Toys to amuse and protect animals

Hasbro goes younger, furrier...
March 1, 2001

Hasbro goes younger, furrier

There’s evidence to suggest that the scourge of the toy industry, age compression, may be worsening: At least one toyco is looking beyond kids to another-albeit non-Homo sapien-customer group to help pick up the sales slack.

With the help of pet retailer PetsMart, Hasbro has developed its first set of toys specifically for cats and dogs. The Paws `N More line, which hit shelves exclusively at PetsMart last month, includes 20 items-all modified versions of classic Hasbro toys-designed to aid in the development of kittens and puppies.

Hasbro decided to mark its territory in the lucrative US$500-million to US$700-million pet toy business to service the needs of pet parents-owners, that is, who treat their dogs and cats with the same care as they would a child. According to PetsMart’s market research, the pet parent phenomenon is increasing: Currently, 68% of pet owners cook special meals for their pets, and another 79% allow their pets to sleep with them. (You know who you are.)

‘Pet parents want high-quality toys that are fun, and that’s our expertise,’ says Audrey DeSimone, a spokesperson for Hasbro. Paws `N More products, which include Puppy’s First Key Teether and the Nip `N Tug Kitty Koosh (a mouse-shaped Koosh ball that holds catnip) will be moving to mass retail outlets in June, retailing for between US$4 and US$20. DeSimone wouldn’t say whether Hasbro plans todevelop a Paws `N More robotic dog for dogs. Stay tuned.

Stars trade on their animal magnetism

The bad: Several animal species are on the verge of extinction. The good: Celebrities willing to align themselves with worthy causes are not. In recognition of both these realities, Stars in the Wild, a Wilsonville, Oregon-based enviro-positive product development company, has combined the interests of both groups within a line of plush toy animals.

Each item in Stars in the Wild’s premiere collection resembles an animal belonging to an endangered species and comes with a hangtag featuring the pics of some of today’s biggest teen and pop stars, who have personally endorsed its survival. SITW will donate 50% of profits from the sale price (US$39.99 to US$49.99) of the toys to pro-animal and environmental organizations, or to a charity of the celebrities’ choice.

Stars (both teen and non-teen) lending their names to the cause include: *NSYNC (for the White Bengal Tiger); Christina Aguilera (Polar Bear); Melissa Joan Hart (African Elephant) and Cindy Crawford (Baby Harp Seal). New stars joining the SITW’s roster include Lucy Liu (Panda Bear) and Elton John (Lion). Each SITW plush item features a recording of the animal’s voice and its habitat (which can be triggered pressing a sensor hidden in the toy) and eyes that light up.

The brainchild of Portland-based eighth grader Erica Summers, the plush line is projected to raise US$500,000 by the end of the year, according to Jeff Summers, Erica’s father and CEO of the company.

Mervyn’s welcomes Scooby and the Girls

This month, apparel and housewares chain Mervyn’s California will introduce Cartoon Network feature shops throughout its stores. Each Cartoon Network area will occupy a wing wall and will house a range of licensed teen and tween apparel items for the Powerpuff Girls, Scooby Doo, Dexter’s Laboratory and other Cartoon Net character properties. This is the first time the kids cabler has secured a dedicated area for its licensed character merch in Mervyn’s, which operates 270 mostly mall-based stores in 14 U.S. states.

Cartoon Network will support the launch of the shops with a local cable affiliate promotion, which allow consumers to take their cable TV bills to Mervyn’s stores and receive a 15% discount on licensed Cartoon Net merchandise. Cable affiliates will tag the promo through TV spots, on their cable bills, websites and newsletters. Additionally, Mervyn’s will distribute free Cartoon Network DC comics to consumers with the purchase of Cartoon Net apparel.

Spin Master tames Monsters

Toronto-based Spin Master Toys has lassoed the specialty toy license to Disney/Pixar’s upcoming CGI pic Monsters Inc., which is about an imaginary world of monsters who draw their strength from spooking kids at night, after their parents have tucked them into bed. Spin Master will create novelty toys such as puzzles, banks, plush, keychains, PVC figures, nightlights and slap wraps (bracelets), based on the monster characters that appear in the movie. Spin Master’s entire line (US$4.99 to US$29.99) will be available at specialty retailers, with select items available at mass, starting in October, a month before Monsters’ early November U.S. theatrical debut. Spin Master joins master toy licensee Hasbro.

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