Big Idea Productions–Phil Vischer, CEO
The Christian vidco’s other direct-to-video property, 3-2-1 Penguins!, found its flock this year, moving more than a half a million units and holding down two of the top-five spots on the CBA’s kidvid charts for the first three quarters of the year.
Electronics Boutique–Jeff Griffiths, president and CEO
The West Chester, Pennsylvania-based retailer, which specializes in PC and console games, is ideally positioned to capitalize on high consumer interest in titles for new Microsoft and Nintendo consoles. Picking up a 70% stake in Italian games retailer K.EB Italy S.r.l. has also helped to strengthen its worldwide reach.
FAO Schwarz–David Niggli, COO and director of merchandising
Despite rumors that its European parentco Vendex is planning to offload the 140-year-old retailer, 2001 was a busy year for FAO. In addition to expanding its roster of private label products, the chain also launched its first baby products store FAO Baby.
Learning Express–Sharon DiMinico, CEO
As specialty toy retailers dropped like flies this year, LE continued to strengthen its presence in the U.S. Though a slumping toy industry clipped its sales by 5% compared to last year, the privately owned, Ayer, Massachusetts-based company opened eight new stores in 2001, extending the Learning Express brand to 35 States.
Mattel–Bob Eckert, chairman and CEO
Mattel’s decision to scale back its licensing agreement with Disney late last year, and its willingness to edit down its toy line for the upcoming Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone movie, has won over Wall Street. The stock is up 36% over last year.
The Right Start–Jerry Welch, CEO
With the help of investmentco Waterton Management, the Calabasas, California-based company’s purchase of bankrupt chain Zany Brainy last August immediately made it a major player in the specialty toy sector.
The Singing Machine–Edward Steele, chairman and CEO
Coming off a great 2000, which saw revenues increase by 80%, The Singing Machine is poised to dominate the karaoke category again with this year’s launch of an MTV-branded karaoke machine line.
Wal-Mart–Andy Barron, VP and department merchandise manager of toys
Wal-Mart’s M.O.–to offer the hottest toys at or below cost–has allowed it to continue to eat up market share in the toy retailing category. Consider this: Today, every fifth toy consumer’s purchase in the U.S. is bought at a Wal-Mart. Innovative in-store promotions, like its exclusive Roar-for-More event with Universal Studios for Jurassic Park III, have also helped to cement the chain’s rep as the world’s preeminent destination for toy shoppers.