year’s line stress innovation, imagination, and fun for kids, value is the key word for retailers and parents. Wild Planet recently signed an agreement with Crayola to create a collection of coloring and activity sets. The line is expected to be in stores this fall. The key item in the line is Crayon Town. This activity set encourages kids to create an entire town, complete with three-dimensional structures to color and build. The town consists of five themed collections (horse ranch, neighborhood, airport, construction site, and zoo). Each set includes Crayola crayons, coloring sheets, corrugated pop-up buildings, and accessories. Once the environments are completed, kids can use the accompanying figures and vehicles along with their imagination to roleplay scenes and play within the world they created. Free coloring refills are available online. The starter set is $9.99 and the deluxe set is $19.99.

APRIL 2009 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 23


FANTASY

AND

FUN: ROLEPLAY

antasies are an integral part of a child’s playtime. Almost all play requires some form of an active imagination and creative impetus from the child. In roleplay, though, the imagination and creativity are the focal point of the entire play pattern. “Roleplay gives children a chance to become something bigger than they really are,” says Greg Lombardo, director of marketing at Hasbro. Whether it is as simple as a princess hat or as complex as a licensed recreation of a movie character’s laser weapon, roleplay provides children with a safe, fun way to become their playtime fantasies.

F

BY

PAUL NARULA

fort of being able to play what they want to play without needing help. “The most important part of any roleplay toy is the ability for a child to actually have fun and feel powerful while pretending they are someone else,” says Danielle Armbrust, director of marketing at Bandai.

WHO PLAYS WHO?

The age range that most roleplay manufacturers target is 3–7. Boys move on to different play patterns and girls move on to more fashion-oriented dress-up, which loses the roleplay element (as CDI’s Mitschele jokes, “We basically start the girls’ habit of collecting shoes.”). While still BECOMING SOMETHING ELSE within the target age group, however, roleplay holds a different draw for Helping a child create a fantasy can be a daunting challenge. While each of the genders, necessitating a different approach in the category for the imagination does most of the work, a roleplay manufacturer must do each group. Boys are oriented more toward aspirational characters. They its fair share to help provide an immersive experience. want to become a heroic or “super” character. This can One of the most important aspects of a product is its encompass anything from an everyday hero such as a authenticity to its roleplay subject. For a licensed prodpoliceman to a Marvel superhero such as Wolverine. uct, this means that the product has to emulate as closeBoys’ roleplay thus tends to be more action-oriented ly as possible the appearance of the licensed character it and features more accessories. For girls, roleplay is a is based on. In some cases, such as with the Black & more aesthetic play pattern. As Renee Stojek, art direcDecker line from CDI (a division of Jakks Pacific), the tor of A Wish Come True, says, “Every girl wants to be line has to emulate the qualities of a brand without a spea princess.” Girls tend to orient themselves with glamcific character as a basis. “You have more creative freeorous characters, such as princesses or pop stars. This dom, but that creates problems as well,” says Herb means that while licenses such as Disney Princesses Mitschele, senior vice-president of sales at CDI. “If a kid and Hannah Montana are excellent fits to the category, doesn’t recognize something right away, it may not resmanufacturers have found that girls are less drawn to onate with them.” For non-licensed products, being licensed product than boys. authentic simply means looking as close as possible to While the popularity of roleplay has fluctuated over the “real” design that the products are based on. A firethe years, the current marketplace looks to give the catCDI’s Disney Princess line has a man’s helmet product should make a child feel like they’re strong appeal for young girls. egory a strong position. Parents have traditionally found holding a real helmet and a dress designed for a princess should look and the category appealing. “Roleplay builds self-esteem, helps with commufeel prettier and fancier than regular clothing. nication and early management skills, and is a healthy play category recComfort is also incredibly important. Itchy material or poor design ognized by professionals in the industry worldwide,” says Mark Levine, can make a child turn away from a product, no matter how appealing the president of Aeromax. In addition, boys’ roleplay has seen a significant concepts are. Few other categories require that a child cover his or her rise in popularity due to the presence of strong boy-oriented licenses in entire face to get the full benefit of the play pattern, but many roleplay the current marketplace. Advances in technology have also allowed rolemasks and helmets do just that. It is important that a roleplay product be play products to create even more authentic experiences for children. easy to put on and take off by the children themselves. For parents, this Manufacturers are confident about the category’s future. As long as there is a safety issue. But for children, it’s simply the convenience and com- is a place in a child’s life for imagination, there is a place for roleplay.

24 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2009


A child’s imagination is a powerful tool, but that’s not to say it can’t use a little help. Roleplay products are there to enhance a child’s playtime and help them become someone else, whether it’s their favorite action hero or an exciting real-life professional. Here are some of the latest roleplay products from a number of manufacturers.

Hasbro

Hasbro’s new Bumblebee Movie Voice Mixer Helmet lets kids mix their voice through a “radio” sound effect so that they can sound just like Bumblebee from the 2007 Transformers movie and the upcoming sequel. The toy also features realistic robot battle sounds and radio tune-in phrases.

A Wish Come True

New from A Wish Come True is a line of glitter shoes, including ballerina shoes. The ballerina shoes feature an additional strap to keep the shoes in place during play.

Bandai

Bandai will expand its line of Ben 10 roleplay with the new Omnitrix Hero Collection. This set includes an Ultimate Omnitrix with a vac-metalized bezel and 10 different translucent figures that kids can use to activate the Omnitrix’s light and sound effects. The Omnitrix Hero Collection also includes an exclusive Alien X figure.

Aeromax

Aeromax’s Get Real Gear line is designed to look just like the real thing when kids put on the products. The Jr. Physician kit, shown here, includes scrubs, face mask with matching shoe covers, an embroidered lab coat, and a real working stethoscope.

CDI/Jakks Pacific

The Disney On Stage Interactive Theatre Playset is an assembled theater that offers three different sides of play: a ticket booth to sell tickets and advertise performances, a dressing room, and the front stage and marquee. The set comes with one introductory cartridge for the included Performance Console, which sets the scene. Additional cartridges can be purchased seperately.

APRIL 2009 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 25


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CUDDLY, COLLECTIBLE,

AND

CUTTING EDGE

BY

PAUL NARULA

lush has been a staple of the toy industry since the teddy Technological advances over the past 25 years have made it possible bear got its name more than 100 years ago. The category is to create “pets” and bring “friends” to life for kids. Everyone in the indusfeatured in nearly every toy store, large or small, online or try knows the incredible success Fisher-Price has had with Elmo since the offline. It’s the universal appeal of comforting, cuddly ani- original release of Tickle Me Elmo in 1996. The company’s release of mals and silly characters TMX Elmo in 2006 further established that keeps generation after generation the power of technology as it displayed coming back to the category. Plush more individual character and motion makes the perfect gift for nearly every than any feature plush before it. Fisherdemographic group and many adults Price continued to innovate with Elmo have even taken to collecting high-end Live in 2008, creating an Elmo toy that pieces in recent decades. In addition, had increased interactivity and personthe advent of feature plush over the ality that could tell jokes and stories, past two-plus decades has helped foster sing, and dance. This year’s “Elmo” is learning for preschoolers. The learning yet another innovative product—Elmo could be letters or numbers or it could Tickle Hands. These red furry gloves Jakks Pacific’s line of Neopets plush toys have both a collectible aspect be the importance of exercise—all fit over a child’s hands and can be used and an online aspect to appeal to consumers. taught by following the cues of the to tickle or tell jokes, or set to dance plush character. And now the latest trend has plush coming to life in mode to teach a new Elmo dance. “It’s important to stay ahead of the online worlds through web play. curve when developing new plush,” says Gina Sirard, vice-president of marketing at Fisher-Price. Fisher-Price will also be working on feature Spanning the Generations plush based on Nickelodeon’s animated television show Ni Hao, Kai-Lan Ask any parent or grandparent to name their favorite plush from that will take advantage of the latest technology. The Super Special childhood and just about all will be able to remember the toy. In fact, Friend Kai-Lan plush will react to a child’s touch, changing colors and some may even still have the plush character as a keepsake. Plush have lighting up to indicate moods and interact with the child during play time. always been comfort objects evoking positive memories, which, of Where Fisher-Price perfected bringing characters to life, Hasbro has course, everyone wants to pass on. “From a parental perspective, it’s perfected bringing pets to life through its FurReal brand. 2006 saw the about the love, the nurturing, and everything you watch your child devel- introduction of Butterscotch, a miniature pony with advanced animatronop,” says Keri DeAngelis, director of global brand management at ics that could whinny, snort, and react to touch and sound. The brand has Hasbro. The same holds true for licensed products. Kids have already only improved since then, with more detailed and complex additions, developed a positive association with a particular character, so the char- such as Biscuit My Lovin’ Pup, which can respond to multiple voice acter can easily act as a conduit for learning, comfort, and nurturing play. commands and perform tricks such as sit, speak, and lie down. The comPlush holds multi-faceted appeal for many children. The most obvi- pany continues to create more advanced FurReal Friends products with ous one is what Jennifer Monson, marketing director at Gund, calls “hug- each coming year, with new additions this year such as Lulu My Cuddlin’ gability”—Gund’s logo reads “World’s Most Huggable.” The toy needs Kitty and Zambi the Baby Elephant. to make a child want to hug it and enjoy the act. In addition to being hugIn addition, companies such as Zizzle and WowWee have their own gable, the item can act as a “friend” or “pet.” “Plush can satisfy the need electronic pets on the market. Zizzle has seen success with Lucky, The to nurture in a child, or the need to have a best friend or pet,” says Scott Incredible Wonder Pup and will be building on that success with its Goldberg, PR and promotions manager for Zizzle. newest addition, R-Doggee—a more boy-oriented version of the original

P

26 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2009


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Lucky that performs more actions and will dance and rap at the user’s command. WowWee’s Alive line features an array of cubs, including lions, panda bears, and white tigers, that will react when stroked and touched, making the sounds of the baby animals they are based on.

This year Hasbro has scaled back its offerings with the Lil’ Patter Pups ($24.99) and the Furreal Newborns ($12.99). In addition, Kota, the once-$300-dinosaur, is now available in a “Hatchlings” line, which consist of smaller products that retail at $18.99. Gund’s San Diego Zoo collection retails for $15 an item, part of which Web-Factor is donated to the San Diego Zoo itself for an While feature plush has been the most signifiadditional “feel-good” factor to an inexpencant development in the plush category in the past 25 sive purchase. Russ Berrie’s Yomiko line has a FurReal Friends Lil’ Patter Pup from Hasbro. years, the newest product that has enacted change in number of products that can be purchased for this category has been a simple code of numbers included with a plush under $15, and in some cases under $10. character, driving kids to a website. This phenomenon took off with While inexpensive items may be what’s hot for kids, adult or teen colGanz’s Webkinz and has been built upon by others in the industry. lectors are less sensitive to price. “For older kids who are looking to colHowever, in the case of web-related plush, the plush is just a conduit lect, plush is a great opportunity,” says Jeremy Padawer, senior vice-presto a website. The manufacturer cannot simply sell the code, so it gets ident of marketing at Jakks Pacific. Jakks Pacific’s collectible lines touch attached to something cute and cuddly for the consumer. The code then on a number of price points. Many Neopets, Club Penguin, and Pokémon immerses the child in a world connected to that character. plush products can be picked up for under $10. However, each line also Jakks Pacific is just one company that has stepped into the digital has a set of items at a higher price point that could be larger (such as the plush arena, continually adding to its Neopets plush line (although it Neopets Jumbo 10-Inch Plush) or have additional features (such as the should be noted that Neopets was a website first, which then developed Pokémon Throw Pokéball) that put the product in a higher price bracket. into a property). Each plush product unlocks additional content at For adults, collecting can encompass such items as Ty’s Beanie Neopets.com and gives kids more to play with online. Additionally, Jakks Babies, which ignited a craze a number of years ago, changing the nature has developed a line of plush for the Club Penguin brand. Each item of collectible items. While Beanie Babies were inexpensive items to colincludes a coin with a code that translates into more items for the chil- lect, Steiff offers a high-end option with its line of “teddy bears in a suitdren’s avatar in Club Penguin—which also started online and became an case.” Each individual bear retails for $30–39 and comes with a number offline property. Hasbro’s Littlest Pet Shop VIP (Virtual Interactive Pets) of accessories, accompanied by a suitcase that can carry both the bear and line lets kids take their purchased miniature plush to an online world with any included extras. Bears within the line consist of construction workthem, creating two levels of collection, with special offers and pets avail- ers, babies, and ballerinas. Steiff also has a wide range of exclusive and able both online and offline. Ty, the maker of the Beanie Baby plush line, limited-edition plush that can cost anywhere from $150–$295 per item. has also entered the digital plush arena with Beanie Babies 2.0. The webAs the recession deepens, manufacturers are remaining upbeat. There site leads kids to a game and social site based on the Beanie Babies. are numerous offerings spanning a variety of price points and styles, as well as on and offline play. “Plush is a classic toy that has been around Penny Wise for many generations,” says Christine Lien, vice-president of product Plush commands price points that the market will bear. In these uncer- development and sourcing at Russ Berrie. “It is timeless, and it is not tain economic times, there are many options for lower priced purchases. based on trends that come in and out of the marketplace.” And for that Yet just a year or so ago, manufacturers (most notably Hasbro) offered reason, this category will continue despite the economy, web trends, or feature plush in the $200 and $300 range and consumers purchased it. new technological developments.

APRIL 2009 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 27


Plush

BY

PAUL NARULA

From the most humble teddy bears to the most complex feature plush, plush products are a big part of today’s toy market. Here’s a look at some of the newest items in the plush category.

Hasbro

New in Hasbro’s FurReal Friends line of feature plush is Lulu My Cuddlin’ Kitty. Lulu mews, cuddles, and preens in reaction to how children play with her. Rubbing her back will cause her to purr. She will roll onto her back to get her tummy rubbed and will “lick” her paw to wash her face and preen. Lulu requires four C batteries, included, and is for ages 4–8.

Jakks

Jakks Pacific will release a wide line of new Domo plush, based on the Japanese broadcaster NHK’s mascot that now has a series of animated shorts airing on NickToons several times a day. Domo will come with his favorite girl, a weasel named Tashana, in a Domo Plush Two-Pack. The two-pack of plush is for ages 3 and up.

Fisher-Price

Gund

Gund has partnered with the San Diego Zoo to create a line of plush based on actual animals within the zoo. Each plush animal is designed after a real animal, including some of the most popular attractions at the San Diego Zoo. A portion of the profit from each purchase is donated to the San Diego Zoo.

28 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2009

Fisher-Price has developed a full line of plush based on the Mr. Men and Little Miss characters from Chorion. Characters include Mr. Rude, Mr. Bump, Little Miss Sunshine, and more. Fisher-Price will also be introducing plush based on the Nickelodeon cartoon Ni Hao, Kai-Lan.


Zizzle

iToys

R-Doggee is Zizzle’s newest feature plush, developed along the same lines as its Lucky the Wonderpup. The voiceactivated R-Doggee can perform 15 different commands, ranging from simple instructions such as “sit” or “stay” to more complex tricks such as “bust a move” or “can you rap?” R-Doggee is for children 4 and up.

iToys’ new plush, Rutherford the Message Bear, uses a wireless USB key to help children and parents communicate. Parents can store audio messages or stories on Rutherford. When Rutherford has a message or story, his tummy will light up red (for messages) or blue (for stories) and his blue paw can be pressed to deliver the message. Rutherford can also act as a nightlight.

Russ Berrie

Rocket USA

Yomiko is Russ Berrie’s line of highly realistic-looking plush. New to the line are a group of mixed breed dogs, including an Aussiedoodle, Englishboodle, Jackahuahua, and Puggle. Russ Berrie is also introducing the new XL Jungle Plush line to Yomiko, which features realistic plush interpretations of jungle animals such as the tiger, giraffe, elephant, and lion.

Lubies are a new line of basic plush from Rocket USA. Designed by Joy Michel and Michael Perry, Lubies use the tagline of “No beans, no codes, just pure simple fun.” The plush are aimed at all ages and have their own website at lubieland.com.

APRIL 2009 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 29


Plush Pretty Ugly

One of the latest additions to the Ugly Doll line is Ox, a one-eyed creature whose name stands for “hugs and kisses” instead of the animal. Pretty Ugly will have a full line of plush for Ox, as well as for additional new characters such as Fea Bea and Winkolina.

Hosung

Hosung’s new plush line, My Natural, is made with natural untreated, unprocessed, and unbleached cotton. Only natural plant and mineral dyes are used in the production of each plush toy.

Commonwealth

Based on Nintendo’s Nintendogs video game brand, Commonwealth’s new Nintendogs Tug and Play Pup will play tug of war with the included rope fragment at the touch of its paw.

Animal Adventures

The Breath-Easy Baby line from Animal Adventures is designed to minimize dust mite and allergen collection on the plush toy to create an allergy-kind plush. The line includes floppies, musical plush, stackers, and paired mama and baby plush sets.

30 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2009


Douglas

Quilti Horses are nine-inch tall plush horses that feature quilted fabric with ruffled manes and knotted tails. Violet, Amaryllis, and Fanfare are the three available Quilti Horses.

Aurora

Aurora’s Learn With Me Bear can play fun sounds and features new textures. The bear has a number of snaps, buttons, and ties that give young children a chance to practice their mechanical skills.

Kids Preferred

In honor of the 70th anniversary of the children’s book Madeline, by Ludwig Bemelman, Kids Preferred will release a full line of plush based on the Madeline character, including basic plush dolls, specially packaged plush, and beanies.

Wild Republic

New from Wild Republic are Vibes. Vibes are plush figures of real animals in neon colors, such as pink, green, yellow, purple, and blue.

APRIL 2009 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 31


CLEAN, GREEN FUN WITH RUSSIMCO BY

n 1993, Simeon Oram was looking for a change. Having done charitable work in Eastern and Central Europe for 13 years, Oram wanted to move on and do something different with his life. Working with his brother, Oram’s knowledge of the Central and Eastern regions of Europe led him to realize that products from that area could be exported to the rest of the world and create a more successful business model. Oram and his brother started Russimco as a way to not only move on, but to continue helping the area of Europe they’d become familiar with. “You can throw money at the problems and difficulties in those parts of the world, but, at the end of the day, it’s things like trade that can bring about major changes,” says Oram. Today, Russimco has come a long way from its roots in Eastern and Central Europe, but has never lost sight of the philosophy of helping people. Perhaps one of the most wide-reaching ways to help people is to help the environment, and Oram feels that this type of sustainability is a large part of the products and practices that Russimco creates now. “I have always believed that society in general uses the world’s resources in a badly thought out manner,” Oram says. Russimco uses wood for most of its products because wood is a renewable resource. Oram views toy products as potential “transients”—products that could be thrown away when they outlive their usefulness—and hopes that if Russimco’s products are thrown away,

I

32 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2009

PAUL NARULA

they will have a minimal environmental impact. Another major step that the company has taken to establish itself as an environmentally friendly toy manufacturer is eliminating batteries from its products. “If you work out the actu-

al numbers regarding the huge amount of batteries that end up in the landfill or are disposed of in ways that aren’t environmentally friendly, you begin to realize that toys have a lot to answer for in that respect,” says Oram. In an effort to prevent Russimco toys from contributing to that problem, the company has replaced any batteries that would be used to power toys with muscle-powered generators built directly into the toys. These generators allow a toy to be powered up via shaking or by turning an included handle. Not only is this healthy for the environment, but Oram also feels that the cranking or shaking required to charge the toy adds another dimension of play for the child. Oram has also focused on making Russimco’s packaging less dangerous to the environment. The company holds a minimalist Russimco’s Eco-Rocket

approach to its packaging, usually simply including a swing-tag on its products. When packaging is required, Russimco uses a unique style of packaging that Oram compares to an “egg box.” The sturdy material is made of a pulp constructed of recycled papers. “We think [our packages] work very well,” Oram says. “They stand out, they have a bright colorful background, and they’re 100 percent biodegradable.” Russimco’s products span a number of age demographics. Products with basic kinetic generators are available for children around 12 months of age. Products such as the Eco-Rockets, which are powered by a cranked dynamo, are aimed at the 6–8 age group. Some of Russimco’s products skew even older, such as its powered Zoo Flashlights, which Oram says can find consumers even among teenagers. Russimco also produces an extensive line of traditional products, such as pull-alongs, dolls, and more. In addition, Russimco acquired game company Gazebo Games, which gives it a strong games line. Oram plans to keep Russimco going strong on its key principles, despite the shaky economy in the UK where Russimco is based. “We’re still able to look at product development and we’re taking things on a thought-through approach,” he says. The company has a number of new products on the way and will continue to stay environmentally conscious and focused on giving kids and parents the biggest charge they can get for their money.


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For further information please contact Andrew Dobbie or Margit Pendl Tel. +44 (0) 1442 870100 (United Kingdom) email: info@gameplaneurope.com web site: www.gameplaneurope.com


Innovation First

Innovation First, Inc., introduces the Hexbug Ant, an autonomous, six-legged creature with probing, tactile antennas and hooked claws. It features front and rear touch sensors that allow it to maneuver around objects in its path and wheel-legs that propel it forward, backward, and over small obstacles. Each Hexbug Ant has an inner body loaded with robotic intelligence, protected by a hard, transparent exoskeleton casing. Two button-cell batteries are included. It is available in red, blue, green, pink, and orange.

34 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2009

Fair Indigo

Fair Indigo’s Joobles are playmates from Peru where artisans have handcrafted a menagerie of animals under fair-trade conditions, providing work and hope to hundreds of rural and urban Peruvians. These hand-knit pals feature the tagline “Responsible, Sustainable, Adorable.” Each soft animal is made with eco-friendly dyes and organic cotton grown in Peru. Each of the 10 Joobles stands 11 inches tall.


North American Bear

North American Bear celebrates a new charity partnership with the release of My Own Bears, a collection of soft friends designed by kids for kids. In soft velour with embroidered accents, 15-inch NouNou (shown), 16-inch Pink, and 17-inch Ruby, My Own Bears come with a special hang tag reflecting the child’s original artwork and story that inspired its design. A portion of My Own Bears sales is donated to Hugs Across America, a non-denominational, not-for-profit organization providing teddy bears and messages of loving care to children in crisis.

ImagiPlay

ImagiPlay Games teamed up with green magician Steve Trash to create an eco-friendly, ecothemed magic set. The Green Magic Set is handcrafted in a sustainably harvested wood box. The wood used in the tricks is made of bamboo and rubberwood. Tricks in the set include Green Energy Cube, which allows magicians to read someone’s energetic mind; Pollution Paddle, which makes a toothpick jump from one hole to another on the paddle; and Eco Wands, which lets kids grow a string, shorten it, then grow it again. The Green Magic Set is for ages 8 and up.

APRIL 2009 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 35


YOU’RE HIRED

CALLAWAY ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT JOHN W. LEE II, CEO

Callaway Arts & Entertainment announced the appointment of John W. Lee II as CEO. Teaming up with Nicholas Callaway, founder and president of Callaway Arts & Entertainment, Lee will work to expand the company’s existing story- and art-based brand assets across all media in the United States and internationally. As part of his role, Lee plans to further develop the company’s very successful brand, Sunny Patch, and forge new partnerships for the company. In his short time with the company, Lee has already been instrumental in creating a partnership between Callaway Arts & Entertainment and independent toy company Melissa and Doug. Prior to joining Callaway Arts & Entertainment, Lee was part of the team that created the Ready-to-Learn Partnership, which developed the literacy-based children’s program, WordWorld. In addition to his role with Callaway Arts & Entertainment, Lee will remain a business and brand development advisor for WordWorld as well as retain his seat on the organization’s board. Before WordWorld, Lee served as founder and president of Learning Curve Brands. He is co-founder of Playing for Keeps, a national not-forprofit organization that promotes the importance of unstructured play, and has been awarded the Toy Industry Achievement Award for Brand Builder and 2005 Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association.

BANDAI AMERICA, INC. PAUL HAUSBACK, CFO

Bandai America, Inc., appointed Paul Hausback as CFO. Hausback succeeds Kunio Ikoma, who has accepted a new position within the company as senior vice-president of corporate planning. As CFO, Hausback will manage all financial and fiscal management aspects of the company’s operations, including oversight of the company’s finances, operations, human resources, legal and business affairs, and information services groups. Previously, he worked at The Walt Disney Company in various executive roles in finance and business operations in its consumer products, interactive gaming, internet, mobile, and retail businesses.

36 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2009

CHILD’S PLAY COMMUNICATIONS

MARIE VANASSENDELFT-BAKER, SENIOR ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE AND DIRECTOR OF TEAM MOM

Child’s Play Communications named Marie VanAssendelftBaker as senior account executive and director of the company’s proprietary mommy blogger community, Team Mom. Baker will spearhead PR management for Goddard Systems, the fastest growing childcare franchise in the nation, as well as develop and supervise the Team Mom network. Previously, Baker was senior account executive at Rosica Strategic Public Relations, senior account executive at Litzky Public Relations, and held positions with Susan Blond, Inc., and Fanatic Promotions.

COOKIE JAR ENTERTAINMENT

BRENDA BISNER, SENIOR MANAGER, DOMESTIC CONSUMER PRODUCTS

Brenda Bisner joined Cookie Jar Entertainment as senior manager, domestic consumer products. In this position, she will be responsible for developing licensing programs for Cookie Jar’s top consumer brands and entertainment properties including Strawberry Shortcake, Mommy & Me, and Richard Scarry. Prior to joining Cookie Jar, Bisner served as vice-president acquisitions, children’s programming for Porchlight Entertainment, where she was responsible for acquiring all children’s programming across three platforms, including international, U.S. DVD, and digital media.


AMERICAN GREETINGS PROPERTIES

CANDYRIFIC

GREG DECKER, SALES MANAGER

CandyRific, a novelty candy manufacturer, hired Greg Decker as sales manager. Decker comes to CandyRific with a background in novelty candy, including previous positions at Cap Candy and Pez. His past management experience in the Midwest and Northeast will prove a valuable resource as CandyRific continues to expand nationwide.

HALLOWEEN INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION NEW BOARD OF DIRECTORS

The Halloween Industry Association (HIA) announced its new Board of Directors for the 2009–2010 term. Stanley Geller, president and CEO of Fun World, Inc., is chairman of the board. Gellar will be responsible for leading the strategic vision of the board of directors on behalf of the HIA membership. Marc Beige and Scott Emmerman were elected co-vice chairmen. Beige is president of Rubie’s Costume Company and Emmerman is president of sales of InCharacter Costumes. Joe Anton, president of Disguise, Inc., is the treasurer. Steve Cohen, vice-president of The Paper Magic Group, is secretary. Stephen Stanley, executive vice-president, Halloween and seasonal at Jakks Pacific, Inc., is immediate past chairman. The newly appointed board has set important initiatives for this year including addressing new government regulations, exploring developing industry standards and accompanying HIA certification program, and growing membership to engage all manufacturers (large and small) in the Halloween industry. The board also revised HIA’s dues structure in an effort to make dues more affordable for smaller manufacturers.

PROMOTIONS

American Greetings Properties (AGP), the intellectual property and outbound licensing division of American Greetings Corporation, announced the promotions of four executives. Mackenzie Glass has been promoted to creative director of design. She is responsible for the creative development of style guides, packaging, trade shows, and design collateral for all of AGP’s new and existing character brands. Kelly Grupczynski has been named to creative director of illustration. She was previously creative developer for AGP. In her new role, Grupczynski will be responsible for the creative assets used in character development, entertainment, digital media, and style guides. Tony Chien has been promoted to director of marketing. He will oversee and execute all consumer and trade marketing initiatives as well as business development for all brands under AGP. Previously, he served as senior brand manager. Lisa Wascovich has been promoted to director of digital media. She will oversee and execute all digital projects. She and her team are responsible for the creative and technical development of AGKidZone.com, AGP’s branded websites, online advertising and promotion, digital content development, and video games.

TOY INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION, INC.

MICHAEL T. PERKINS, TECHNICAL OUTREACH DIRECTOR, TOY SAFETY CERTIFICATION PROGRAM

The Toy Industry Association, Inc. (TIA), appointed Michael T. Perkins to technical outreach director for TIA’s new Toy Safety Certification Program (TSCP). The TSCP, which will be launched in phases this year, offers a comprehensive and sustainable system that will provide reasonable verification that toys meet applicable mandatory U.S. toy safety standards. Perkins will implement an outreach, education, and training plan that will introduce factory auditors, toy testers, and companies and retailers of all sizes to the TSCP. His responsibilities will include helping these audiences understand how the program and its process requirements can help them comply with new and emerging safety standards. Most recently, Perkins served as vice-president of operations at Cadaco, where he managed the product development process, international and domestic sourcing, and quality and toy safety programs.

APRIL 2009 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 37


EVENTS OF

CALENDAR

INDUSTRY-RELATED TRADE SHOWS MAY 6–8

ToyCon 2009

toyassociation.org

Wigwam Golf Resort and Spa

Litchfield Park, AZ

2–4

E3

e3expo.com

Los Angeles Convention Center

Los Angeles

14–17

ASTRA Marketplace

astratoy.org

St. Paul Rivercentre

St. Paul, MN

17–20

California Gift Show

23–26

Comic-Con

19–21

JUNE 2–4

24–28

JULY

23–25

AUGUST 7–11

8–11

All Candy Expo

Licensing International Expo Origins Game Fair

OASIS Gift Show

Minneapolis Mart Gift & Accessory Show

San Francisco International Gift Fair

SEPTEMBER 13–16

The ABC Kids Expo

allcandyexpo.com

licensingexpo.com

originsgames.com

McCormick Place

Mandalay Bay Convention Center

Chicago

Las Vegas

Greater Columbus Convention Center

Columbus, OH

californiagiftshow.com

Los Angeles Convention Center

Los Angeles

comic-con.org

San Diego Convention Center

San Diego

mplsgiftmart.com

Minneapolis Mart

Minnetonka, MN

theabcshow.com

Las Vegas Convention Center

Las Vegas

oasis.org

sfigf.com

University of Phoenix Stadium

Moscone Center

Glendale, AZ

San Francisco

FALL TOY PREVIEW TUESDAY–THURSDAY, OCTOBER 6–9; DALLAS MARKET CENTER, DALLAS

TOY FAIR 2010 SUNDAY–WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 14–17; JACOB JAVITS CONVENTION CENTER, NEW YORK CITY

38 TOYS & FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT APRIL 2009



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3/24/09 5:40:36 PM