Zuru to Release New Rainbocorns Toys, Licensed Merch

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Zuru is expanding the Rainbocorns brand of collectible plush with the third series of its Sequin Surprise line, Wild Heart Surprise, second series of Sparkle Heart Surprise Series and the debut of Itzy Glitzy Surprise,

All the new offerings will arrive at brick-and-mortar and online retailers this month. The first retail chain to receive the shipments will be Target. Additional Rainbocorns licensed merchandise will also hit retail this summer.

"In the two years since its launch, Rainbocorns has firmly cemented itself as one of our crowned jewels, winning over retailers and fans alike and featured heavily in NPD Top 50 Toy Lists,” says Aneisha Vieira, global brand director, Zuru. “Our first three exciting new launches of 2020 promise to deliver the unboxing excitement and fun play kids have come to love and we have much more in store for launch later in the year.”

Rainbocorns Wild Surprise includes seven new characters. It offers eggs featuring ten layers of surprises, including Long Tailed Boo-boocorns, nail decals, Wild Rainbcorn Poop and more. Kids can collect the super-rare and super-sparkly Slothcorn, the Wild Surprise Peacockcorn (exclusive to Target) and the long-necked Giraffecorn (exclusive to Walmart). Designed for ages three and up, Zuru Rainbocorns Wild Heart Surprise is priced at $24.99.

Rainbocorns Itzy Glitzy Surprise provides two dozen Itzy Glitzy collectible Rainbocorn characters with new surprises to unbox. Wings and gem hearts can be removed from the Itzy Glitzy little Rainbocorn eggs and swapped into a surprise ring. Designed for ages three and up, Rainbocorns Itzy Glitzy Surprise is available in two-packs and four-packs, and priced from $5.99-$9.99.

Rainbocorns Sparkle Heart Surprise Series 2 introduces all-new Rainbocorn plushies to the sparkle heart squad. There are six series 2 characters to collect, each with a peel to reveal heart surprise. These are meant for ages three and up and will retail for $9.99. The product launches in fall 2020.

A series of licensing deals developed by Brand Fresh Management will also bring Rainbocorn-themed apparel, sleepwear, stationery, accessories and more to retail this spring.

The new products add on to the recent Rainbocorns licensing deals that Zuru inked in the EMEA earlier this year.

‘The Magic School Bus’ To Go Live-Action

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Scholastic Entertainment is joining forces with Brownstone Productions, Marc Platt Productions and Universal Pictures to develop a feature-length, live-action hybrid film that will bring Scholastic’s “The Magic School Bus” to the big screen for the first time in the 26-year history of the brand.

Elizabeth Banks is set to portray the film’s lead, Ms. Frizzle. Banks will also serve as a producer on the film along with Max Handelman as part of Brownstone Productions. Iole Lucchese, president and chief strategy officer, Scholastic Entertainment and Caitlin Friedman, senior vice president and general manager, Scholastic Entertainment, and Marc Platt and Adam Siegel for Marc Platt Productions will also serve as producers on the film. Alison Small will serve as executive producer for Brownstone Productions, as well.

The upcoming “The Magic School Bus” film is based on the best-selling Scholastic book series by author Joanna Cole and illustrator Bruce Degen. To date the series has seen more than 80 million books in print worldwide.

The books were first adapted into an animated TV series, featuring Lily Tomlin in the starring role as Ms. Frizzle, on PBS in 1994. The show aired for 18 consecutive years in the U.S. and has been broadcast in more than 100 countries around the world, making it the longest-running kids science series in history.

An animated sequel to the original series, “The Magic School Bus Rides Again,” featuring Kate McKinnon as Ms. Frizzle’s sister, Fiona, debuted on Netflix in 2017. 

“We are delighted to bring to life the iconic Ms. Frizzle and her zest for knowledge and adventure in a fresh new way that inspires the next generation of kids to explore science and supports the dedicated teachers who help make science real and accessible for young learners every day,” says Lucchese. “We’re also extremely excited to be working with such top-tier partners as Elizabeth Banks, Marc Platt Productions, Brownstone Productions, Universal Pictures and all of the amazing talent assembled for this noteworthy feature film.”  

 

Kongregate Reveals ‘TMNT: Mutant Madness’ Game

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Kongregate has revealed “TMNT: Mutant Madness,” a mobile free-to-play game based on Nickelodeon’s animated series, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

Developed by Kongregate’s Chicago-based studio, Synapse, “TMNT: Mutant Madness” lets players explore the world of the Turtles. Players will be able to build their own squad of heroes to battle against villain, and fight a new menace on the streets and sewers of New York City. 

We’re excited to reveal ‘TMNT: Mutant Madness’ especially to longtime fans,” says Tony Perkins, “TMNT: Mutant Madness” game lead, Kongregate. “Our team has been hard at work bringing these classic characters to life, knowing our players will appreciate the level of detail and heart we’re bringing to the game. From the Turtles’ sewer lair to fighting the Foot Clan in the streets of NYC to Krang in his Technodrome, this game was made by fans for fans.”

Players can hop into the player-versus-player action this September, when the title launches worldwide on iOS and Android devices.

Since its debut, the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” has found a wealth of oppurtunities via licensing. Late last year, the brand was leveraged by Band of Boys for a line of children’s apparel.

Difuzed on the Untapped Potential for Apparel, Esports and Retail

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Dan Amos, head, esports, Difuzed, talks to License Global about the pending rise of apparel and accessories geared toward the huge growth market of esports, and what that means for retail. 

License Global: Where is the real potential for gaming and esports at retail? 

Amos: Gaming is a big driver for pop culture, so you know it is entering movies, television, music and all kinds of categories -- even celebrities have a reference to gaming IP now. So, gaming is a big part of pop culture and there is this intersection between fashion and gaming, which Difuzed has always been fantastic in capturing. Now you've got this intersection between gaming, fashion and sportswear, and that's where esports is coming from. The same people that are playing Rainbow Six Siege' are the same people that are competing in ‘Rainbow Six Siege’, and both of those people buy clothing, and with esports it tends to be kind of on the sports end of the spectrum. 

So, I think you're seeing sportswear brands venturing into the world of esports, and that means that sports retailers are becoming gaming targets. You know, it's certainly changing the dynamic of where gaming IP is going to show up in the past, it's always been gaming retailers, that's been where you find this product, and I think that's not the case anymore. It's now becoming so much more widespread, and then it's exciting for a licensee because it just gives you a huge pool of potential to play with. 

How has the rise in gaming, rise in demand for apparel and ecommerce explosion created a real moment for gaming and esports at retail? 

The games industry has been bolstered during this period, I think that's very clear. The games industry was bigger than the music and movie industry combined, that's a very well-known stat. I think that those numbers have skyrocketed even more. The ESL, the biggest [esports] league organization, run an event called the Intel Extreme Masters. That's an event that runs various games and this year, obviously, they had to stream it. They stream it anyway, but they had to stream it solely. Rather than engagement being down, the viewing figures were 68 percent up. So, I think when it comes to retail and how lockdown has affected everything, gaming has been bolstered, gaming is doing better than ever. I'm sure the game sales are probably better than ever retailers.  

Obviously, retail has been challenged. However, for us, we've seen it as an opportunity because we’re always preaching about gaming and talking about esports, and now we have this opportunity to show that with data. That's been great to see retailers come to us and say, 'tell me more about it, because I want to learn about this.' We've seen lots of retailers recognize the potential of gaming and esports and want to be a part of it. In 2021, you'll see some of our projects that we've been working on even prior to lockdown, that will be coming to market in the world of esports and gaming. Some of the project’s retailers are surprising, retailers you wouldn't necessarily think would be fully into gaming.

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What’s behind the appeal of gaming and it’s natural connection with consumers? 

When you look at gaming, engagement is always insane. When you start to really dig into the detail you understand why the budgets for these games are so big, because they draw so much engagement, far more engagement than any TV or film could ever dream of getting. Because if you have a game campaign, it's designed to be played for 30 hours. That's a huge amount of time spent playing video games, and then add on to that the replay value.  

But engagement has always been high, the point I want to make is that even during this period of quarantine which is a super tough for everyone. The, the engagement level of things like esports and gaming has just skyrocketed. I think it's turned us into people that will watch competitive gaming. Currently, 12 percent of adults in the U.S. have watched competitive gaming and that’s a huge number. So, I think that's only going to get broader and broader. I don't think it's specific to one demographic but certainly, obviously, the millennial audience has adopted it. 

How is gaming and esports more accessible than ever before? 

People have asked me 'It's very specific to PC though isn’t it?’ Not at all. PC is obviously a huge part of it. Games like ‘Starcraft’ and ‘DoTA,' they are the big guns in this space, and ‘League of Legends’ is a monster within the world of esports. And yeah, that's very much a PC domain but console is just as important to the world of esports. The ‘Call of Duty’ World League is played on PlayStation, but now even mobile devices are included. So, ‘Clash of Clans’, ‘Clash Royale’ has esports leagues. I love the fact that it democratizes play, everyone can pick up any kind of device and potentially be an esports star. I think that's what's so appealing is the aspiration of esports, and that certainly ticks the boxes for consumer products, because you always want to look for a brand that has an affinity and something that has aspiration. 

Retail Insights from Licensing Week Virtual

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Licensing Week Virtual 2020 brought together some of the industry's biggest names to deliver keynotes and panel conversations to thousands of visitors. In the raft of expert speakers, retail, ecommerce and consumer behavior was a key talking point, and License Global has put together some of the best insights to build a bigger picture of retail. 

Family Dollar, the discount and dollar store, has over 8,000 locations in the U.S. and has seen direct trend upticks in certain product areas in family goods. 

"We know over the last few months, things like toys, bikes and above-ground pools have really worked well within the industry. Consumable goods have worked well," explains Andrew Tucker, vice president, general merchandise, seasonal business, Family Dollar, during the day two keynote panel. "But also, we know, Mom is trying to make a living very comfortable for her family for her children at home. There are other things in terms of educational items that have worked well. So, books, writing instruments, those are some strong segments that we've seen across the industry as well." 

FMCG is a core growth market within lockdown retail, and brand giant Kraft Heinz is no stranger to retail relationships and consumer engagement. 

"Everything starts with the consumer, understand their ever-shifting habits. How has this pandemic changed the consumer behavior, what's here to stay, how much will revert? Everything happens with the consumer," says Chris Urban, vice president, global strategic capabilities, The Kraft Heinz Company during the opening day keynote. "Yes, this time is unprecedented, but the consumer always remains in control. Understanding their thoughts, feelings and desires is your way to reaching your consumer. Make sure you understand the evolving world of retail, all our behaviors have changed drastically in the last three months. So, the shift in brick and mortar. That continues to evolve in the licensing space. How can that work for your brand? Understand the consumer, understand the trends and see where your brand can sit well." 

With total ecommerce spending forecasted to reach $879 billion in 2020 (eMarketer) and forecasted economic declines across the world, today's shoppers are heading online and increase time-spent researching purchases. Ecommerce's role in the future of retail has been supercharged by the COVID-19 pandemic and is changing the entire retail landscape with every passing week. 

"Ecommerce is one of the most important aspects of this business," says Michael Carlisle, founder and principal, The Wildflower Group, at a session on e-commerce. "It's how you can build an engaged following and build dialog." 

Covering licensing across Brands & Lifestyle, Character & Entertainment, Art, Design & Emerging Categories as well as access to Licensing University with Licensing International, Licensing Week Virtual covered a myriad of topics. It reflected the immediate changes underway in today's retail and consumer landscape. 

To gain the full insight into the licensing, retail, consumer product and brand landscape of 2020 from Licensing Week Virtual, download License Global's in-depth event trend report

How Retail is Building a Bridge Between Home and Highstreet

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Changing Mindsets in Today's Consumer Market 

From Gen Z to Baby Boomers, the desire to return to stores quickly after lockdown may be rising, but 14 percent of U.K. shoppers and ten percent of U.S. consumers surveyed by GlobalWebIndex showed interest in returning to stores immediately after lockdown, with the predominant percentage opting not to return “for some time.”  

Naturally, main concerns for shoppers include safety, cleanliness and the mandatory use of facemasks in-store, but a frugal mindset – fueled by pending recessions and a global economy forecasted to shrink by three percent in 2020 – is a now a new challenge facing retail.  

Increasing numbers of consumers across the globe will spend more time browsing and researching items online before committing to a purchase (GlobalWebIndex). Global retail is seeing significant increases in careful shopping post-lockdown – from North America (20 percent), Europe (19 percent) APAC (28 percent), LATAM (36 percent) and MEA (33 percent) – which is, in turn, driving a new purchase journey.  

The largest regions facing an increase in ecommerce shopping are APAC (45 percent), LATAM (36 percent) and MEA (33 percent), while overall, the globe is facing a 46 percent rise in ecommerce with huge growth in the click-and-collect market across the globe. Data also suggests a 126 percent rise in online shopping in the Nordics – surpassing both the U.K. and U.S. – while ROW figures have settled at a 156 percent ecommerce growth rate (Fresh Relevance). 

So, with the reliance on digital in mind, how are retailers easing the transition between home shopping and in-store experiences in terms of FMCG and non-essential consumer products. 

Retailers are Innovating to Ease the Transition from Lockdown 

The rise of click-and-collect, curbside pickup and more on-demand services have bolstered online shopping for grocery and general merchandise brands across the world. The merger of digital shopping and fast-paced delivery is nothing new, but is now rising exponentially, increasing store engagement and acting as a bridge between buyer and brand.  

“In the first quarter alone, we did close to $3 billion of online sales,” said Brian Cornell, president, chief executive officer, Target during an NRF Retail Leadership Webinar, "but the vast majority of that was someone ordering online and picking up in one of our stores, or driving to a Target store and we put it in your trunk, or a ship shopper did the shopping for you in our store and drove a mile to your home. So, we're much more focused on driving greater efficiency and rewarding our guests with the immediacy of same day, because that’s the trend we're seeing more and more, certainly during the pandemic.” 

For non-essential goods, certain trends have defied forecasts and driven innovation by necessity as well.  

For example, fashion, apparel and footwear sales rose online in the U.K. by 25.2 percent (Econsultancy). With this demand in mind, brands like Inditex – who have pledged $3 billion to increase its online and digital in-store offering as well as creating by-appointment shopping with Zara – are repositioning to blur the lines between online and retail. Online brands are now a focus of great excitement. Boohoo Group’s sales grew by 47 percent in the three months leading to May. Shopify’s revenue jumped 47 percent in May 2020 as more consumers looked to buy more fashion online. Shares in Zalando, Europe’s largest online-only fashion retailer jumped 11 percent as revenue growth was forecasted to reach 20 percent.  

The way consumers shop is building a new business landscape for retailers and the actions of retailers, and brands are more than happy to innovate in to engage consumers. But, with online shopping now imbedded in our consumer culture across all demographics and a predominant percentage of people surveyed by GlobalWebIndex stating they will not be returning to stores immediately after lockdown, the retail community is now facing an increasing number of challenges to innovate against and overcome globally. 

The Challenges Ahead: The U.K. Case Study 

Retailers in the U.K. opened their doors on June 15 and simultaneously presented a wealth of different solutions to keep shoppers’ demand for health and safety front-of-mind.  

Strict capacity and social distancing measures are in-place, while an avoidance on larger shops and preference for smaller, local stores were predicted. However, what the U.K. saw was a 45 percent increase in footfall in the week starting June 15 in comparison to the previous week, but a 53 percent decrease in footfall for the same period last year (Guardian).  

After retail sales rose 12 percent in May (Office of National Statistics), the average consumer household spend is still down 27.5 percent due to reticence to shop publicly and the pending end to government furlough and paycheck schemes (Barclaycard). 

Nielsen notes that the longer consumers stay in lockdown, the higher pressure is put on bricks-and-mortar retailers to reinvent the wheel and provide a direct solution to core consumer demands, namely convenience, cost and safety. As an added pressure for retailers, the return to non-essential shopping – as seen on June 15 in the U.K. – will mark not only the return of consumers, but increased overheads, rental costs and more. Placing even more pressure on the retail reinvention, highlighting how traditional retail is running out of energy and how brands must innovate to engage online customers through speed, convenience and beyond. 

Rob Corney on a New Landscape for Licensing in Retail

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As the U.K. emerges from lockdown, blinking in the bright lights of the new world, many are reflecting on the resilience of the market and its potential to recover. 

The emergence of COVID-19 as a threat was something which spread across the world like the mounting shadows of a summer’s evening. The encroaching challenge could be seen approaching and yet the onset of darkness hit everyone hard as the rapid chill closed markets with incredible speed. 

Understandable concern flooded every link in the licensing stakeholder chain. The U.K. lockdown from March 23rd was rigid, reflecting the significant viral spread across a territory which prides itself as one of the world’s major travel hubs. Non-essential retail closed overnight and those retailers which remained open shrank space for non-essentials to cope with the surge in demand across groceries and home products.  

Yet the apocalyptic conditions which seemed to face licensing at the beginning of lockdown gave way to a more positive overall picture. The market is undoubtedly mauled from the effects and retailers with no online offering are only now looking at re-opening on June 15. Forecasting became a game of penny toss and launch plans were wiped from the slate leading to chaos for budgeting across the spectrum. But those retailers with an online offering have continued to see good sales of licensed ranges throughout the disruption and licensees are beginning to report very significant levels of ordering as retailers are once again able to start thinking of the future. 

Quite what the future will hold is subject to wild speculation. The country is beginning to look a little more normal and the U.K. government financial aid packages for businesses have given a much-needed boost to help survival and growth for many. Some are predicting a V-shaped bounce as was seen in some countries in Asia after SARS and MERS, though neither of those viruses caused the complete pause across the entire system which coronavirus has brought. Some are predicting the effects could be felt for years to come with wide-scale job losses holding back economic recovery.  

In reality, a mixed picture is likely.  

The British spirit is not easily cowed and, whilst de Vieuzac intended to sleight the nation when he described us as a ‘nation of shopkeepers,’ he missed the vital fact that we are, at heart, a nation of shoppers.  

Having put the credit cards on ice for ten weeks and with the government furlough scheme picking up the salaries of millions of employees throughout, there is a nation of people who are desperate to get back to normal and to revisit old spending habits, if only to make sure their kids’ PJs have sleeves which once again pay a salubrious homage to their wrists.  

Undoubtedly there will be more caution. People will shop with concern for both corporeal and pecuniary health. But the recovery will come and those classic brands which give adults a sense of comfort, or kids’ brands which expand their horizons for play and fun will once again be the staple for shopping baskets everywhere. 

The bright lights may cause us to blink for a little while to come, but the new world will rapidly chase away the evening shadows. The resilience of the licensing community will help us all to grow anew. 

Steven Ekstract Talks Licensing Week Virtual on ‘Making It in the Toy Industry’

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Steven Ekstract, brand director, Global Licensing Group made an appearance on episode 23 of “Making It In The Toy Industry,” a podcast by The Toy Coach focused on giving toy inventors the edge they need to break into the industry and building upon initial successes.

Ekstract focused on the importance of licensing in the toy industry and how it could benefit those willing to take the risk. Some insights offered by Ekstract in the podcast included:

  • Making efforts to legally protect your ideas, but don’t let the fear of having a concept stolen by a company hold you back from making deals.
  • At events, you should take advantage of the educational opportunities and sign up for the paid courses.
  • A licensing agent may cost you 30-40 percent of your profit but they are well worth their fee.

To hear Ekstracts many insights in the full episode, listen to the podcast in full.

Airheads, Big Easy Blends Serve Up Snowcones Deal

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Big Easy Blends is launching Airhead-flavored snowcones, individual frozen slush pouches made with real cane sugar, this summer.

The Airheads Snowcones will be available in six count boxes in cherry, blue raspberry, watermelon and white mystery flavors. Product will be available in the freezer section of retailers such as Kroger, Jewel, Price Chopper, ACME, Safeway East, Food City and Smart & Final.

"Big Easy Blends is proud to partner with Airheads on this unique new product line,” says Antonio LaMartina, co-founder and sales head, Big Easy Blends. “Airheads Snowcones bring the flavors consumers love into a delicious frozen treat!”

Dr. Martens, Pleasures Kick Out 1460 Boot

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The fifth collaboration of Dr. Martens The 1460 Remastered series will be with the LA-based, punk-inspired label Pleasures.

As a part of the series, Dr. Martens has tasked creatives from their history of collaborations with re-imagining the 1460 boot in celebration of their 60th Anniversary. Inspired by the contrasting energies of the Punk Rock and New Wave genres, Pleasures founder Alex James designed the 1460 in two contrasting materials – Dr. Martens classic smooth leather and polished patent.

The Dr. Martens x Pleasures 1460 boot comes in a limited number of pairs and will be available on June 27.

For Dr. Martens, the deal adds to an extensive collaboration line that also includes partnerships with the Sex Pistols and Sanrio.