New licensed product and US streaming options announced for 44 Cats

Forever Clever is the latest name to join an expanding licensing programme for the popular pre-school brand.

After already naming Bandai, Harper Collins, Franco, Sakar and Accessory Innovations among its confirmed licensees, 44 Cats – produced by the Rainbow Group – now expands its licensing programme with Forever Clever for games and novelty toys in the US and Canada. The Forever Clever product range will include action games, board games, card games and memory games along with novelty toys and play tents.

Forever Clever joins an expanding licensing programme. Launched at the end of March, HarperCollins released two new titles; 44 Cats: Meet the Cats and 44 Cats: Cats Rock! at Target, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million.

From 1st May 2020, the first season of 44 Cats became available on Netflix. The series, which debuted in November 2018, is enjoying popularity worldwide. In the US, 44 Cats premiered on Nickelodeon in June 2019. In March 2020, a second season of the show premiered in Italy and the show will land on free to air broadcasters worldwide later this year.

The 52 x 13’ series deals with edutainment themes such as tolerance, diversity and altruism, combining positive values, action and comedy in a sophisticated CGI production. The show, which appeals to pre-schoolers and children aged 4-7, follows the adventures of Lampo, Milady, Pilou and Meatball – four kittens who are part of a music band named The Buffycats.

The licensing programmes are managed by licensing agents The Joester Loria Group in the United States and Branding Streams in Canada.

Trade between the US and Hong Kong under threat

US Secretary of State declares that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from China.

As Beijing takes the controversial decision to impose a new security law on the territory, it has been revealed that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement: “No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground.”

The US Secretary of State has already informed Congress that he believes Hong Kong no longer merits special treatment under US law. This has potential major economic implications for Hong Kong’s status as a trade hub status and is likely to anger the Chinese authorities.

Mike Pompeo claimed that the new security law was “only the latest in a series of actions that fundamentally undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms. It is now clear that China is modelling Hong Kong after itself.”

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has denied that the law, which could be in force by end of June, will curtail the rights of Hong Kong residents, however the plan has been widely criticised internationally.

Until now the US has granted Hong Kong special status under US law. The provision dates from when the territory was a British colony and means it enjoys favourable trading terms. Since last year, this status has been conditional on the US secretary of state regularly certifying that Hong Kong maintains sufficient autonomy from mainland China. Failure to do so allows the US Congress to revoke Hong Kong’s special trade status, which would mean treating Hong Kong the same as mainland China for trade purposes.

Such a move would jeopardise billions of dollars’ worth of trade between Hong Kong and the US and act as a disincentive for future investment there, a move which would have major implications for the toy industry. Mainland China would also suffer repercussions, as many transactions with the rest of the world are carried out via Hong Kong, which is used as an international base by many mainland companies.

Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong has called on US, European and Asian leaders to reconsider Hong Kong’s special trade status under the new security law. He warned that once the law is implemented, Hong Kong will be assimilated into China’s authoritarian regime, creating “massive damage to expats and investors in Hong Kong” and said that maintaining the city’s autonomy was the only way to protect business.

 

Spielwarenmesse extends registration for new exhibitors

In light of current global challenges, Spielwarenmesse eG is extending the closing date for registrations.

The closing date for registrations has been extended until 31st July. The international trade fair is due to open its doors from 27th to 31st January 2021.

All exhibitors benefit from a wide range of services provided by the Spielwarenmesse. The marketing package helps companies to enhance their visitor marketing activities. The package includes, among others, a listing in the exhibition and online catalogue with a new flat rate for entries in the online product directory. A listing in the LicenseGuide allows companies to give trade visitors an insight into their licensed products. The package is rounded off with entries in the Exhibition Calendar and Invitation Vouchers for customers. Exhibitors can also use the LeadTracking App, which makes it easier to store and follow up contacts made at the fair.

The Spielwarenmesse gives exhibitors the chance to display their products in a second, high-profile location. The activity zones and special areas Tech2Play, Toys meet Books, Baby and Infant Articles and Showtime are all tailored to specific target groups. The PressPreview, taking place on the eve of the main event, is an excellent opportunity to exclusively introduce international media representatives to new products and innovations. These and other product presentations give companies at the Spielwarenmesse maximum exposure.

New exhibitors to the Spielwarenmesse can register here until 31st July 2020.

The Toy Museum of NY launches its own channel

Toy Museum TV will host video interviews with figures from across the toy industry. 

Established in 1999, The Toy Museum of NY has launched an educational web channel called Toy Museum TV.

The first programming is an Oral History Project: Inventors of Today’s Toys and Games, 2020. Ideal for anyone who ever wondered how toys and games were created, or how to make it in the business of child’s play, this free web series will let the world in on who is behind the newest toys and games of our generation with exclusive video interviews conducted at Toy Fair 2020.

The 50+ interviews share the personal stories of entrepreneurs, inventors, industry leaders, experts, new brands and start-ups, and offer insight into how to make it in the  global toy industry. Each interview in the series is hosted by Marlene Hochman, founder and president of The Toy Museum of NY and executive producer of Toy Museum TV.

Upcoming programmes will include Learning with Toys, Puppets, Collectors and Their Toys, Toys and Games of Today: Talk Show and Queen Marlene’s Toy Museum and Friends.

To find out more, click here.

Chicago Toy & Game Group to head up publication of the Bloom Report

Publisher Phil Bloom is set to retire after two decades of running the site.

The Chicago Toy & Game Group (CHITAG) has announced that it will acquire and assume ongoing publication of the US toy industry news website, the Bloom Report. The transition will occur on 30th May upon the retirement of Phil Bloom, who founded and published the report for more than 20 years alongside a long career with Toys ‘R Us.

“It has been a pleasure to provide this service to the toy industry and I have confidence that Mary Couzin and the CHITAG team will carry on my legacy and continue to provide this valuable service,” said Phil Bloom.

With a mailing list including toy and game industry leaders, inventors, designers, industry marketing professionals and more, CHITAG is said to be a natural choice to continue publication of such a widely regarded source of industry news.

“We are honoured to add the prestigious the Bloom Report to our family of newsletters serving industry, consumers, educators, media and inventors,” said Mary Couzin, founder of CHITAG. “Finding ways to inform and connect all members of the toy and game industry is at the heart of our mission. It thrills me to be able to serve our community by ensuring the ongoing publication of the Bloom Report.”

Phil Bloom was ahead of the times when he started his report, creating a regular news service for the toy industry, now read by over 8,500 subscribers in 29 countries. Recognising the importance of disseminating news and information about the toy industry “as it happens,” the Bloom Report delivers information to toy executives representing all categories of businesses in the toy industry and those related to it.

Maxi Toys reportedly facing bankruptcy

The European toy chain is seeking a buyer, as the threat of bankruptcy puts 1,200 jobs at risk. 

The toy store chain Maxi Toys has demanded protection from its creditors from the Mons court.

The chain has stated that the coronavirus crisis has put the company’s future in danger, and that it expects to lose 30m euros in turnover between 14th March and 11th May – a drop of 93%. Maxi Toys has more than 200 stores in Belgium, France, Switzerland and Luxembourg and 1,200 employees. The French arm of the company also plans to seek protection from its creditors.

The Portuguese investment fund Green Swan acquired all of Maxi Toys’ activities, shops and logistics operations for an undisclosed sum from its former owner Blokker Holding in January 2019. In February 2019, Maxi Toys also acquired 39 stores of the Belgian toy chain Bart Smit.

Alain Hellebaut, CEO Maxi Toys, commented: “The sale procedure and the frequent change of shareholding naturally put additional pressure on the operation of the company and the results for the 2019 financial year. Under Green Swan, Maxi Toys acquired the toy store chain Bart Smit (also a former part of the Blokker operation), a company that was already heavily loss-making. We have not been able to sufficiently adjust the business operations and processes in those few months, and that is why Bart Smit’s results for 2019 have further declined.”

Because sales and profits are falling, the company can no longer pay its bills. “We also note that, despite the support measures announced, it is extremely difficult to obtain the necessary working capital financing in the current climate,” Alain added.

Exclusive: Lifting the lockdown – Carmel Giblin on the current status of Chinese toy factories

Carmel is the CEO & president of the ICTI Ethical Toy Program. 

Carmel Giblin

While China slowly returns to something resembling normality, much of the rest of the world is still under lockdown conditions. We caught up with Carmel Giblin to find out what effect this is having on Chinese toy manufacturers, and what the non-profit organisation is doing to help.

We asked Carmel where Chinese factories are currently with regard to production backlogs. She explained, In general, factories have addressed all backlogs and production is up to date. We’re seeing a divide when it comes to the current status of factories, though. Around 30% are very busy with orders, these being the ones manufacturing particularly sought-after products.

However, these factories report labour shortages and challenges in recruitment, for two reasons. Firstly, ongoing travel restrictions linger in some areas, and secondly, some workers are nervous about returning to work. There’s a very real fear of future illness, or another wave of the virus coming through. Toy World readers may have seen from the general press that China is going to extreme lengths to make sure Covid-19 doesn’t return. The low number of cases reported is surprising and at odds with reported cases in other countries especially when you consider the number of people who live there and their proximity to one another. Workers who have returned tell us they are worried about getting ill. Factory management needs to understand and respond to their concerns and show that the factory is doing everything in its power to minimise the likelihood of infection.”

Carmel went on to speak about the long-term outlook for Chinese manufacturing and what the industry can do to help: “We’d encourage the whole toy industry to work with us, and with the factories in our programme, to avoid duplication of effort or additional cost,” Carmel expalined. ” At a time when the industry really needs clarity, effective communication, support and reduced financial outlay, collaborating on the common goals of protecting workers and supporting industry recovery would be a big help to all involved, including us. IETP is a relatively small not-for-profit organisation, and our main income is from factories. When factory numbers go down so does our income, but we need to ensure we can sustain ourselves for the benefit of the entire toy industry. We’re not asking for handouts, but the toy industry can certainly help us by asking their factories to join our programme – in turn, this helps the factories, the workers, their families, and the buyers themselves. From a labour standards perspective, this means we can continue to be the trusted voice of the global toy industry.”

To read the full interview with Carmel, which was published in the May issue of Toy World, click here.

Kind + Jugend announces optimised new hall plan

Kind + Jugend has remained successful as a trade fair for decades.

Applications are rolling in for the upcoming Kind + Jugend trade show, due to run from 17th – 20th September. Some 70% of the 1,200 companies expected to attend have already announced their participation, including many leading companies and brands.

To mark its 60th anniversary, Kind + Jugend has made some changes to the show’s floorplan; instead of the previous hall 4.1, the trade fair will take place in halls 3 and 2 on the Cologne fair grounds. The previously used hall 11.3 will also be incorporated into the new layout, offering exhibitors optimised guidance and more attractive presentation possibilities, and resulting in a show that takes place across a more streamlined two floors, rather than three. The response to the new hall planning has been predominantly positive, according to the organisers. The new hall allocation for 2020 aims to provide a better overview, clearer attribution, shorter routes and an optimised quality of stay.

The event programme for the trade fair is already taking shape. Invitations to participate in the Innovation Award have been sent, as have invites for the Kids Design Award. The first applications have already been received for both competitions, but applications for the Innovation Award can still be submitted until the end of June. Applications for the Kids Design Award should reach Koelnmesse by the beginning of June.

Koelnmesse is preparing for a successful Kind + Jugend, although it is of course keeping a close eye on global developments. Should the show be delayed or cancelled due to coronavirus, Koelnmesse will refund visitor tickets already purchased while exhibitors who don’t wish to take part on a revised date will also be reimbursed.

Toys Milano replaced by virtual platform for 2020

The trade show has been postponed until next year, but a virtual platform dedicated to the sector’s trade professionals is underway for 2020. 

Toys Milano, the B2B event for games and toys, stationery, carnival, decorations and party items, along with Bay-B, focused on the childcare sector, has been postponed to 26th-27th April 2021 due to the current public health crisis.

However, driven by the ideas and suggestions that have arisen during this crisis, Toys Milano has designed the innovative Toys Milano Plus; a custom-built digital platform to meet the needs of businesses and buyers. Active from May 25th to June 25th 2020, it paves the way for industry professionals to contact one another directly to broaden their contact base and build relationships. Companies participating in the initiative will have their own space in which they can “exhibit” products online, push specials, promotional messages and much more. As a result, more than 4,000 accredited domestic and international buyers will not miss out on crucial appointments, will be able to view participating companies’ product lines in detail and contact them directly.

Paolo Taverna, director of the Salone Internazionale del Giocattolo, commented: “The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to postpone Toys Milano until 2021. But that has not stopped us from moving forward. Instead, we decided to launch Toys Milano Plus because it is precisely when the going gets tough that industry stakeholders must stand alongside their own clients, by leveraging the Assogiocattoli association’s reach. We are convinced that the strength of a trade show lies chiefly in the contacts made, the exchange of ideas and the interactions that lead to closing deals. Our decision to postpone the event until next year was made because of the inability to organise an event that could deliver these kinds of winning outcomes under the current conditions caused by the Covid-19 crisis. At the same time, this difficult situation has spurred us to take action and not give up on our mission.”

Paramont Global signs exclusive manufacturing and distribution licence with Seedling

The Seedling range comprises lifestyle activity kits which promote creativity and role-play, as well as pocket money offerings. 

Paramont Global has signed an exclusive manufacturing and distribution agreement with Seedling,the lifestyle activity kit and pocket money brand from New Zealand. Originally manufactured in New Zealand and distributed worldwide, Seedling is known for its cooperation with Soleil Moon Frie’s Moonfrie, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop and Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company.

Distribution for New Zealand and Australia will remain with Seedling, while Distribution in the US will be assured by Weveel, a fully owned subsidiary of Paramont. Distribution for the rest of the world will be coordinated by Paramont Global office in Hong Kong.

Paramont Global is a manufacturing and sourcing company from Ningbo with offices in Europe, Hong Kong and US. Paramont Global works as OEM manufacturers for retailers in US, UK and Australia.

Jed Yan, Paramont Global general manager, commented: “We are very excited by the opportunity to relaunch this well recognised brand on the international market. We will of course keep the iconic style of the brand, refocus on craft kits and pocket money and of course develop further products in due time. Our priority right now is to have products ready for delivery in Q3.”

Sonya Brooks, Seedling managing director, added: “Seedling is an iconic New Zealand Brand. We are delighted to partner with Paramount Global and expand the opportunities this agreement offers. This will enable us to have wider international distribution. Our New Zealand office will focus on design and brand development.”

Thierry Bourret, international sales and marketing senior vice president, toys and stationery, Paramont Global and Weveel, said: “Very happy to be working again with this fantastic range that I distributed in UK previously. Please get in touch if this range is of interest in your country.”

For further information, please contact Thierry +852 972 976 46 or email thierry.bourret@paramontglobal.com.