May 2008 | Vol. VII - No. 5
Weekly Toy Newscast: 5-25-08
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Hi, I'm Julie Jones and this is TDmonthly.com's newscast for the week of May 25, 2008.
Any Indy fans out there? There were plenty who trekked to theatres over Memorial Day weekend to see "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," which raked in $311 million in sales globally, according to MarketWatch. Hasbro and LEGO each have a line of toys dedicated to Spielberg's Indiana Jones series, and some toy retailers even predicted that they're going to be big ... even in specialty.
If you're thinking of shopping at FAO Schwarz in New York City this week, you may want to watch your feet. New York's Daily News spotted mice three mice at the company's flagship store on Fifth Avenue over the weekend. But these weren't stuffed animals on a shelf; they were the real thing, no doubt dwarfed in the aisles by the oversized plush around them. The store manager denied an infestation but said an exterminator would be checking for mice this week.
Rebel violence in India has caused protests against weaponry, even among children. The Associated Press reported that in Northeast India last week, village children ages 12 and under marched around with signs and threw their own toy guns into a bonfire at a local high school playground.
Last week's recalls included a series of magnets commonly used in classrooms, after the surface paints on various bar, u-shaped and horseshoe-shaped models were found to contain high levels of lead. United Scientific recalled 2.35 million magnets, which had been distributed to schools since 1996, and American Scientific recalled another 87,000 that were on the market for almost a year and a half.
Look out for a bumpy ride, warned two economic experts who spoke with TDmonthly: Frank Clarke of consulting group Strategy XXI anticipates consumers will become more thrifty as the economy tightens, and Dr. Judith Briles, author of "Money Smarts," insists that inflation is only going up. Additionally, the Associated Press reported that the Consumer Confidence Index recently fell to 57.2, dropping more than 5 points since April. But President Craig Johnson of Customer Growth Partners said that toy pros shouldn't worry too much: parents are not quick to cut back spending on their kids. See the June issue of TDmonthly for more.
China produces 80 percent or more of the toys that make it onto U.S. shelves, but its toy exports had a rough first quarter, seeing only 3 percent growth compared to 23.6 percent in 2007. Higher production costs and the rise of the yuan against the dollar are to blame, the Associated Press reported. Saved by the strength of the Euro, however, China's toy exports to Europe increased by nearly 15 percent.
Japan may be known for its technology, but an education reform panel is taking steps to limit just how much time children spend with it. Concerned about excessive emailing and involvement in cyber crimes, the government is alerting schools and parents to monitor students' use of cell phones. They are also requesting that companies create models that include GPS tracking for safety considerations, but don't offer Internet access. The Associated Press reported that roughly a third of sixth-graders in Japan own cell phones; for ninth-graders, that number shoots up to 60 percent.
Thanks for joining us for this newscast. We'll see you next month, right here at TDmonthly.
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Hi, I’m Julie Jones and this is TDmonthly.com’s newscast for the week of May 18, 2008.
Hello Kitty, hello Japan! Sanrio's Hello Kitty has just been named Japan’s Goodwill Tourism Ambassador as part of its campaign to welcome 10 million foreign visitors annually — an effort the country started in 2003, according to the Associated Press. Hello Kitty shares the honor with a pop/rock duo, a Korean singer and a Japanese actress.
Hello Kitty was also named one of the top-10 most-wanted licensed goods by specialty retailers across the nation who spoke with TDmonthly last month. See her and other top-10 toys in the June issue at TDmonthly.com.
Nintendo has found a way to keep consumers fit right in their own homes. The gamemaker’s Wii Fit hit store shelves on Monday, combining interactive technology with a balance board and sessions on aerobics, strength training, balance and yoga. CNN reported that the $90 gaming system calculates body mass index and challenges users to correct their center of balance while exercising.
Nintendo’s already received criticism for the game, however. The UK’s Daily Mail reported that the Wii labeled a 10-year-old girl “fat” after measuring her body mass index. The report prompted an apology from Nintendo, and the company admitted that the results of the BMI measurements may not be wholly accurate for children.
Testing by Greenpeace also revealed that gaming systems aren’t all fun and games. Microsoft's Xbox 360, Nintendo's Wii and Sony's PlayStation 3 contain one or more hazardous chemicals, including beryllium, bromine, phthalates and PVC. The organization stressed that more eco-friendly consoles are possible, though, based on the way some of these manufacturers are already limiting the use of some hazardous substances.
FAO Schwarz, on the brink of disaster several years ago, has found a new outlet in Macy's department stores. The two signed an exclusive agreement under which the toy retailer will operate as many as 685 of its own shops inside Macy’s stores. The toy departments will range between 200 and 3,500 square feet in size.
Well, Wal-Mart couldn’t cut it in South Korea, but Toys “R” Us is riding a new wave of success there, with a theme-park-oriented store that offers customers interactive play experiences, according to BusinessWeek. The design changes instituted by the retailer’s local operator, Lotte Shopping, catapulted South Korea’s first Toys “R” Us store to a No. 2 sales ranking in the company’s franchise division since its opening in December.
“The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” fell short of opening weekend projections, bringing in $56.6 million at the domestic box office, according to the Hollywood Reporter. It did beat its predecessor's debut in select foreign countries, Variety reported, pulling in $20.7 million in 12 markets. To see how this year’s big toy movies are stacking up against their prequels and other similar films, read “’08 Films are a Match for Merch” in TDmonthly’s May issue.
Reuters reported that Mattel settled its lawsuit against Carter Bryant, creator of the Bratz dolls, on Monday under undisclosed terms. The company is, however, still pursuing a case of copyright infringement against MGA Entertainment, for which jury selection began this week.
In other Mattel news, the company is stepping up to support disaster relief in the aftermath of the earthquake that devastated China’s Sichuan province and the cyclone that hit Myanmar early this month. In addition to a donation of more than $125,000 to Save the Children and the American Red Cross, the Mattel Children’s Foundation will match employee donations to these relief efforts around the world.
Lead is again the culprit in another recall. The latest involves 6,000 Cowboy and Horse Little Rider Toys, available at discount stores from importer Master Toys & Novelties. In addition, Douglas has recalled about 74,000 Lil’ Snugglers Children’s Blankets, which have been sold in specialty stores since 2005, because the satin edging can detach, which could pose a strangulation hazard to small children.
Thanks for joining us for this newscast. We’ll see you next time, right here at TDmonthly.com.
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Hi, I’m Julie Jones and this is TDmonthly.com’s Newscast for the week of May 11, 2008.
Reports are still coming in from various toy manufacturers who, like Mattel, suffered millions of dollars in net losses during the first quarter of 2008. Electronic Arts, Genius Products, 4Kids Entertainment, LeapFrog and MEGA Brands are some of the companies on that list. Meanwhile others, including Hasbro and Jakks Pacific, managed to pull off profit even in this rocky economy.
A study released in April from Emory University indicates that children’s inclination toward certain kinds of toys may be largely determined by biology. According to a university press release, when male and female monkeys were given gender-specific toys for play, the females were drawn to both the plush animals and wheeled toys, while the males most liked the toys with moveable parts.
More than 400 East Coast students in grades 5 through 8 are expected to show off their toy design skills in a contest hosted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this Saturday, according to InformationWeek. The 2008 Sally Ride Science TOYChallenge will give teams that make it through preliminary rounds the chance to create prototypes of their toys and games to be judged at a national competition.
In the legal arena, Spin Master is battling sellers of counterfeit Bakugan Battle Brawlers. The company sent cease-and-desist notices to 15 locations in Canada, resulting in the removal of more than 2,000 counterfeits up for sale, and is cracking down on importers and distributors involved in pushing phony versions of the popular toy. Consumers are urged to look out for substitute names for the product and identical packaging that lacks the Spinmaster logo.
According to Bloomberg, Mattel stands to gain $360 million in damages, plus another $500 million in annual revenue if it wins a copyright infringement case against the designer of MGA Entertainment’s Bratz dolls. Mattel alleges that the creator, Carter Bryant, came up with the idea for Bratz and drew sketches of the dolls while under its employ between 1995 and 2000. Trial is set to begin May 27.
Suppliers to retail giant Wal-Mart must, by fall of this year, comply with stricter safety standards for children’s products, including tougher limits on lead, other heavy metals and harmful chemicals. According to the Wall Street Journal, suppliers are also urged to label items with traceability data, which would include the factory where each product is manufactured.
A recent TDmonthly survey of 30 specialty retailers found that 43 percent email customers each month, but only 23 percent send out press releases on a monthly basis. Need some tips on getting news out to your customers? Rick Segel recommends that you skip the sales pitch and focus on giving readers information. And to boost traffic, go ahead and post your newsletter on a blog. Get more tips and find out “How to Get the Time You Need” in the June issue at TDmonthly.com.
If you're looking for new marketing strategies, you might be interested to know which specialty toy store discovered a coupon book that brought in $11,000 in sales, or which retailer is upping its marketing budget to close to $20,000 this year. You can learn about retailers' most successful promotions and pick up some tips for your own store in "How to Be a Famous Store," also in June.
Thank you for joining us for this newscast. We’ll see you next time on TDmonthly.com.
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