March 2008 | Vol. VII - No. 3
Toys in the News: 3-31-08
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GameStop Takes Over Free Record. March 31, 2008 – GameStop Corp. has announced plans to acquire 49 Free Record Shop locations in Norway, boosting its operations in the Nordic region to 160 stores, according to a press release.
Washington Bill Sparks Controversy. March 28, 2008 – While the Washington Toxics Coalition and the American Association of Pediatrics are pushing for passage of the Child Protection Safety Act in Washington state, representatives of the toy industry maintain that the bill might cause big problems as it's currently written. A primary concern is its restrictions on lead and phthalates regardless of where the materials exist in a toy — which means that toys with interior electronic components could be outlawed, according to the Seattle Times.
Tek Nek Recalls Rockers. March 27, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Tek Nek Toys Int'l L.P., has announced a voluntary recall of about 122,000 Rock 'N Ride Plush Rocker Toys due to potential injury to children from the rocker tipping backward or forward. Thirty-five reports of tipping, some involving injuries including bruises and lacerations, have been reported to the company. The rockers have plastic bases and retailed in eight models at mass-market stores and online from September 2007 through March 2008.
State Fears Ban Will Hurt Sales. March 27, 2008 – Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire is pondering veto or modification of a proposed state-wide ban on toxic toys, as manufacturers ponder future sales to the state and industry representatives struggle with certain restrictions outlined in the bill. One novelty-store owner claims the bill isn't clear in its definitions of toys and children, and fears the legislation could force him to close up shop, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported.
Educational Insights Recalls Ring Toss. March 26, 2008 – In cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Educational Insights has voluntarily recalled about 130 Ring Toss Games due to high levels of lead in the yellow paint. It retailed at school supply stores from December 2007 through February 2008.
Take-Two Says No to Electronic Arts. March 26, 2008 – The board of video game publisher Take-Two Interactive has advised its shareholders to refuse a $2 billion offer from Electronic Arts, the Associated Press reported. Take-Two is holding out on potential partnerships with other companies until after the April 29 release of its game "Grand Theft Auto IV."
Washington Bill Lowers Lead Limit. March 25, 2008 – The state of Washington has passed a bill, pending signature from Gov. Chris Gregoire, that would change the limit of lead in children's toys to 90 parts per million and establish harsh restrictions for phthalates and cadmium, according to the Wall Street Journal. Toymakers Mattel and Hasbro met with the governor earlier this month to try to stop the legislation, and some small manufacturers may cease sales in the state if the bill becomes law.
WowWee's Robot Becomes a Star. March 25, 2008 – The Robosapien robot by WowWee Group Limited is the inspiration for a new feature-length film, "Robosapien: Rebooted," that will be produced by Arad Productions and Crystal Sky Pictures, according to a press release on CNNMoney. WowWee will have exclusivity in marketing character merchadise for the film.
Qatar Steps Up Safety. March 25, 2008 – The Qatar Organization for Standards and Metrology has announced its intention to import safety-testing machinery within the next 30 to 45 days in order to ensure the quality of toy imports as well as products already on retail shelves, according to the Peninsula. Imports lacking export declarations showing that the toys are lead-free are currently being held at a port, resulting in losses for several businesses.
Plan Toys Recalls Penguins. March 25, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has announced a voluntary recall of about 3,000 Toy Penguin Figures manufactured by Plan Toys. The penguin's head can detach, posing a hazard by exposing sharp points. It sold at specialty toy stores and online from May 2007 through February 2008. Also recalled were about 18,000 Backyard and Beyond Metal Water Bottles, due to surface paint containing excessive levels of lead. Distributed by Downeast Concepts, the water bottles retailed at various stores nationwide from February 2006 through February 2008.
Bubble Show a Success. March 24, 2008 – The latest Bubble New York trade show, held March 8-11, drew 135 exhibitors and 1,180 visitors, primarily from the East Coast and overseas, Earnshaw's reported. The first Bubble show in March 2006 involved 40 exhibitors and was created to showcase children's apparel, accessories, toys and more.
Banned Beads are Back. March 23, 2008 – Bindeez beads, known by the name of Aqua Dots in the United States and banned since November, are being reintroduced in Australia under the name Beados, according to ShortNews. The product was recalled in November after several children swallowed the beads and were hospitalized because of a dangerous, coma-inducing chemical in the toy's makeup.
Gun Co. Targets NY Mayor. March 22, 2008 – Wisconsin company Lauer Weaponry has put caricatures of Mayor Michael Bloomberg on some of its brightly-colored guns in response to a ban of its gun paints in New York City, based on a claim that the guns look too much like toys and could cause confusion. The company said most of its gun colors, which include bright green, yellow, red and purple, were based on customer request, ABC News reported.
Hobby Lobby Recalls Easter Eggs. March 21, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Hobby Lobby Stores, has announced a voluntary recall of about 13,000 Camouflage Eggs and Spinning Egg Top Toys due to excessive levels of lead in the paints. The products sold at Hobby Lobby stores from January through March 2008.
Disney Wants Stores Back. March 21, 2008 – Disney is actively seeking to regain control of its Disney Stores in the United States, which have been operated by Children's Place for more than three years now. Children's Place will be responsible for shutting down at least 100 of the 335 stores before handing over the reins, as Disney plans to operate 200+ stores, capitalizing on "Hannah Montana," "High School Musical" and other themes in merchandise, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Gibson Guitar Sues Wal-Mart and Others. March 20, 2008 – Gibson Guitar Corp. has filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart, Toys "R" Us, GameStop and Amazon.com, saying the retailers should no longer sell Activision's "Guitar Hero" game because it violates a patent Gibson secured in 1999, the Associated Press reported.
UPDATE: Lutz Muller of Klosters Trading Corp. told TDmonthly on Monday, March 24, that at least two of the named retailers are still selling "Guitar Hero III," and although legal teams are reviewing the lawsuit there has been no mention of discontinuing the product.
Center Finds Lead in Hannah Montana Toys. March 20, 2008 – The Oakland, Calif.-based Center for Environmental Health has reported finding high levels of lead in nine of 28 Hannah Montana products it bought and tested, according to CBS News. Disney refutes the claims and the Consumer Product Safety Commission has not issued a recall.
Study Shows Phthalates in Toys. March 19, 2008 – The Washington Toxics Coalition has released a report, "Not So Squeaky Clean: A Study of Phthalates in Toys," outlining the results of tests that targeted 20 toys sold at mass retailers. Almost half of the products screened were found to contain phthalates, many at high levels.
Tech Toys Save Companies Money. March 19, 2008 – Despite rising costs in overseas labor and materials, many toymakers are now benefiting from significantly lower prices on technological components, the Wall Street Journal reported. EyeClops Night Vision Goggles by Jakks Pacific, for example, utilize an imaging processor for cell phone cameras that now costs 75 percent less than it did a few years ago. And Zizzle is relaunching a voice-chip-equipped dog named Lucky, priced $20 lower than when it was introduced in 2005.
Journals Recalled for Lead Paint. March 18, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Galison/Mudpuppy, has announced a voluntary recall of about 90,000 Wire-O Bound Journals and Calendars due to excessive levels of lead in the paint on the spiral bindings. The products sold at specialty stores and online from August 2003 through December 2007.
Lead Colors Easter Eggs. March 18, 2008 – According to tests conducted by Ashland University students under the supervision of chemistry professor Jeffrey D. Weidenhamer, 13 of 45 Easter-related items from retail shelves contained amounts of lead exceeding the federal limit of 600 parts per million. Hobby Lobby is removing Easter eggs and spinning tops found to have excessive levels of lead, and is conducting further tests and working with the Consumer Product Safety Commission concerning a recall, the Associated Press reported.
MEGA Brands and Intertek Partner for Safe Toys. March 18, 2008 – MEGA Brands has announced that it will work with testing company Intertek to ensure sound design and quality that meets or exceeds worldwide safety standards in the development of a new magnetic system this year, according to a press release.
Comic Sales Drop. March 17, 2008 – Sales of comic books and graphic novels to comic retailers fell 4 percent last month compared to the same time in 2007. Previous to November, when the category witnessed a 5 percent decline — followed by increases over the following two months — the last dip in sales was in May 2005. ICV2 reported that the decline is due to scarcity of popular new releases and a different landscape from last year's "Civil War"-driven sales.
Toy Fair Attendance Saw 10% Jump. March 17, 2008 – The 2008 American International Toy Fair in New York City welcomed more than 18,000 buyers, toy industry professionals and journalists in February, logging an increase of more than 10 percent in overall attendance. More than 7,000 products debuted under 1,200+ exhibitors, and 12 percent more buyers attended this year than in 2007, according to a press release. In addition to the more than 160 video demotDmonthly shot at Toy Fair, we're starting to prepare our Toy Frenzy! documentary that followed 7 new companies at the show. One of the Puppetoys was even caught on tape by a stray attendee, who couldn't resist flirting with the cute T Rex.
Skuut Partners With Trees for the Future. March 17, 2008 – In partnership with Trees for the Future, a non-profit organization that supports sustainable agroforestry around the world, Skuut LLC will fund the planting of one tree per each Skuut Wooden Balance Bike sold, according to Skuut CEO Peter Emblad.
McDonald's Happy Meals Go Digital. March 17, 2008 – McDonald's Europe is working with entertainment studio Fuel Industries of Canada to offer interactive CD-ROMs in its signature Happy Meals in 40 countries. The CD-ROMs will feature original content and characters, introducing children to fairies and dragons and allowing them to play various games, according to a press release.
MEGA Brands Recalls Magnetic Toys. March 17, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with MEGA Brands, has announced a voluntary recall of about 1.3 million MagnaMan Magnetic Toy Figures because small magnets can come loose and pose severe intestinal problems if swallowed or aspirated. The figurines retailed at Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Toys "R" Us, Target and other stores from January 2005 through December 2007. Also recalled due to the dangers of detached magnets — after a 3-year-old got a magnet stuck in his nasal cavity and an 18-month-old was found with a magnet in his mouth — were about 1.1 million Magtastic and Magnetix Jr. Preschool Magnetic Toys, sold at mass market and other toy stores from January 2005 through December 2007. Following these recalls, shares of MEGA Brands stock dropped 14 percent during trading at the Toronto Stock Exchange, according to Bloomberg.
Specialty Toy Store Closes. March 14, 2008 – The Learning Express store on Church St. in Burlington, Vt., has closed its doors after nine years in business. Neither the storeowner nor the company's home office provided reason for the closure, according to the Burlington Free Press.
LeapFrog Caterpillar Teaches More Than Alphabet. March 13, 2008 – According to a report on MSN Video, a grandfather in Florida claims that the Alphabet Pal Caterpillar by LeapFrog says a swear word when two of its 26 colorful legs are pressed in combination. See the corporate response LeapFrog shared with TDmonthly below:
"LeapFrog takes great care when designing and testing our toys to ensure that they are exposing children to appropriate content and educational opportunities. In the case of our award-winning Alphabet Pal Caterpillar, letter names and sounds, as well as colors and melodies are introduced in an age-appropriate way. We were disappointed to hear of the news story about a grandfather who blended letter sounds together to create inappropriate words. The Alphabet Pal Caterpillar is designed for children 12 months to 3 years. Children in this age range are still developing fine motor skills and do not have the dexterity of an older person to press buttons quickly (particularly buttons located far from each other, as demonstrated in the MSNBC story) and create these blended 'words.' In addition, children in the target age range for the Caterpillar are still learning letters and sounds, and are not yet to the point of learning how letters come together to create words. We stand behind the value of our educational products, and we believe that the Alphabet Pal Caterpillar offers a valuable learning experience for children."
Take-Two Board Takes Control. March 13, 2008 – Take-Two Interactive Software's Board of Directors has advised its shareholders not to respond to the acquisition offer presented by Electronic Arts Thursday. The Board will discuss the offer with its advisors and share its positioning with the stockholders within a period of 10 days, according to a press release.
Battat Recalls Magnetic Sets and Sundaes. March 13, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Battat Inc., has announced a voluntary recall of the following items: about 22,000 Play Wonder Toy Sundae Sets, sold at Target from December 2006 through 2007, because the wooden cherries can pose a choking hazard; and about 7,000 Battat Magnabild Magnetic Building Toys or Sets, sold from July 2005 through February 2008, because small magnets can fall out of the pieces and cause severe intestinal problems if more than one is swallowed or aspirated. The recall pertains to the 68- and 108-piece sets.
EA Takes Bid to Take-Two Shareholders. March 13, 2008 – Following Take-Two Interactive Software's rejection of a $2 billion proposed merger bid from Electronic Arts last month, EA bypassed the company's management Thursday, presenting its $26-a-share tender offer straight to shareholders, MarketWatch reported. Two of Take-Two's shareholders have already sold part of their ownership, while another is suing the company for failure to consider EA's offer.
S.U. Wholesale Recalls Airplanes. March 12, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with S.U. Wholesale Inc., has announced a voluntary recall of about 5,000 X Force Commander Toy Airplanes and Super Famous Cars and Motorcycles due to excessive levels of lead in the paints. The products were manufactured in China and retailed at Dollar Stores from September 2006 through November 2007.
Granza and Find It Games Featured on "The View." March 12, 2008 – In a "Best of Toy Fair" segment on "The View," host Whoopi Goldberg highlighted the U.S.-made Adoptable Kinders rag dolls at Granza Inc.'s Toy Fair booth. Find It Games was also featured on the show, where Goldberg declared the game her favorite Toy Fair find and audience members received the product as a door prize. The company has since seen a 100-percent increase in traffic to its website, according to HeraldNet.
Judgment Awards Action Products $5.66 M. March 11, 2008 – Action Products International received $5.66 million under judgment of a breach of contract lawsuit and other issues filed primarily against Chinese toymaker Lung Cheong International Holdings Ltd. in 2002, according to a press release. The cash and interest payment should offer net proceeds of about $3.23 million, which the company will use to support growth and new product releases.
BRATZ Rock the Movies. March 11, 2008 – MGA Entertainment's BRATZ dolls will hit select theatres on Saturday, April 19, for their first-ever animated udpuppysical. "BRATZ: Girls Really Rock" will introduce several new songs and a new character in a story that highlights the value of friendship amid a competitive atmosphere at summer camp, according to a press release.
Slings and Sweatshirts Recalled. March 11, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with the companies mentioned below, has announced a voluntary recall of the following items: Ellaroo Ring Sling Baby Carriers by Ellaroo LLC, sold in stores and online from June 2007 through February 2008, because the rings can break or bend, causing infants to fall out; and about 700 Micros Boys' Hooded Jackets imported by Urgent Gear Inc. and sold at Nordstrom from November through December 2007, because the hood's drawstring poses a strangulation hazard.
U.S. Tops List of Toy Importers. March 11, 2008 – Senior Show Manager of the upcoming Middle East Toy Fair, Ms. Monica Schulz-Bank, announced the top-10 importers of toys based on Export Bureau statistics from January 2004 to January 2008, in the following order: United States, with more than 32,000 importers in 500 toy categories; United Kingdom; Iran; India; China; Hong Kong; Canada; UAE; Australia; and Bulgaria, according to Al Bawaba.
Senate Passes Bill. March 7, 2008 – With a 79-13 vote Thursday, the U.S. Senate passed H.R. 4040, boosting resources for the Consumer Product Safety Commission and banning lead (more than trace amounts) in children's toys, the Associated Press reported. See more legislative action here.
Senate Considering Safety Bill. March 6, 2008 – A Senate vote on Wednesday banned industry-paid travel for U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission employees, according to the Washington Post. The latest Senate bill concerning product safety, S. 2663, is a CPSC reform bill that modifies portions of S. 2045 and H.R. 4040, both of which were introduced in the fall. It would raise CPSC funding to more than $88 million for 2009, require independent third-party testing of products for children, increase civil penalties, eventually ban children's products containing more than 100 parts per million of lead, and allow the creation of a public database for consumer reports related to risks associated with consumer products, as reported by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council.
MEGA Brands Considers Sale. March 6, 2008 – MEGA Brands announced Wednesday it is looking at the possibility of selling its Stationery and Activities business in order to focus on toys and reduce company debt, according to a press release. The company's stock responded to the news with a 10 percent increase, on the heels of an offer from brothers and former owners of Rose Art, Lawrence and Jeffrey Rosen, the Financial Post reported.
Sprig Toys Names European Distributor. March 5, 2008 – Sprig Toys announced that Corgi International will distribute its eco-friendly line of battery-free preschool toys in Europe beginning this year, according to a press release. The company recently launched play vehicles made of bio-composite Sprigwood™ that feature original audio adventures as they move.
Infantino Recalls Rattles. March 5, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Infantino LLC, has announced a voluntary recall of about 20,000 Infantino Lamb Grabby Rattles because the tail-piece can detach and pose a choking hazard. The rattles were sold at Wal-Mart, Toys "R" Us and specialty stores from September 2007 through February 2008.
Hooded Sweatshirts Recalled. March 5, 2008 – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Rebelette International Trading Corp., has announced a voluntary recall of about 4,800 Girls' Hooded Sweatshirts because a drawstring in the hood poses a strangulation hazard. The product was sold at Marshall's stores and specialty retailers from July through September 2007.
China Vows Safety. March 5, 2008 – In a two-hour speech given at China's Great Hall of the People Wednesday during the opening of the Chinese Parliament, the nation's Premier Wen Jiabao said that testing and safety requirements for the country's exports of food and other consumer goods will be in line with international standards, according to CBC News. China plans to create or reconfigure 7,700 safety standards while also strengthening penalties for companies that break the rules.
Simba-Dickie to Take Over Smoby. March 5, 2008 – German company Simba-Dickie will acquire French toy company Smoby, taking over five of its factories, as decided by a commercial court at Lons-le-Saunier. Read about Simba-Dickie's growth in "The Emergence of a German Toy Giant."
Mattel to Sell Notes. March 4, 2008 – Mattel Inc. has announced plans to sell $350 million in senior notes due March 15, 2013, and use the proceeds for general business matters. Banc of America Securities LLC and RBS Greenwich Capital are representing the underwriters involved in the agreement, according to a press release.
Wild Republic Snags "Mama Mirabelle" License. March 4, 2008 – Wild Republic has signed an agreement with National Geographic to produce licensed toys, including figurines, plush and puzzles, for the show "Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies" on PBS KIDS, according to a press release.
Webkinz Garners Web Award. March 4, 2008 — Ganz's popular virtual site Webkinz World received a 2008 Best of the Web award from WiredSafety.org in February for its success in entertaining children while guarding against the release of personal information that could potentially bring about dangerous situations. It was selected from a list of more than 400 nominated websites, according to a press release.
Japan Welcomes Robots. March 3, 2008 – From the design of expressive robots in universities to the use of robots to feed elderly people, Japan is progressively paving the way for more robots in daily life, backed by a government spending $10 million or more annually for related tech development, the Associated Press reported. More than 370,000 robots were employed at Japanese factories in 2005, and the Trade Ministry anticipates the number of industrial robots to reach 1 million by 2025 — a potentially huge impact considering that one robot can account for 10 human workers. See more on robotics here, and read about their presence at Toy Fair 2008.
Hasbro to Lay Off Cranium Employees. March 3, 2008 – Following its January purchase of Cranium for $69 million, Hasbro has announced that it will keep roughly a third of the Seattle-based company's 60 staff members, giving the other 40 severage packages and absorbing their duties in sales, finance and logistics into Hasbro offices in the Northeast, the Seattle Times reported.
Imperial Toy Gains One Stop. March 3, 2008 – Imperial Toy is acquiring licensed-toy manufacturer One Stop Toy Co., whose president, Evan Kaltman, will join the team at Imperial Toy, according to a press release.
Kids Build Own Droids, Thanks to Hasbro. March 3, 2008 — A new "Build a Droid" system will be coming from Hasbro, reported Toy News International. Each of 30 new basic Star Wars figures will come with a unique droid part with universal connectors so kids can create their own droid. "Wave 1" of the "Legacy Collection" should be available starting June 26, 2008, with eight figures. Once a collector amasses all eight figurine, he or she can then build R4-D6 and R7-Z0 droids.
Playmobil Keeps It Close to Home. March 3, 2008 — Popular specialty toy maker Playmobil announced its plans to move its injection molding to its factory in Dietenhofen, Germany. There are already 350 injection-molding machines in operation at the factory, and the company plans to "bring back" the work of 70 to 100 more machines that currently outsource the work. An additional 80 to 100 injection molders will continue to be outsourced, according to Toy News Online.
Maryland House Passes Lead Bill. February 29, 2008 – A bill banning the manufacture, import, distribution and sale of toys and other products for children is headed to the Maryland Senate for approval after passage in the House of Delegates today. If passed, the legislation will go into effect July 1, prompting the hire of monitors to check toys sold in the state, and punishing industry parties whose products contain more than 600 parts per million of lead, according to the Washington Post.
CPSC Targets Imports. February 28, 2008 – Chairman Nancy Nord of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission will announce the organization's new Import Surveillance sector and discuss its increased presence at U.S. ports during a press conference on Wednesday, March 5, in Long Beach, Calif., according to a press release.
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