November 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 11
Toys in the News: 11-30-07
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Sudanese Protestors Urge Execution of British Teacher. November 30, 2007 – Sudanese protestors rallied for an hour in Martyrs Square Friday against the sentence given to British school teacher Gillian Gibbons, whose students at Khartoum's Unity High School named a teddy bear Muhammad. Gibbons was sentenced to 15 days in prison and deportation for the crime of insulting Islam, but protestors, many of them armed with knives and other weapons, were calling for her execution. The Muslim Council of Britain and Muslim Public Affairs Committee indicated they believe the prosecution is uncalled for, and many view the situation as simply a cultural mistake, reported the Associated Press.
Postal Service Welcomes Back Toy Donations. November 29, 2007 – The Postal Service has announced that it is now accepting Toys for Tots donations in Connecticut post offices, reversing a recent decision to prohibit donations because of conflict with rules of no solicitation. The decision came after customers protested the ban, reported the Courant.
USPS Disappoints Toys for Tots. November 29 , 2007 – The annual Toys for Tots drive is expected to bring in fewer donations this year in Connecticut because the U.S. Postal Service's law department has determined that requesting donations from customers is considered solicitation, which is not allowed in public areas of the post offices. In previous years, post office lobbies served as collection sites for the program, according to the Courant.
American Greetings Recalls Confetti Bursts. November 29, 2007 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with American Greetings Corp., has recalled about 60,000 DesignWare Confetti Bursts because the packaging contains surface paint with excessive levels of lead. The product was sold from December 2003 through September 2007.
Tots Go High Tech. November 28, 2007 – This holiday season, toddlers and early-school children are vying for technical gifts — digital cameras, MP3 players, laptops, cellphones and anything with a screen — continuing a trend that's been developing over the last few years, reported the New York Times. See TDmonthly's coverage of "kidult" electronics here.
Southern Island Falls to Bankruptcy. November 28, 2007 – Southern Island LLC, a manufacturer of anime collectible figurines, has declared bankruptcy. Liquidator BK Assets will auction the company's remaining stock on Ebay Dec. 11, according to the Anime News Network.
Ornaments Recalled for Lead Paint. November 28, 2007 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with distributor Reeves International Inc., has recalled about 36,000 holiday ornaments due to high levels of lead in the surface paints. The horse figurines and photo frame ornament were sold from July 2006 through October 2007. Also recently recalled were more than 3,000 children's hooded jackets distributed by The Bon-Ton Department Stores, because a drawstring in the hood poses a strangulation hazard.
Aqua Dots Manufacturer Apologizes. November 28, 2007 – Jssy Ltd., the Hong Kong company that manufactured Aqua Dots, which were recalled this month for containing a chemical that metabolizes into the date-rape drug when ingested, issued an apology Wednesday for hurting the reputation of "Made in China," CNNMoney reported.
Chinese Exports Are Back Up. November 28, 2007 – Although the value of Chinese toy exports from southern China's Guangdong Province declined in September following massive recalls, it came back up in October, bringing an increase of 27.6 percent compared to last year, China Daily reported.
Activision Raises 2008 Projections. November 28, 2007 – Strong sales of "Guitar Hero" and "Call of Duty" prompted video game publisher Activision to increase its revenue forecasts for the third quarter and next year, anticipating quarterly earnings of 66 cents per share versus a previously expected 51 cents per share, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Nintendo Has Record Thanksgiving Sales. November 27, 2007 – Nintendo of America topped all of its previous sales records during the first shopping week of the 2007 holiday season, selling more than 653,000 Nintendo DS systems and 350,000 Wii systems alongside games and accessories, according to a press release.
Teacher Arrested for Teddy Bear Named Muhammad. November 27, 2007 – British teacher Gillian Gibbons of Sudan's Unity High School in Khartoum may face charges of offending the Islamic faith because her elementary-age students voted to name a teddy bear Muhammad for a class project. The school apologized, said the situation was a mistake and removed Gibbons from her teaching post, according to an AP article in the New York Times.
Microsoft and Nintendo Aren't Green Enough. November 27, 2007 – In its recent quarterly rating of top electronics companies based on environmental criteria, Greenpeace gave low scores to both Nintendo and Microsoft for waiting too long to remove toxic chemicals from their gaming products. The latter, for example, has a plan in place to phase out certain chemicals in 2011. Sony Ericsson and Samsung ranked as the most eco-friendly of the 18 companies under review, reported the Associated Press.
Shoppers Flocked to Discount Stores. November 26, 2007 – A survey by America's Research Group revealed that nearly 65 percent of Black Friday shoppers hit at least one discount store, up from about 56 percent last year. Jewelry stores ranked lower this year, while department and electronics stores were high on shoppers' lists, according to Reuters. More than 40 percent of those who shopped over the weekend named toys as one of their top three buys, though less than 20 percent of the individuals surveyed said they actually shopped at toy stores — down about 10 percent from 2006.
Discounted Aqua Dots Not For Sale. November 26, 2007 – Despite Black Friday and weekend fliers advertising the recalled Aqua Dots at discounted prices, Toys "R" Us and Target both confirmed that the dangerous bead toy is not for sale in their stores. Advertisements were already complete or in production when the Nov. 7 recall was announced, reported the Associated Press.
CPSC Recalls Kids' Jewelry and More. November 21, 2007 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with the companies named below, has recalled the following items: about 8,000 Flashing Pacifiers from Sailing International Corp., sold in June 2007, because the nipple can detach and pose a choking hazard; about 38,000 Boppy Slipcovers from The Boppy Company because the zippers contain high levels of lead and may break and pose a choking hazard; about 84,200 Children's Pencil Pouches distributed by Raymond Geddes & Co., due to excessive lead in paint on the zippers, sold by school supply distributors in schools from September 1997 through October 2007; about 43,000 Sparkle City Charm Bracelets and Tack Pin Sets due to high levels of lead, imported by Buy-Rite Designs Inc. and sold at Big Lots stores from August 2005 through April 2007; about 45,000 Decorative Stretchable Aqua Bracelets due to high levels of lead, imported by Cherrydale Fundraising and sold by dollar stores, liquidators and schools from September 2003 through April 2007; about 10,400 Children's Metal Necklaces and Bracelets due to high levels of lead, manufactured by Colossal Jewelry & Accessories Inc. and sold at discount and dollar stores from January 2005 through June 2007; 4,500 Children's Necklace and Earring Sets due to high levels of lead, manufactured by La Femme NY 2 Inc. and sold at dollar stores from October 2005 to April 2007; about 200,000 Crystal Innovations Jewelry items due to high levels of lead, distributed by Pure Allure and sold at Michaels stores from April 2006 through September 2007; about 20,000 Shaving Paint Brushes due to excessive lead levels, imported by Discount School Supply and sold from May 2004 through August 2007; and about 205,000 Rachael Rose and Distinctly Basics Assorted Metal Jewelry items due to high levels of lead, manufactured by and sold at Family Dollar Stores from January 2003 through August 2007.
Groups Advise Consumer Awareness When Toy Shopping. November 20, 2007 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has released a two-page document outlining general safety risks of toys, such as those that contain small magnets or are projectile and could injure the eye. The release also advised parents to read warning labels and sign up to receive notification of recalls by email. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group cautioned that dangerous products may still be on store shelves, according to the Associated Press.
California Lawsuit Hits Mattel and Others. November 19, 2007 – Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown of California and Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo are suing Mattel Inc., Toys "R" Us, "RC2 Corp." and 17 other firms for producing or selling items with levels of lead that are prohibited by law. The lawsuit will be filed under California's Proposition 65, which could permit the state to collect civil penalties of up to $2,500 for each toxic product, reported the Los Angeles Times. It aims to make both manufacturers and retailers implement inspection procedures that guarantee products are safe.
Storage Racks Recalled After Boy's Death. November 16, 2007 – Jetmax International Ltd., in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, has recalled about 36,000 storage racks with canvas totes following the death of an 8-month-old boy who was asphyxiated when he pulled on the storage rack and it fell on him. The racks were sold at Wal-Mart from August 2004 through July 2005 and at Ollie's stores from July 2006 through June 2007. The CPSC has also announced a recall of about 10,000 Halloween-themed baskets due to excessive levels of lead. The baskets were sold in Hobby Lobby stores from August through November 2007.
Mass Price Cuts Continue, But Specialty Sales Smile. November 16, 2007 (AP) – Wal-Mart, Toys "R" Us and KB Toys fought for consumers' attention the first weekend of November with deep price cuts and toy specials that normally wouldn't appear until Thanksgiving, CNNMoney reported. Despite low sales projections for the holidays, however, some small stores are benefiting from the recall scare with sales of eco-friendly and naturally-stained items, even with a higher price tag.
Poll Reveals Holiday Wish Lists. November 15, 2007 – A survery of nearly 8,000 U.S. consumers conducted by BIGresearch and commissioned by the National Retail Federation resulted in the top-10 holiday wish lists for boys and girls. For girls, Mattel's Barbie is at the top of the list, followed by MGA's Bratz, and Hasbro's Transformers and video games grabbed to top two slots for boys, Reuters reported.
Consumer Organization Targets Cadmium. November 15, 2007 – Founder Judy Braiman of Empire State Consumer Association said 2007 "has been the worst year for toy safety," according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. The organization recently found that a "Sassy Chic" charm bracelet distributed by Greenbrier International Inc. and sold at Dollar Tree stores contains high levels of cadmium, which may pose serious health hazards including kidney failure.
Movie-Supported Toy Drive Sets World Record. November 15, 2007 – Walden Media and Mandate Pictures – for the movie "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" – teamed up with Toys for Tots and collected more than 28,000 pounds of toys in a World Record Toy Drive Nov. 6-13, far surpassing the drive's goal of 12,000 pounds. The film about a fantastical toy store, starring Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Jason Bateman and Zach Mills, opens Friday.
KB Toys Names Buyers. November 15, 2007 – KB Toys Inc. has appointed new buyers Nancy Sheridan Mullen and Stephen Mariconda, both of whom have extensive retail experience, according to a press release.
Plans to Buy Holiday Toys are Slim. November 14, 2007 – An online poll conducted by market research group Harris Interactive in October indicated that one-third of Americans plan to buy fewer toys this holiday season, and nearly half said they will not buy toys made in China, according to MarketWatch.
It's a Day for the Bears. November 14, 2007 – Today is National American Teddy Bear Day! To see all kinds of bears from various manufacturers, check out TDmonthly's section on Teddy Bears.
California Mother Finds Excessive Lead at Home. November 14, 2007 – Meredith Stacy, a mother in Santa Clarita, Calif., who has been home-testing items for lead for 10 years, recently discovered high levels of lead in vinyl lunchboxes, backpacks and other products. One "High School Musical" backpack contained more than 21 times the legal amount of lead in paint, confirmed Oakland's Center for Environmental Health, but the items have not been recalled, according to the Los Angeles Times.
FAO Schwarz Acquires Best & Co. November 13, 2007 – FAO Schwarz has purchased Best & Co., a company that makes and sells high-end clothing and accessories for children. The toy retailer plans to grow the brand name through targeted distribution, and the Best & Co. flagship store in Greenwich, Conn., will carry some products from FAO's private label line starting this holiday season, Reuters reported.
W.A.T.C.H. Posts List of "10 Worst Toys." November 13, 2007 – World Against Toys Causing Harm Inc. has released its 2007 list of the "10 Worst Toys," selected based on potential harm to children. The list includes the following products: Go Diego Go Animal Rescue Boat from Fisher-Price Inc., Sticky Stones from GeoCentral, Jack Sparrow's Spinning Dagger from Zizzle, Dora the Explorer Lamp from Funhouse, Sassy Pet Saks Lil "Giddy Up" Horse from Douglas, Spider-Man 3 New Goblin Sword from Hasbro, Hip Hoppa from Spin Master Ltd. and Vivid Imaginations Ltd., B'loonies Party Pack from Ja-Ru Inc., My Little Baby Born from Entertainment Inc. and Zapf Creations AG, and Rubber Band Shooter from Simple Toys LLC.
Marvel Launches Online Comic Archive. November 13, 2007 – Marvel Comics is launching the first-ever online comic book archive today, boasting a collection of 2,500+ back issues that feature favorite characters such as Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk. Subscribers will pay $59.88 a year, or $9.99 a month, to access the first 100 issues of certain comics in high-resolution format, according to USA Today.
Chinese Factory Works Despite Recall. November 12, 2007 – Southern China's Wanqi Product Factory was still making toys over the weekend, despite the recall of toy beads it produced under the Aqua Dots and Bindeez brand names and a government-ordered ban on exports from the factory, AFP reported.
Russ Berrie Posts Strong 3Q Results. November 12, 2007 – Russ Berrie and Company Inc.'s consolidated net income increased $14 million from the third quarter 2006, for a total of $14.3 million, and third-quarter consolidated net sales this year grew by 29.3 percent, reaching $100.9 million, according to a press release. President and CEO Andy Gatto attributed the growth to streamlining operations, expanding distribution and refreshing the company's gift, infant and juvenile lines for increased profit.
Upper Deck Apologizes to Hobby Retailers. November 12, 2007– Upper Deck sent a letter to hobby retailers apologizing for the early release of Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game Premium Pack 1 boosters in Wal-Mart stores. A delay in manufacturing pushed the street date back to Oct. 24, but some of the cards were released to Wal-Mart on the original launch date of Oct. 10, according to ICV2.com.
Mattel Pushes India's Retail Sector. November 11, 2007– Mattel Inc. is urging India to open up its retail market so that the U.S. toy company can invest and grow there, according to The Economic Times. Having entered the Indian retail sector in the 1980s, Mattel currently has distribution in 40 cities.
Mega Brands Shares See Big Loss. November 10, 2007 – Stocks for Mega Brands Inc. fell 34 percent, according to a third-quarter report issued Friday. The Canadian Company lost 31 cents per share, or $11 million dollars, and is expected to have another poor Christmas season. Factors contributing to the loss include the shut-down of the company's plant in Woodridge, N.J., and last year's decision to house inventory for the integration of Rose Art, reported the Financial Post.
China Halts Aqua Dots Exports. November 9, 2007 – Following recalls of Aqua Dots in the United States, Australia (where the toy is known as "Bindeez") and Spain, China has stopped all exports of the bead kits that have been found to contain the chemical 1,4 butanediol, which becomes toxic when ingested and has sent at least five children to the hospital, according to Reuters.
National Toy Hall of Fame Welcomes New Members. November 8, 2007 – Raggedy Andy, the Atari 2600 game system, and the kite were all inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at New York's Strong National Museum of Play. The National Toy Hall of Fame now includes 38 products, all of which display innovation, are considered an icon, foster learning and discovery, and possess longevity, according to a press release.
Curious George and Sunglasses Add to Recalls. November 8, 2007 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with the companies named below, has recalled the following due to excessive levels of lead in surface paints: about 51,000 Children's Fashion Sunglasses imported/distributed by Dolgencorp. Inc., sold at Dollar General stores from March 2005 through October 2007; and about 175,000 Curious George Plush Dolls by Marvel Toys, sold from December 2005 through August 2007.
Global Toy Standards Under Consideration. November 8, 2007 – Representatives from the United States and the European Union will meet Friday in Washington to discuss having a worldwide safety standard for toys, including the possible implementation of a global mark of safety, according to Reuters.
Canada Investigates Toy Recall. November 8, 2007 – Health Canada is investigating the massive recall of distributor Spin Master's Aqua Dots, now known to contain a chemical that becomes a dangerous hallucinogenic drug when ingested. In September, Aqua Dots appeared on Toys "R" Us' list of the top-15 toys for the holidays. Now, the retailer giant, along with Sears Canada, Mastermind Toys and the Hudson's Bay Company, has pulled the item from store shelves. Recalls have also taken place in the U.K. and Australia, where the product is known as Bindeez, reported CanWest News Service.
Drugged Toy Beads Recalled. November 7, 2007 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Spin Master, has recalled about 4.2 million Aqua Dots sets of themed craft beads because the bead coating contains a chemical that becomes toxic after swallowed. Two children became unconscious and were hospitalized after ingesting the beads. Aqua Dots were sold at mass-market stores nationwide from April through November 2007. CNNMoney referred to the chemical, once ingested, as the "date rape" drug — gamma hydroxy butyrate — noting that it may also cause drowsiness, seizures, coma and even death.
CPSC Recalls Schylling Toys and Others. November 7, 2007 – In cooperation with the companies named below, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has recalled the following toys due to excessive levels of lead paint: about 3,600 Winnie the Pooh Spinning Tops by Schylling Associates Inc., sold from April through November 2003; about 3,500 Duck Family Collectable Wind-Up Toys by Schylling, sold from January through August 2007; about 1,300 Dizzy Ducks Music Boxes by Schylling, sold from March through October 2007; about 2,600 "Robot 2000" Collectable Tin Robots by Schylling, sold from October 2006 through September 2007; about 7,500 Dragster and Funny Car toys, imported by International Sourcing Ltd., sold from March through September 2007 at National Hot Rod Association Events and through Matco Tools door-to-door sales; about 380,000 Pull-Back Action Toy Cars, sold at Dollar General stores from April through October 2007; and about 7,200 "Big Red" Wagons from Northern Tool & Equipment Co., sold from July through September at the company's stores, online and by catalog.
Group Alleges Labor Abuses at Disney Factory. November 7, 2007 (AP) – The Walt Disney Co. is looking into claims of labor abuse at one of its factories in southern China that produces plush toys, following allegations by Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior, a group that says the underpaid laborers work 16-hour days, according to an article in the International Herald Tribune.
Stores Let Kids Build a Robot. November 7, 2007 – Two Manhattan fathers, Ken Pilot and Oliver Mitchell, have launched the first two stores of retail chain Robot Galaxy, a store that gives children — boys, especially — the opportunity build a robot for $27 to $70 or more, and even program the character to say the kid's name, according to NorthJersey.com.
"Skippy" Pool Toys Recalled. November 6, 2007 – Swimways Corp., in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, has recalled about 31,000 "Skippy" Pool Toys. When the toy is launched, the fish's elastic tongue can break and come out forcefully, potentially cutting the user's hands. An injury to one child's hand required stitches. The product sold at mass-market and pool supply stores from February through September 2007.
Toddler Suffers Poisoning from Toy Beads. November 6, 2007 – In Queensland, Australia, a toddler is undergoing hospital treatment after swallowing Bindeez craft beads, which contain a chemical that, when ingested, mirrors effects of the illegal drug GHB, according to ABC News. Although there hasn't been an official recall, retailers have been directed to remove the product from store shelves, and parents are advised to keep them out of children's reach.
Fisher-Price Recalls Kitchen Toys. November 6, 2007 – Fisher Price Inc., in conjunction with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, has voluntarily recalled about 155,000 Laugh & Learn™ Learning Kitchen™ Toys because small parts of the clock hands and faucet can come off and pose a choking hazard. The products were sold nationwide May through October 2007 for approximately $70.
Barbie Approves Real Friends for Chat. November 5, 2007 – The Barbie Girl MP3 Player has a place in the Barbie Girls virtual world, as it identifies "Best Friends" that girls know in real life, enabling them to chat exclusively with those individuals in the platform's Secret B Chat. A "Best Friend" must set her Barbie Girl in a friend's Barbie Girl docking station in order to be authenticated for chat with that person, according to WIRED.
Marvel Sees Higher Profit. November 5, 2007 (Reuters) – Marvel Entertainment's net income for the third quarter of 2007 hit $36.3 million, at 45 cents a share, versus last year's 16 cents per share. The company's licensing division did well thanks to strong sales of Spider-Man 3 merchandise, according to the Hollywood Reporter, and its publishing segment saw growth as well.
Mattel Shares May Spring Back. November 4, 2007 (Reuters) – A Barron's report suggests that Mattel's shares may make a comeback over the next year, rebounding by as much as 50 percent, as investors and consumers begin to trust the company once again.
KB Toys to Close More Than 100 Stores. November 3, 2007 – KB Toys plans to close 156 of its fewer than 600 toy stores in January, according to the Washington Post. The impending closures represent the difficulty many toy stores may face over the holidays, given numerous recalls and a Deloitte & Touche survey suggesting that consumers will spend less money on gifts this season.
China Blocks Toy Exports. November 1, 2007 – The export licenses of more than 750 toy makers have been barred in China, regulators said, due to issues with quality control. The New York Times also reported that 690 toy factories in the country's southern region have been asked to make improvements or undergo renovation.
CPSC Recalls Action Figures and Beads. November 1, 2007 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with the companies named below, has voluntarily recalled the following items due to excessive levels of lead in surface paints: about 380,000 “Galaxy Warriors” Toy Figures, distributed by Henry Gordy International Inc. and sold at Family Dollar Stores from January 2006 through October 2007; and about 4,000 Decorative Packaging Pearl-like Bead Attachments sold with Girl’s Gift Sets, distributed by Tween Brands Inc. and sold exclusively at Limited Too stores and online from April through September 2007.
Toys "R" Us Turns Superstore. November 1, 2007 – Toys "R" Us is combining its separate baby and toy retail stores into megastores to encourage consumers to shop for baby and toy items all in one place. The company adapted dozens of smaller toy stores into combo stores throughout the last year, and many saw percentage sales gains into the double digits. Superstores are opening Friday in California and New York, according to CNNMoney.
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