Peg Perego rolls into South America
Italian toyco Peg Perego, a manufacturer of high-end children’s furniture, strollers and battery-powered ride-on vehicles, has purchased Brazil-based stroller manufacturer Burigotto in a deal worth US$7.5 million. From a strategic point of view, the acquisition will allow Peg Perego access to the South American market without having to contend with Brazil’s high import tariffs, says president Gianluca Perego.
Given Brazil’s population of 150 million, Perego is confident the country will become an important market for his company, despite the economic and political uncertainty the region faces. Though the Burigotto brand will continue to exist, the company will begin producing Peg Perego products later this year. To accommodate the increase in production, Peg Perego plans to invest US$9.3 million to upgrade Burigotto’s manufacturing facilities. Peg Perago, which also maintains offices in the U.S. and Canada, posted sales of US$154 million last year.
Crouching Tiger kicks into action
Brooklyn-based Art Asylum, whose past toy credits include a chainsaw-wielding action figure replica of rapper Eminem’s alter ego Slim Shady, has taken the high road via a new toy deal with Sony for Oscar-winning martial arts pic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Initially, Asylum will create four seven-inch figures modeled after the main characters from the film. All of the fully-articulated figures come with accessories and will be available with (US$14.99) or without (US$9.99) a base. Film director Ang Lee is rumored to be working on a prequel to Crouching Tiger that focuses on the early years of the film’s stern warrior Li Mu Bai.
Inkmonster inks with Hot Topic
San Francisco-based licensing and brand development company Inkmonster has signed a distribution deal for its Lil She Creatures brand with Hot Topic, a U.S.-based retailer of licensed apparel for teens.
As per the one-year deal, beginning in October, Hot Topic will have exclusive U.S. rights to sell Lil She Creatures youth and adult apparel, journals, notebooks, stickers and undergarments. The products, which range in price from US$2 to US$30, will likely be marketed under a Hot Topic private label brand and will be available through the chain’s 350 U.S. locations and on-line at www.hottopic.com.
Aimed at teen girls 13 to 20, Lil She Creatures are gothic characters that resemble butterflies, angels and she-devils. ‘They’re very stylish and cool-in a decadent, 1920s sort of way,’ says Inkmonster co-founder René Cigler, who previously worked in the licensing departments at American Greetings and Hasbro.
Inkmonster is also close to finalizing licensing deals with manufacturers in Japan, Australia and the U.K. Cigler says the company hopes to broaden distribution for the Lil She Creatures property to other teen apparel retailers and catalogs once its deal with Hot Topic expires. To help market the brand to teen girls, Inkmonster is also developing a Flash-animated webtoon based on Lil She Creatures, which will launch on a dedicated website in October.
Warner Bros. drops the curtain on Studio Stores
After failing to find a buyer for its retail operations, Warner Bros. has reportedly confirmed plans to shut down all 85 of its remaining Studio Stores. The closures, which will translate into 3,800 job losses, were partly accelerated by cost-cutting measures that resulted from Time-Warner’s merger with AOL earlier in the year.
However, the future of the stores was in serious doubt well before that. With consumer appetite for licensed character merch steadily waning since the late `90s, sales were hurting at the WB Studio Stores, which sold plush figures and apparel based on Bugs Bunny, Harry Potter and other WB character properties. The company’s decision to shut down its flagship store in New York last October fueled further speculation about the chain’s future.
Warner Bros. is not the only theme store chain to suffer from the changing winds in the retail marketplace. After changing its merchandise mix and introducing a new store layout last year, Disney recently announced plans to shave its U.S. store count from 494 to 400 stores over the next four years.
WB is expected to complete the closure of its stores by this October. Thirty of the chain’s international locations-all of which are franchisees-are expected to continue operating.