ThreeSixty Group Acquires FAO Schwarz

ThreeSixty Group Inc. has acquired FAO Schwarz from Toys “R” Us Inc. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

The new ThreeSixty-designed FAO Schwarz toy collection will be inspired by the products and in-store experience at the former FAO Schwarz flagship store in New York City. Intended to evoke the creativity of childhood, the new FAO Schwarz collection and in-store experience will be available at select retailers until next fall. Until then, FAO Schwarz merchandise will be available online and at Toys “R” Us stores across the country.

“While we recognize there is nostalgia and history associated with this brand, the agreement allows us to focus on the aspects of our business which will fuel our long-term growth,” Toys “R” Us said in a statement. “We will continue to sell FAO-branded products in our stores and online through Spring 2017.”

ThreeSixty Group, headquartered in Southern California, is a cross-category designer, manufacturer, and distributor of consumer products to retailers in the U.S. representing more than 70,000 retail stores. Categories include toys, holiday gifts, games, home décor, athletic accessories, R/C vehicles and drones, and more, all marketed under a portfolio of owned and licensed brands, including Blue Hat Toy Co., Sharper Image, Black Series, Discovery Kids, Smithsonian, and Animal Planet.

“We are humbled to have an opportunity to build upon the iconic heritage of FAO Schwarz,” says Kirk McLean, co-founder of ThreeSixty Group. “For over 150 years, FAO has provided a magical experience for children and we hope to keep this tradition alive by crafting fine toys and transformative retail experiences for generations to come. We are investing heavily in this brand and believe there is a tremendous opportunity to build upon the heritage experience and nostalgia of FAO Schwarz.”

Skylanders Releases Creator App Before Game Launch

Activision Publishing and Skylanders Imaginators is dedicating the entire month of October to celebrate the launch of the new video game, the Skylanders Academy Netflix original series, and a new mobile app, Skylanders Creator.

The new free app lets users create Imaginators characters on the go, featuring the creation tools similar to those available in the console game. The free app will be available for select iOS and Android mobile devices. Or, players can transfer their created characters from the console game to the app using state-of-the-art audio technology.

For the first time, fans can use Skylanders Creator to immortalize their Skylanders Imaginators creations in physical forms including a 3-D Printed Imaginator Figure, where fans can receive a custom 3-D printed Skylanders Imaginators figure that is fully playable in the game; an Imaginator Card, where fans can receive a custom made trading card with their creation, also fully playable in Skylanders Imaginators; and an Imaginator T-Shirt: a full-color, customized T-shirt with an image of a creation.

Skylanders Creator will also feature Timed Imaginite Chests that give users new creation parts for their Imaginators at certain times during the day; daily Sensai Chests featuring special parts unique to that Skylander; and My Imaginator’s Creation gallery, giving players access of their creations and the ability to share them with other fans around the world.

Skylanders Imaginators launches in North America on Oct. 16.

JazWings Acquires Go! Go! Sports Girls

JazWings, the incubation and brand development arm of Jazwares LLC, acquired the Go! Go! Sports Girls brand. Go! Go! Sports Girls promotes self-appreciation and healthy life skills. The brand’s dolls, books, and apps support creative play and social-emotional growth.

"The entire Jazwares/JazWings team is creative, innovative, and thinks outside the box,” says Jodi Norgaard, creator and founder of the Go! Go! Sports Girls. "They believe in the importance of encouraging girls to be strong, smart, and adventurous and we are excited to see them take the brand to the next level and empower girls worldwide."

“We are very excited to have Go! Go! Sports Girls as one of our brands,” says Karen Kilpatrick, vice president of marketing for JazWings. “We love and believe in the mission of the product. Part of the JazWings purpose is to help nurture and develop brands to their full potential. We feel that Go! Go! Sports Girls is a brand that has limitless opportunities and is a great addition to the JazWings and Jazwares family.”

WIT Opens Nominations for 13th Annual Wonder Women Awards

Women in Toys, Licensing & Entertainment (WIT) announced that nominations are now open for the 13th Annual Wonder Women Awards. WIT also announced new nominations guidelines, criteria, voting process, timelines, and elimination of the entry fee to nominate.

The new Gala theme for this year will be WIT Changemakers: Playing it Forward, and will honor female executives who create a positive impact by giving back, passing on the lessons they’ve learned, and paving the way for future leaders. Award winners will be announced at the annual Gala on Sunday, Feb. 19 in New York City during the New York International Toy Fair. Tickets are now available for purchase here.

WIT eliminated the entry fee for nominations and established an earlier timeline for finalists to be announced before the Gala. WIT will open voting to all its members, as well as board members, advisory board members, and industry influencers.

The 2017 Wonder Women Award Categories include: Changemakers in Manufacturing; Changemakers in Marketing; Changemakers in Licensing; Changemakers in Entertainment; and Changemakers of Tomorrow (Rising Star).

Nominations must include an essay of up to 400 words describing the nominee’s achievements, up to five major accomplishments of the nominee in short bullet-list form, and optional supporting files and links to provide more background.

The new 2017 Wonder Women Awards nomination process timeline is as follows:

Oct. 3, 2016: Nominations Open
Nov. 1, 2016: Nominations Close
Nov. 21, 2016: Final Nominees Announced; Voting Begins
Dec. 19, 2016: Voting Closes
Feb. 1, 2017: Award Finalists Announced

Lego to Launch DC Super Hero Girls Building Sets Earlier Than Expected

Lego Systems unveiled its first six building sets inspired by the DC Super Hero Girls franchise. Featuring a roster of renowned female DC Super Heroes and Super Villains, the building sets allow kids to recreate the property’s action-packed, high school-based storyline.

To leverage the momentum of the franchise this holiday gifting season, the company is advancing availability of three of the six new building sets to hit shelves on Nov. 27, only in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, with the remaining three becoming available during the originally scheduled global launch in January. Additional mission-based building sets will launch globally next August.

Centering around some of the most renowned DC Super Heroes and Super-Villains as they learn to develop and harness their super powers at Super Hero High, the Lego DC Super Hero Girls collection features 11 DC Super Hero Girls characters in Lego form, including Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Supergirl, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Bumblebee, Flash, Eclipso, Lena Luther, Lashina, and Mad Harriet.

Lego DC Super Hero Girls Batgirl Batjet, Harley Quinn to the Rescue, and Super Hero High School building sets will be available beginning on Nov. 27 in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, and will launch globally in January. Three additional building sets make up the global January launch, including Lashina Tank, Bumblebee Helicopter, and Wonder Woman Dorm Room.

Mattel to Launch Gwen Stefani Kuu Kuu Harajuku Fashion Doll Line

Mattel and Gwen Stefani partnered to create a Kuu Kuu Harajuku fashion doll line that will launch in the spring. Gwen Stefani’s new animated series Kuu Kuu Harajuku premieres on Nickelodeon weeknights at 4 p.m. ET.

Shopkins Fan Finds First Golden Ticket in Moose Toys Contest

Eight-year-old Sophie from Portland, Ore. beat the one in 1.3 million odds and found the first of five Shopkins Golden Tickets hidden across the country as part of a Moose Toys contest promotion. Moose Toys is sending Sophie and a guardian to the home of Shopkins in Melbourne, Australia for a Shopkins experience.

Upon arrival, Sophie and her guest will be greeted by Shopkins characters and attend their own private Shopkins Party, where they will get to meet designers from the world of Shopville. In addition to the trip, Sophie will receive the Ultimate Shopkins backpack, including items that have never been released in the U.S.

The Shopkins Golden Ticket Hunt kicked off on Aug. 29 and will run until all five tickets have been found. The other four golden tickets are hidden inside a Shopkins Season 5 2-pack, 5-pack, or 12-pack across the U.S.

Toca Boca Launches Kids’ Video Service Toca TV

Toca Boca launched a video streaming service for kids, Toca TV, in more than 150 countries. This marks the company’s first move into kids’ video.

Toca TV is a reimagined video experience for kids ages 5 to 9. The interactive video platform includes original and curated videos from around the web, with more being added weekly. Every piece of content is handpicked and prescreened using a carefully designed scorecard to ensure it lives up to Toca Boca's standards and there is never third-party advertising, sponsored product placement, or pre-roll.

Toca TV offers also inspirational videos to encourage kids to explore and create for themselves. Kids can discover new videos by tapping through them in a stack or using the icons to search and browse by category. Toca TV also gives kids the opportunity to get behind (and in front of) the camera. Kids can use the recording tool and its animated filters and stickers to create their own videos.

Toca TV is now globally available for iPad and iPhone on the App Store.

ChiTAG Announces 2016 Toy & Game Innovation Award Nominees

The nominees for the Chicago Toy & Game Group’s (ChiTAG) ninth annual Toy & Game Innovation (TAGIE) Awards are now in. At this year’s awards ceremony, excellence will be recognized in the categories of Digital/Toy Game Design, Game Design, Toy Design, and Rising Star Inventor. Their industry colleagues have selected the nominees for these categories, and now the public is invited to place their votes before the annual award show takes place this November as part of the 14th Annual Chicago Toy & Game Fair.

In addition to the public votes, honorees from five closed categories, including Excellence in Character Design, Hassenfeld Family Humanitarian Award, In Memoriam, and Lifetime Achievement will also be awarded.

Voting for the 2016 TAGIE Awards is open until Nov. 1. Members of the media and public are invited to cast their votes for the best toy and game inventors here. Winners will be announced on Friday, Nov. 18 at the Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier.

Mattel Launches Monster High Lady Gaga Doll with Born This Way Foundation

Monster High and Born this Way Foundation today revealed Zomby Gaga, a doll inspired by Lady Gaga. The doll will be available for pre-order starting Oct. 17 at select retailers. Led by six-time Grammy and 2016 Golden Globe winner Lady Gaga and her mother Cynthia Germanotta, Born This Way Foundation was founded in 2012 to support the wellness of young people and empower them to create a kinder and braver world.

The doll was designed by Lady Gaga's sister Natali Germanotta and inspired by one of her iconic looks created by Zombie Boy in her "Born This Way" music video.

With a shared vision for a positive and bright future for young people, Born This Way Foundation and Monster High joined forces last October to inspire empowerment and acceptance. Zomby Gaga is the latest project of the partnership and newest Monster High character to be welcomed to the school. The doll launch coincides with a donation to Born This Way Foundation to continue to further this joint mission.

ICTI Care, BSR Partner to Advance Women’s Empowerment in Global Supply Chains

ICTI Care partnered with BSR to design and implement women’s empowerment strategies and support at toy factories.

The partnership forms a broader collaboration in which ICTI Care will work with other leading responsible sourcing programs, including the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI), Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC), The Floriculture Sustainability Initiative (FSI), The Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), and Sedex to make women’s empowerment central to the strategies, guidelines, and practices to provide a global framework for supply chain management.

As well as identifying opportunities to further strengthen ICTI CARE Certification to empower women, ICTI CARE will also work with BSR to design and implement women’s empowerment strategies and support at toy factories in India—in partnership with local toy industry associations—to foster deeper change in the country.

From preserving women’s health rights and protecting against harassment to ensuring equal pay and promoting professional advancement, learnings from our in-factory work in India will be applied across the wider ICTI CARE program as part of our work beyond audit to build capability and empower workers.

BSR is holding consultation workshops with gender experts and companies on gender code guidance in New York and The Hague toward the end of 2016.

Work to develop new and strengthened ICTI CARE criteria for women’s empowerment, as well as in-factory support and training to empower women in at Indian toy factories, will start in 2017.

ICTI CARE’s collaboration with BSR is part of a broader three-year project focusing on mobilizing private-sector action for women’s empowerment funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands (MINBUZA).

School Zone Celebrates Second Annual World Teachers’ Day Giveaway

School Zone Publishing launched the School Zone World Teachers’ Day Giveaway for early education instructors from Pre-K to first grade to kick off World Teachers’ Day on Oct. 5.

Five winners, who will be selected on Oct. 31, will receive a School Zone supply bundle for the classroom valued at nearly $200. The prize package will include School Zone’s Spelling Words Learning Set, Telling Time Learning Set, Counting Money Learning Set, Making Fractions Learning Set, Start to Read! Complete Early Reading Program 18-Book Set, Reading Flash Card 4-Pack, Math 1-2 Flash Card 4-Pack, and Math 3-4 Flash Card 4-Pack.

PlayFusion Launches Toys-to-Life Kickstarter Campaign

PlayFusion Ltd., an independent game, technology, and robotics company founded by the leadership formerly behind the MMORPG RuneScape, launched Lightseekers on Kickstarter. The game is a fusion of fantasy and reality, powered by PlayFusion’s proprietary technology platform that integrates video games, smart action figures with artificial intelligence, augmented reality, interactive trading cards, and more.

Lightseekers is an action and fantasy adventure role-playing game built for mobile and tablet (available on Mac/PC in 2017) that will be entirely free to download with no in-app purchases. Lightseekers is reinforced by an epic, ever-changing storyline that will be updated regularly, so there will always be new adventures, new lands, and new characters to experience.

This unique capability comes via the high-tech FusionCore, the powerful mini-computer embedded within and the “brains” behind PlayFusion’s smart connected toys. The FusionCore completely eliminates the need for cumbersome NFC portals allowing the game to seamlessly connect to 7-inch collector-quality, articulated smart action figures, which will be manufactured, distributed and marketed by master toy licensee Tomy. Players flip the “on” switch and instantly transport their hero into the game, enabling real-time, two-way interactions between the game and the figures, as well as between figures. Figures talk, vibrate, and use different colored lights to show levels, status, warn of impending danger, and help guide or even control gameplay.

KidKraft Acquires Solowave Design

KidKraft Inc. acquired Solowave Design Inc., a manufacturer of ready-to-assemble outdoor wooden play centers and playhouses under the Big Backyard and Cedar Summit brand names. Solowave’s Yardistry outdoor product line is not included in the transaction and will remain with the seller.

Robert Bartucci, current president of Solowave, will retain his current responsibilities and report directly to Lawrence Writer, KidKraft’s president and CFO.

Battat Launches Shop-in-Shop Concept at Target Locations

Maison Joseph Battat Ltd. kicked off a new store concept to bring its Our Generation line to 19 Target stores across the U.S. Participating Target locations include Acworth, Algonquin, Birmingham, Broadview, Champlin, Cordova, Huntsville South, Huntsville West, Lakeville, Miramar, Mount Laurel, Mundelein, Naperville, Ocean Township, Plainfield, Royal Palm Beach, Sanford, South Elgin, and Viera.

In conjunction with the kickoff, special activity workshops will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 8, Nov. 12, and Dec. 10.


NRF Forecasts Holiday Sales to Increase 3.6 Percent

The National Retail Federation (NRF) expects sales in November and December—excluding autos, gas, and restaurant sales—to increase 3.6 percent to $655.8 billion. This is significantly higher than the 10-year average of 2.5 percent and above the seven-year average of 3.4 percent since recovery began in 2009.

Additionally, NRF is forecasting non-store sales to increase between 7 to 10 percent to as much as $117 billion. Holiday sales in 2015 increased 3.0 percent over the previous year.

NRF’s holiday sales forecast is based on an economic model using several indicators, including consumer credit, disposable personal income, and previous monthly retail sales releases. The overall forecast includes the non-store category (direct-to-consumer, kiosks, and online sales).

School Zone Celebrates Second Annual World Teachers’ Day Giveaway | ToyBook Toy Report