aNb Media News, October 14, 2010

Fall Toy Preview Recap

aNb Media spent last week in Dallas attending the Fall Toy Preview. The Toy Industry Association (TIA) just released attendance numbers from this year’s show. TIA says that the show attracted close to 700 buyers, which is a nine percent increase over 2009. There were nearly 300 exhibitors, which is a five percent increase over 2009, and 3,000 members of the industry converged in Dallas for the show, according to the TIA.

While we certainly saw all of the major retailers present at the show, it is hard to believe these numbers about attendance being up. Using our very unscientific data, there were a lot less people in the cafeteria for lunch, less people in the hotel for breakfast, and less people walking the aisles than there were in years past.

However, the most important thing is the major retailers were in attendance. According to the manufacturers we spoke to, major retailers spent a considerable amount of time with small-to mid-size toy companies. Many manufacturers felt that not having the largest toy companies at the Preview offered an advantage to the rest of the exhibitors.

While we did cover a lot of ground, it is impossible to meet with every manufacturer. Some of the stand-out lines from those we did meet with came from Innovation First, Think Fun, The Bridge, Thinkway, Funrise, and MEGA Brands.

Most of what we saw was embargoed until 2011. We signed some non-disclosure agreements and saw many items that were hidden in “super secret rooms.” We also expect that a lot of manufacturers are holding back some of their key items to show in early 2011.

This week, we are in Los Angeles meeting with Spin Master, Jakks Pacific, and Mattel. Spin Master and Jakks both have solid product lines. We expect that there are some items yet to be revealed in early 2011 and we expect the same when visiting Mattel later this week.

It is too early to fully assess 2011—especially when we haven’t yet met with Hasbro, LEGO, or Crayola. However, the themes emerging thus far for 2011 remain low price points, classic play patterns, and tighter, more focused products lines. While there are fewer tech-driven products, there is innovation in simplicity.

We must point out that the best news of the Fall Toy Preview came from Funrise’s Kathy Hawk. Her son is scheduled to return from the war in Afghanistan in November. He suffered a near life-ending brain injury in the war, made a full recovery, and was then redeployed to Afghanistan. Hearing news like that puts things in perspective. Suddenly, complaining about my tired feet at a trade show seems a bit trite.

Big News About Little Meals in San Francisco

Rather than the gubernatorial race or the state’s shaky budget, the highest profile news out of California over the past week has been San Francisco’s push to ban the inclusion of toys with McDonald’s Happy Meals and other similar fast food kids’ meals unless the restaurants add fruit and vegetable portions to the meals while limiting calories.

Last week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance. The next step is for all 11 members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to vote on the ordinance. That vote is expected to take place within the next month.

One potential roadblock in the passing of the ordinance lies with the city’s mayor, Gavin Newsom. He has vowed to veto it if it passes the Board of Supervisors vote. To overturn that veto, the board would need an 8–3 vote in favor of the ordinance.

FAO Schwarz Unveils Brand Redesign

FAO Schwarz unveiled a brand redesign that will be translated throughout all its offerings, beginning a new chapter in the nearly 150-year-old retailer’s history. The new approach gives a fresh look to the brand, while preserving a sense of tradition. Through the years, the FAO Schwarz brand design has been transformed regularly, reflecting a mix of tradition and contemporary aesthetic.

Displaying a color palette of deep red and two shades of silver, the FAO Schwarz logo has been redesigned. Integral to the new design is the character, Wit. The new FAO Schwarz package design features the new logo, and many items are presented in giftable packaging that requires no additional wrapping and can be preserved for years as keepsakes.

In addition to offering perennial favorites, FAO Schwarz is expanding its line of branded products in time for the 2010 Christmas season. And, this holiday, FAO Schwarz is bringing back updated renditions of some of the most popular items from its archives, including The Big World Map, Band in a Drum, Sleepy Time Teddies, and Animal Ark.

Discovery and MerchSource Expand Animal Planet Pet Line

Discovery Communications announced that the Animal Planet pet product line, developed through a licensing deal with MerchSource, will be expanding this fall. The line will debut new products including collapsible pet houses and kennels, portable zip-up pet beds, and pet steps. Select items will be available at Macy’s, Kohl’s, JCPenney, Bed Bath & Beyond, and other regional accounts.

The additional products include the Animal Planet Collapsible Travel Kennel, the Animal Planet Collapsible Pet House, and the Animal Planet Portable Zip-Up Pet Beds. The Animal Planet pet product items have a suggested retail price range of $9.99–19.99 and will be merchandised on tables and towers supported with in-store signage. A portion of the proceeds from the Animal Planet pet products will benefit the principal partners of R.O.A.R. (Reach Out. Act. Respond.), Animal Planet’s national campaign that, together with leading animal organizations, takes action and acts as a voice for animals.

The deal with MerchSource was brokered on behalf of Discovery Communications by its North American licensing agent, The Joester Loria Group.

The Hub to Premiere Taylor Swift’s Journey to Fearless

The Hub, the new kids and families network, will televise the world premiere of Taylor Swift’s Journey to Fearless from Swift’s album of the same name. Produced by Hasbro Studios, the three-part series of specials showcases the making of the singer/songwriter’s tour with footage never seen before on television. The specials, which will be presented October 22, 23, and 24, will include extensive backstage footage of Swift’s tour as well as narrative.

The Hub, a joint venture between Discovery Communications and Hasbro, Inc., is available to 60 million U.S. cable and satellite households following its October 10 launch.

Club Med Partners with Raggs

Club Med Sandpiper Bay is bringing the Raggs canine characters from the public television series to life with a new partnership at the Florida resort. When the resort reopens on December 17, 2010, after an extensive renovation, the Raggs characters will be there to welcome children and interact with them throughout their vacation with fun and educational programs.

Raggs is a musical and educational preschool series starring five colorful canines. They are talented musicians who perform rock ’n’ roll music with more than 200 original songs, 195 television episodes, and 4,000 live concerts around the world.