June 2008 | Vol. VII - No. 6
Weekly Toy Newscast: 6-15-08
June 15, 2008 – Which cartoon characters are due for a makeover? And how is Mattel's case against MGA Entertainment shaping up? Find out in TDmonthly's Weekly Toy Newscast, where you can also get the scoop on our all-new Specialty Toys Report, and study up for those ever-important holiday orders.
Hi, I'm Julie Jones and this is TDmonthly.com’s Newscast for the week of June 15, 2008.
Moviegoers and moviemakers took in some “green” this weekend when "The Incredible Hulk,” from Marvel and Universal Studios, raked in $54.5 million at the domestic box office and $31 million overseas. Variety reported that more than 80 percent of the weekend viewers polled had previously seen Ang Lee’s “Hulk” movie, which garnered higher opening weekend box office numbers when it debuted in 2003, but tanked in weeks following.
Mickey Mouse may be joining other classic characters for a little makeover magic. The Straits Times reported that Disney is considering minor changes to its famous mouse, but his compatriots are undergoing more drastic "surgery." American Greetings' cute and pudgy Strawberry Shortcake is getting a sleek, new sexy look with a long pinkish 'do and "daintier" freckles. Hasbro’s slated to fashion a line of toys around her updated look. Even the Care Bears are slimming down, while 4Kids Entertainment is bulking up the Ninja Turtles' muscles in video games next year.
A recent Associated Press article magnifies the gravity behind the sometimes indiscernible differences between real guns and toy versions. A man was fatally shot by a police officer in an El Paso, Texas, parking lot last week after pulling out a toy gun that looked like the real thing. This is not the first time someone has been shot and killed for carrying a toy firearm, and 15 states are instituting measures to minimize confusion between real and fake guns. The situation has been complicated, however, by toy guns that are missing the required orange tips, or authentic firearms that appear to be toys because they’ve been painted pink or other bright colors.
The copyright infringement case Mattel filed against MGA Entertainment continues to heat up in southern California. According to the Associated Press, Bratz Creator Carter Bryant, who has earned $30 million in royalties since MGA Entertainment launched the Bratz dolls in 2001, testified Thursday that he had shopped the idea for the trendy characters to other companies through an artists agency while working for Mattel. Reuters also reported that Bryant deleted files from his computer just a couple of days before submitting it as evidence in the case. Bryant testified, however, that he doesn’t remember using Evidence Eliminator at that time, and that he originally purchased the program to delete pop-up ads and online search histories.
Retailers, we're very excited to announce that later this summer, TDmonthly will release its first book, "What You Don't Know About Selling Toys," which will feature the 2008/2009 Edition of TDmonthly’s Specialty Toys Report. Keep an eye on TDmonthly.com so you can pre-order your copy. “What You Don’t Know about Selling Toys” will offer tips on everything from starting your store and training staff to determining what kids really want and successfully taking your business online. The report also highlights the best specialty toys of 2008 and what's coming in '09, with photos, quotes from retailers and safety profiles in one easy-to-use publication.
Have you ever had moments where you said, "Oh I should've ordered THAT toy?" Well, 66 specialty retailers told TDmonthly about products they were once hesitant to bring into their stores but that actually turned out to bring in the bucks. From those ugly Uglydolls to pricey Robeez shoes and — don't miss this — even toys that are sold in mass market, check out "Why That Awful Toy Deserves a Second Look" in TDmonthly's July Issue.
And really quickly here, an exclusive TDmonthly list on which products those same retailers anticipate will be big for the holiday season. Some toys and companies to keep in mind as you're ordering? Plan Toys, Playmobil, Only Hearts Club, HABA, Corolle, Hansa, Rio Grande, Mayfair Games,Playroom Entertainment, EzyRoller, Hape's Quadrilla, Webkinz by Ganz, Manhattan Toy's web-based Groovy Girls, LEGO, BeePosh, eeBoo, Melissa & Doug, Learning Resources, Schylling, Calico Critters, Japanese erasers, Smithsonian science kits and the new Doko Disks from NSI International.
Thanks for joining us this week. We'll see you next week here at TDmonthly.com. Be sure to take a look at TDmonthly's Toy Videos in the center section on our homepage to see quick product demonstrations, and then scroll on down toward the bottom of the page to find some of the latest toys, games, baby products and more in our Notable and New Toys articles.
See you next time.
Hi, I’m Julie Jones and this is TDmonthly.com’s Weekly Toy Newscast for the week of June 8, 2008.
U.S. toy sales may’ve fallen last year, but that doesn’t mean there were fewer shoppers in the toy aisles. The NPD Group reported that although sales declined by $.6 billion in 2007 compared to 2006, 2 percent more U.S. households bought toys last year. The average amount dedicated to toy purchases per buying household fell $10 in ‘07.
At least one blogger has commented on Wal-Mart’s success at grabbing the attention of tax-rebate check recipients, slashing prices and offering no-interest plans as early as January. Wal-Mart’s same-store sales increased nearly 4.5 percent in May, much to the chagrin of Target, which saw sales fall 0.7% at stores open one year or more. Specialty retailers: Those economic stimulus checks are still coming, and will be distributed into July … so think about what you can do to gain a few extra customers (and dollars) in these critical months!
Everyone's favorite ghost is getting ready for his 60th anniversary in 2009! Yes, Casper the Friendly Ghost is about to have a big birthday, but instead of retiring with a gold watch, he's getting a a new television series next year. A big rollout of new Casper-licensed apparel, games, music and more involves Genius Products, Mello Smello, Local Celebrity and several other companies.
Mattel is jumping into a new apparel line through an agreement with Spanish fashion company Mango. The Barbie by MNG Jeans line, featuring Barbie T-shirts with designs reminiscent of the 50s, 70s and 80s, and targeting 18- to 40-year-old women, is slated to debut worldwide this July.
Mattel has also stepped up its BarbieGirls.com website, offering a VIP version for members who pay $5.99 per month. These subscribers are able to access a bigger virtual world that features extra games and new experiences in the BarbieGirls realm.
Congress may battle the use of phthalates and bisphenol A in products designed for children, as a House Energy and Commerce Committee meets this week to discuss the matter. The chemicals, which many manufacturers are already phasing out of their products, are respectively used to soften and strengthen plastics but are suspected of contributing to hormonal and developmental problems. Democrats in the Senate have presented a bill that would ban the presence of bisphenol A in children’s products.
It was a ban on phthalates in children’s products that partially contributed to the European Union’s poor report on Chinese Toys in 2007. The EU reported nearly 400 cases of substandard toys from China last year, more than double the amount of reports in 2006. However, some exports had arrived in the EU prior to the implementation of the ban.
Want to get your hands on some dough? A recent post on TDmonthly’s Forums announced that Play Clay Factory, which manufactures soft, scented modeling dough in a variety of kits and colors, is now up for sale. Interested parties can email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have something to post on our forums — a press release, job opening, or staffing announcement — go ahead and click on the blue forums link at the top of the TDmonthly homepage. It's really easy to register; all that's required is a username, email address and password, and then you're all set to post any questions or industry news.
If you’re a specialty toy retailer, chances are you don’t have much free time to check out new products, or better yet, test them out yourselves. So before you decide what to add to your shelves, check out TDmonthly’s Toy Reviews to discover what kids, parents and experts think about select toys and games. June’s reviews spotlight a plush monkey who’s an expert in potty training, a pack of activity cards for preschoolers that really do reinforce developmental skills, and much more.
Thanks for joining us for this newscast. We'll see you next week, right here at TDmonthly.com. Be sure to take a look at TDmonthly's Toy Videos right in the center section on our homepage, and then scroll on down toward the bottom of the page to find exciting new toys, gifts and games in our Notable and New Toys articles.
Hi, I'm Julie Jones and this is TDmonthly.com's Newscast for the week of June 1, 2008.
Sticky Mosaics from the Orb Factory are selling at a rate of five or six kits per day at Toys Inc. toy store in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Is your store stocked with surefire sellers in this threatening economy? Counter rising shipping costs and expensive overhead with smart ordering. You can start by checking out TDmonthly’s top-10 most-wanted lists — for construction toys, licensed goods and activity kits and playsets — in the June issue at TDmonthly.com.
An 8-year-old Indiana girl underwent emergency surgery last month for multiple intestinal ruptures after swallowing 10 magnets and 20 steel balls that were part of a Magnetix set by MEGA Brands. Her parents now want the toy pulled from store shelves and plan to meet with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, according to the Chicago Tribune. The set is reportedly a redesigned version of the Magnetix kits that were recalled in the last two years.
Two key players in the toy industry — Stevanne Auerbach, also known as Dr. Toy, and Frank Martin of Frank Martin Toys — recently withdrew their memberships to the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association because the organization failed to adopt a code of ethics created to deter copyright infringement. The Toy Industry Association adopted a Member Code of Conduct last year.
Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear became a real space ranger when he blasted off on the Space Shuttle Discovery, Saturday, May 31. He'll remain at the International Space Station for six months as part of the Space Ranger Education Series developed by Disney and NASA, and as part of NASA’s Toys in Space initiative. CollectSpace.com reported that classrooms can play related online educational games and conduct a scientific experiment as well as listening to reports from space.
The Topps Company is joining the online gang of toys with the launch of its ToppsTown.com virtual world, accessible via code cards in the 2008 Topps Series #2 baseball card packs. The site allows collectors to design their own avatars, collect and trade virtual cards, play sports games and personalize their clubhouses.
Keep an eye out for a cute little robot name Wall-E on toy shelves. The title character of Disney-Pixar’s animated film set to debut later this month is the subject of hundreds of themed toys for little boys, including a remote-controlled robot, according to the New York Times.
Mattel is pushing the Fisher-Price brand to newly middle-class parents in China, Russia, Poland and Brazil, according to the Baltimore Sun. The expansion presents challenges, such as properly recording foreign languages and avoiding cultural offenses, but sales of Fisher-Price in such markets have increased more than 100 percent over the past five years, so the headaches seem to be profitable.
Thanks for joining us for this newscast. We'll see you next week, right here at TDmonthly.com, and in the meantime, feel free to check out TDmonthly's toy videos and much more on our homepage.
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 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 five 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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