Shelf talk

Irwin picks up Wrebbit
November 1, 2001

Irwin picks up Wrebbit

Canada’s Irwin Toy has bought Montreal-based puzzle and games company Wrebbit, creator of the popular three-dimensional puzzle line Puzz 3-D. Though privately owned Irwin did not reveal how much it paid for the Montreal-based company, Irwin believes the acquisition will help bolster its own games and puzzle biz. ‘Wrebbit’s product line contains a lot of stable selling items, and with the innovation they bring to the puzzle category, we think we will have a real winner on our hands for a long time,’ says Irwin CEO Jean-René Halde.

In particular, Halde is banking on Perfalock–Wrebbit’s new puzzle line that comes with pieces that won’t fall apart after you stick them together–being a breakout hit this year. In return, Irwin will provide Wrebbit with the distribution muscle it needs to boost its sales at mass market retailers in the U.S. and abroad.

In the late ’90s, Wrebbit hit it big with its Puzz 3-D line, and in its best year, 1997, posted sales of US$63 million. Though more recently Wrebbit has handled its own distribution, from 1996 to early 2001, Hasbro was producing and distributing its products at mass in the U.S. Under Irwin, Halde says Wrebbit, which is projected to generate revenues of US$10 million this year, will function as a separate division, with its production and creative team continuing to operate out of Montreal.

Intel exits toy biz

Citing slumping revenues, Santa Clara, California-based chipmaker Intel has decided to get out of the toy business. Intel recently announced it was shutting down its connected products division, which, in addition to toys, was responsible for creating consumer electronics like MP3 players, digital cameras and video players. Though Intel had initially formed the division to develop products that would run on PCs containing its microprocessors, the division ultimately failed to show the expected return, says Intel spokesperson Bill Calder.

In all, Intel released four PC-enhanced toys, including the Intel Play QX3 Computer Microscope, which won the Japanese Industry Design Promotion Organization’s Gold Prize for design. According to Calder, Intel will continue to sell off its existing toy inventory, but has no plans to develop new toys.

Manley gets wet n’ wild

Manley Toy Quest is hoping to bring the fun of the water park to consumers’ backyards by inking a licensing agreement with Six Flags Theme Park to develop a line of water toys. Manley will create 10 SKUs, including slides, sprinklers and pools, based on amusements at Six Flags’ water parks. Manley will roll out the toys, which will retail for between US$9.99 and US$30, with a national TV ad campaign next spring.

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