Category Archives: Miscellaneous Toy News

Billionaire Brainstorm—or Boondoggle? MGA’s Issac Larian Enters Formal Offer to Purchase U.S. and Canadian Toys ‘R’ Us Stores and Remake Them Into a “Mini Disneyland in Every Neighborhood”

Billionaire Hopes to Preserve “Toys ‘R’ Us Experience” for His Grandson’s Generation

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Isaac Larian— MGA Entertainment mogel and owner of the “Bratz” line of dolls (Photo: Mediatly)

In a bizarre twist to the ongoing Toys ‘R’ Us bankruptcy saga, billionaire Isaac Larian of MGA Entertainment has offered to purchase over 280 of the 735 Toys ‘R’ Us locations currently facing imminent and permanent closure for a whopping $887 million. Why, you might ask, would ANYONE want to spend all that money on what appears to be a dying “brick-n-mortar” business model showing NO hope of surviving in today’s digital “get it now” Amazonian shopping age? For the latest on this unexpected and constantly evolving story, we refer you to a story posted yesterday over on the CNN website (HERE) which reveals the following surprising intel:

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“Isaac Larian said Friday that he’s entered a formal offer of $675 million to buy many of the Toys “R” Us stores in the United States, along with an additional $215 million for Toys “R” Us stores in Canada. Larian is looking to buy more than 200 of the remaining 735 locations in the US, and almost all of more than 80 locations in Canada, a spokesperson said. Larian, who runs MGA Entertainment, will use his own money for the bid, along with financing from banks and additional investors, according to a press release. ‘The liquidation of Toys ‘R’ Us is going to have a long-term effect on the toy business. The industry will truly suffer,’ he said in a statement. ‘The prospect of bringing the Toys ‘R’ Us experience to a new generation, my new grandson’s generation, is enough to motivate me to Save Toys ‘R’ Us.’ Toys “R” Us declined to comment.”

Can you imagine being ready, willing and ABLE to spend $887 million dollars—of your own money—to prevent some 280 Toys ‘R Us stores from closing? Is Larian truly serious? It appears so. The CNN article goes on to reveal that the billionaire’s long-term strategy for saving 280 failing stores goes far beyond providing a heartfelt or nostalgic shopping “experience” for his grandson’s generation. Here’s what his plans REALLY are:

Larian’s vision for Toys ‘R Us includes turning its stores into entertainment hotspots. ‘We will make Toys ‘R Us an experience in and of itself; a fun and engaging place where families can spend an entire day,” he said in his statement on Friday. ‘Imagine a mini-Disneyland in each neighborhood.”

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Been There, Done That— Larian’s concept of converting old Toys ‘R’ Us stores into “Mini-Disneylands” has already been tried—and failed. This one, the chain’s flagship store in New York City’s bustling Times Square district, was big enough to fit a ferris wheel inside! Guess what? Yup. It’s closed now. If this mega-store concept didn’t work in Times Square, with all of its never-ending foot traffic, how could it succeed elsewhere? How much do you think they’d have to mark-up TRU toys to pay for all of this? Perhaps Larian should give his ambitious plan a teeny bit more thought. (Photo: tripadvisor) Click to enlarge.

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Can You See Them NOW?— Before closing, the TRU flagship store in NYC also had the added benefit of a giant, wraparound video marquee. Can you imagine something like this surrounding Larian’s proposed 280 “mini-Disneylands” in the U.S. and Canada? Would such a monumental investment in time, material, and CASH really be worth it? Or is the lure and ease of “one-click” and “add to cart” online shopping simply too powerful for “brick-n-mortar” retailers to overcome? (Photo: tripadvisor) Click to enlarge.

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Welcome to Barbie Town— You’ve heard of the famous (also now gone) “Barbie Aisle,” right? Well, how about an entire Barbie TOWN? This amazing retail display was also in the NYC TRU store before it closed. Imagine a similar structure built by Hasbro called the “GIjOE PX” or something like that, full of Joes, Jeeps, equipment sets and more. Hey, we can dream, can’t we? (Photo: tripadvisor) Click to enlarge.

Bottom Line: This is all so FASCINATING. And hopeful. And exciting! But will ANY of it actually come to pass? Will Larian’s offer be accepted? Will he really spend even MORE of his own money to convert a bunch of aging Toys ‘R’ Us stores into 280 “mini-Disneylands?” It’s been tried in major cities already, and sadly, it’s failed. To be honest then, its doubtful much will come of this new development. But don’t lose hope, dear readers. We’ll keep you updated as this ever-changing, high-stakes, and “quixotic” tale of money, family, and TOYS continues to unfold. Stay tuned!

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Hobbico Pre-Auction Stunner—Cross-Town Competitor Horizon Hobby Declares It Will Purchase Major Assets of Struggling RC Co.

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Meet the New BMOC in RC—Horizon Hobby. (Photo: Cameron Suhadolnik)

If Successful, “Purchase Would Close on April 6”

In a quick follow-up to our previous post about the fall of Hobbico, one of its main RC industry competitors, cross-town rival, Horizon Hobby, has made a substantial offer that may pave the road to Hobbico’s final financial destination. According to Ben Zigterman of the News-Gazette:

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Ben Zigterman, reporter for the News-Gazette (Photo: Ben Zigterman)

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“CHAMPAIGN — Hobby-product distributor Hobbico has found a buyer for its remote-control business: cross-town competitor Horizon Hobby. Horizon Hobby has agreed to buy several units of Hobbico for a combined $18.8 million…‘We believe this transaction, if completed, will further strengthen Horizon’s position as the market-leader in the RC industry,’ Horizon Hobby President and CEO Joe Ambrose said in a statement. ‘Horizon and Hobbico have served many of the same retailers and customers for years. Upon completion of this transaction, Horizon will work to provide a smooth transition within the industry.’ If completed, Horizon will be buying Hobbico’s Great Planes and Tower Hobbies divisions, as well as brands including Axial and Arrma. Hobbico had been asking for at least $22 million for these companies. The purchase won’t include Estes, United Model, Revell US or Revell Germany.

Additionally, ‘Horizon will not be assuming any of Hobbico’s debts or other liabilities in this transaction,’ Ambrose said. Following the auction, where Horizon would be the stalking-horse bidder, the purchase would close April 6. With a stalking-horse bid, the potential purchasers essentially set the floor bid of the auction in exchange for certain protections. If Horizon isn’t the successful bidder, it will receive a break-up fee of 3% of its base bid, or $540,000.”

Bottom Line: Once all of the auctioneering and legal “smoke” has finally cleared, it appears certain that Horizon Hobby will emerge the only so-called “winner” in this calamitous scenario. Hobbico was asking for $22 million, but $18.8 million comes pretty close. After the sale closes on April 6th, Horizon assumes the mantle of BMOC (Big Man on Campus) among all remaining companies in the RC hobby’s industrial complex. A big shout-out of THANKS to Ben Zigterman for his excellent reportage on this story. And we’d also like to wish everyone at Hobbico and Horizon all the best and sincerely hope that Hobbico is the LAST major (toy-related) company “domino” to fall.

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The Future of Toymaking?—Hasbro’s New “HasLab” Crowdsourcing Initiative Attempts to Raise Funds For Production of Star Wars’ “Jabba’s Sail Barge”

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Will They Succeed?— This computer-rendering of HasLab’s (first-ever) crowdsourced toy project, “Jabba’s Sail Barge,” reveals the incredible potential for similar collector-driven toy projects in the future. But questions remain: Will HasLab succeed? Is crowdsourcing the future of toy production? Will fans be able to sustain “toys” that costs them $500 a pop? (Photo: HasLab) Click to enlarge.

In what may be the clearest view yet of toy-making’s future, Hasbro has just launched its new “HasLab” crowdsourcing initiative. The goal of this particular collector-funded toy project will be to locate and sign up at least 5,000 fans who are willing to pony up $500 each for an exclusive, 4-foot long (compatible w/3.75″ figures) “Jabba’s Sail Barge” from Star Wars. A prototype shown at Toy Fair and all of the computer renderings online look absolutely GORGEOUS. If Star Wars toys are your thing, you should watch HasLab’s customer recruitment video shown below.

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Aiming High— HasLab’s new business model may reflect the future of “high-end” collectible toy production. The potential for such crowdsourced toys would seem to be sky-high. (Photo: JpM)

haslablogoBottom Line: If this approach to “high-end” toy production is successful for Hasbro, you can expect to see similar efforts forthcoming from other toy manufacturers in the future. Perhaps Hasbro would even consider creating something new, big and amazing for 12″ GIjOEs? How about an updated, more realistic version of a 1:6 scale USAF Crash Crew Truck? Joe fans can dream, too!

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Shutting Down—Toys ‘R Us Confirms Imminent Closure of 180+ Stores—Official List Released

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Toys ‘R’ Us mascot, “Geoffrey” (already “retired”), is looking a little less upbeat these days, after hearing the news that 180 more of his company’s stores will close in 2018. (Graphic: Toys ‘R’ Us)

Bottom Line: Well, now we have some real numbers to reflect upon. In yet another (depressing) follow-up to our previous articles discussing Toys ‘R Us and its filing for bankruptcy, the former powerhouse toy retailer has just released a (startlingly) long list of imminent store closures—180 in total. The first of their stores to close will do so as early as next month (February), with the remainder having done so by the end of April, 2018. We wonder—Is this the first 2018 list of TRU closures—or the last? Will this dramatic action save the company from oblivion—or merely prolong the inevitable? Only time will tell. How will YOUR particular area be affected? Hold your breath and scan the company’s official closure list provided below (arranged alphabetically by states):

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Alabama

2600 McFarland Blvd. East, Tuscaloosa AL

335 Summit Blvd., Birmingham AL

Arizona

801 W. 32nd Street, Yuma AZ

12801 North Tatum Blvd., Paradise Valley AZ

9139 Indian Bend Rd., Scottsdale AZ

4619 N. Oracle Rd., Tucson AZ

7000 E. Mayo Blvd., Scottsdale AZ

US 60 and Signal Butte Rd., Mesa AZ

Arkansas

2616 S. Shackleford Rd., Little Rock AR

California

42500 Jackson St., Indio CA

1189 Simi Town Ctr. Way, Simi Valley CA

26573 Carl Boyer Dr., Santa Clarita CA

960 Lakes Dr., Covina CA

1600 S. Azusa Ave., Puente Hills CA

2575 E. Imperial Highway, Brea CA

530 Westminster Mall, Westminster CA

20120 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance CA

2550 Canyon Springs Pkwy S., Riverside CA

700 “A” Onstott Rd., Yuba City CA

2785 E. Bidwell St., Folsom CA

1330 Fitzgerald, Pinole CA

4505 Century Blvd., Pittsburg CA

600 Francisco Blvd., San Rafael CA

5461 Lone Tree Way, Brentwood CA

1400 Gateway Blvd., Fairfield CA

3938 Horton, Emeryville CA

2179 Monterey Hwy., E. San Jose CA

865 Blossom Hill Rd., San Jose / Almade CA

3520 W. Shaw Ave., Fresno CA

31250 Court House Dr., Union City CA

10640 Trinity Pkwy., Stockton CA

3900 Bristol Street, Santa Ana CA

3665 Grand Oaks, Corona CA

1240 W. Morena Blvd., Mission Bay CA

8181 Mira Mesa Blvd., Mira Mesa CA

1990 University Drive, Vista CA

Colorado

1150 S. Ironton, Aurora CO

Connecticut

376 North Universal Drive, North Haven CT

275 Union St., Waterbury CT

3491 Berlin Turnpike, Newington CT

169 Hale Road, Manchester CT

Delaware

1061 N. Dupont Highway, Dover DE

Florida

1625 Apalachee Pkwy., Tallahassee FL

1900 Tyrone Blvd., St. Petersburg FL

3908 West Hillsborough Avenue, Tampa FL

6001 Argyle Forest Blvd., Orange Park FL

Spring 708 West State Rd. 436, Altamonte FL

21697 State Road #7, Boca Raton FL

10732 SW Village Pkwy., Port St. Lucie FL

450 South SR 7, Royal Palm Beach FL

2601 W.Osceola Parkway, Kissimmee FL

6001 West Sample Road, Coral Springs FL

3214 N John Young Pkwy., Kissimmee FL

Georgia

2601 Dawson Rd., Albany GA

2955 Cobb Parkway, Smyrna GA

6380 No. Point Parkway, Alpharetta GA

1155 Mt. Vernon Hwy., Dunwoody GA

6875 Douglas Boulevard, Douglasville GA

8160 Mall Parkway, Conyers GA

221 Newnan Crossing Bypass, Newnan GA

132 Pavilion Parkway, Fayetteville GA

Indiana

3928 E 82nd Street, Indianapolis IN

8800 US 31 South, Greenwood IN

Iowa

1211 E. Army Post Rd., S. Des Moines IA

8801 University Ave., Des Moines IA

Illinois

1610 Deerfield Rd., Highland Park IL

16 East Golf Rd., Schaumburg IL

295 Center Drive, Vernon Hills IL

5001 Lincoln Highway, Matteson IL

6420 W. Fullerton, Bricktown IL

7750 South Cicero Avenue, Burbank IL

5660 Touhy Avenue, Niles IL

Kansas

4646 W. Kellogg, Wichita KS

8500 W 135th Street, Overland Park KS

Kentucky

4900 Shelbyville Rd., St. Mathews KY

1155 Buck Creek Rd., Simpsonville KY

1965 Star Shoot Parkway, Lexington KY

Louisiana

137 Northshore Blvd., Slidell LA

Maine

6 Bangor Mall Blvd., Bangor ME

200 Running Hill Road, Portland ME

Maryland

8401 Mike Shapiro Drive, Clinton MD

Massachusetts

302 Providence, Dedham MA

70 Worcester Providence Tpk/Rt. 146, Millbury MA

50 Holyoke Street, Holyoke MA

217 Hartford Ave., Bellingham MA

6110 Shops Way, Northborough MA

Shoppers World Plaza, 1 Worcester Road, Framingham MA

Michigan

5363 Harvey Street, Muskegon MI

2620 Crossing Circle, Traverse City MI

5900 W. Saginaw Highway, Lansing MI

4923 28th Street South East, Grand Rapids MI

3725 Carpenter Road, Ann Arbor MI

3725 Washtenaw, Ann Arbor MI

Minnesota

14100 Wayzata Blvd., Minnetonka MN

170 89th Ave., Blaine MN

8236 Tamarack Village, Woodbury MN

900 West 78th Street South, Richfield MN

Mississippi

1003 Bonita Lakes Circle, Meridian MS

200 Bass Pro Dr., Pearl MS

Missouri

1901 Bernadette, Columbia MO

201 Silver Springs Rd., Cape Girardeau MO

5590 St. Louis Mills Blvd., Bridgeton MO

220 THF Blvd., Chesterfield MO

Nebraska

3505 S. 140th Plaza, Omaha NE

Nevada

2150 North Rainbow Blvd., Las Vegas NV

7020 Arroyo Crossing Parkway, Spring Valley NV

New Mexico

45 Hotel Circle, Albuquerque NM

North Carolina

801 Fairview Road, Asheville NC

7001 Fayetteville Road, Durham NC

3300 Westgate Drive, Durham NC

New Hampshire

29 Gusabel Avenue, Nashua NH

New Jersey

1280 Rt. 22 & St. James Ave., Phillipsburg NJ

137 Route 35, Eatontown NJ

100 Promenade Blvd., Bridgewater NJ

2700 Route 22 East., Union NJ

909 US Hwy 1 South., North Brunswick NJ

Rt. 541 & Cadillac Road, Burlington NJ

2135 Route 38, Cherry Hill NJ

7 Wayne Hills Mall, Wayne NJ

545 Route 17 South, Paramus NJ

98 Route 10 West., East Hanover NJ

Kids World 900 Center Drive, Elizabeth NJ

50 International Drive South, Mt. Olive NJ

New York

139-19 20th Ave., College Point NY

24-30 Union Square E, Union Square NY

5181 Sunrise Hwy., Sayville NY

5214 Sunrise Hwy., Massapequa NY

2335 Marketplace Drive, Henrietta NY

1569 Niagara Falls Blvd., Buffalo NY

401 Frank Sottile Boulevard, Kingston NY

708 Upper Glen St., Glens Falls NY

221 Wade Road Extension, Latham NY

2700 Central Park Ave., Yonkers NY

66 Metropolitan Ave., Middle Village NY

1350 Corporate Drive, Westbury NY

108 Veterans Memorial Highway, Commack NY

461 Lycoming Mall Cir, Williamsport NY

1530 Ridge Rd. West, Greece NY

Ohio

6251 Glenway Ave., Western Hills OH

2661 Miamisburg-Centerville Rd., Dayton OH

7841 Mentor Ave., Mentor OH

3610 West Dublin-Granville Rd., Dublin OH

Oklahoma

1119 SE 66th St., Oklahoma City OK

5609-E Rogers Ave., Fort Smith OK

560 Ed Noble Pkwy., Norman OK

Pennsylvania

100 Welsh Road, Horsham PA

6680 Peach St., Erie PA

3700 William Penn Highway, Monroeville PA

104 Bartlett Ave., Exton PA

2003 Cheryl Dr., Ross Park Mall PA

301 Oakspring Road, Washington PA

18/Valley View Dr., Beaver Valley Route PA

Rhode Island

300 Quaker Lane, Warwick RI

South Carolina

254 Harbison Boulevard, Columbia SC

South Dakota

450 E. Disk Drive, Rapid City SD

Tennessee

7676 Polo Ground Blvd., Memphis TN

5731 Nolensville Rd., Nashville TN

Texas

801 Mesa Hills Dr., West El Paso TX

9730 Katy Freeway, Houston TX

170 E. Stacy Road, Allen TX

7730 N. MacArthur Blvd, Irving TX

420 E. Round Grove Rd., Lewisville TX

13710 Dallas Parkway, Dallas Galleria TX

1309 W. Pipeline Rd., Hurst TX

5800 Overton Ridge Blvd., Hulen TX

Utah

4042 Riverdale Rd., Ogden UT

1122 Fort Union Boulevard, Midvale UT

Virginia

14173 Crossing Place, Potomac Mills VA

12153 Jefferson Ave., Newport News VA

Washington

3567 N.W. Randall Way, Silverdale WA

1325A S.E. Everett Mall Parkway, Everett WA

6104 N. Division Street, Spokane WA

Wisconsin

18550 W. Bluemound Rd., Brookfield WI

2161 Zeier Road, Madison WI

 

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After 80 Years, UK Community Designates Palitoy’s “Old Toy Factory” (The Birthplace of Action Man) As a Revered “Green Plaque” Commemorative Site

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Three Cheers for Palitoy! Former employees of the beloved UK toy company raise a rousing “Hip, hip, hooray!” at the site of their former business, whilst receiving the Leicestershire County Council’s honorific of “green plaque” commemorative status. (Photo: Leicestershire County Council) Click to enlarge.

Our good buddy, Bob Brechin, wrote in to us again today to share another tidbit of good news from that “old country across the pond.” Bob was clearly (and rightly so) bursting with pride, as he told us all about the recent Leicestershire County Council’s (LCC) decision to commemorate the site of the original Palitoy toy factory building, known to millions of fans around the world, as the “birthplace” and former home of —you guessed it—Action Man! According to the LCC website:

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“A former factory in Leicestershire which created popular children’s toys such as Action Man, Tiny Tears dolls and Star Wars figures was honoured with a green plaque. On Thursday, 2 November, the plaque was installed at the Coalville Business Park, in Jackson Street, Coalville, where the toy factory once stood. The company manufactured some of the most popular toys in Britain from 1937 to 1985 – before it ceased trading. Palitoy not only helped to stoke children’s imaginations with its classic toys and figures it also helped to put Coalville on the map.”

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“Two Bobs” for Action Man! These two talented gentlemen have every reason in the world to be proud of Palitoy’s newly acquired “green plaque” status, and of their own individual accomplishments as well! From left we have Bob Brechin, former chief toy designer, and on the right, Bob Simpson, the company’s former managing director. (Photo: LCC) Click to enlarge.

It’s obvious to fans living here in the U.S. (and elsewhere around the globe), that local UK community support (and thanks) for the men and women who helped bring Action Man and other great toys “to life” remains very strong. And while those lucky few in attendance at Palitoy’s recent green plaque ceremony may now largely be members of the “silver-haired set,” it’s good to know that their children and grandchildren will be able to look up at that plaque and remember all the wonderful toys created there (by their loved ones) for many generations to come.

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Pam Posnett, Leicestershire County Council (Photo: LCC)

womancomment“It is fantastic to see that 80 years on, there is still HUGE support from the people of Leicestershire.” —

It should be no surprise then too, that Bob Brechin, ever the promotor of all things Palitoy and Action Man, was the man originally behind all of the efforts required for gaining the beloved Palitoy company its esteemed honor of “green plaque” status. According to Brechin:

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“It is 80 years since Palitoy toys were first made in Coalville and I thought the famous toy company should be celebrated with a green plaque at this special time.” —Bob Brechin

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks and congratulations go out to Bob Brechin for his heads-up intel on this story, and to the wonderfully generous Leicestershire County Council for their excellent photos, and to all of the other past employees of Palitoy. You’ve all done so much—to bring so much joy—to so many people. Go, Action Man! And… Hip, hip, HOORAY for Palitoy!

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Ripple Effects of Chapter 11 Filing By Toys ‘R Us Begin to Spread to Manufacturers— Declining Profits Now Reported By Hasbro and Mattel

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Where are all of our customers? As the number of independent toy retailers and their “brick-n-mortar” stores continues to decline, toy manufacturer claims that their own lost profits could be made up with rising internet or “online” sales has now proven to be questionable—even unlikely. Should toy manufacturers such as Hasbro consider opening their own retail store outlets to compensate?

To most toy fans and collectors, this latest news will not come as much of a surprise. In fact, current developments regarding the world’s ongoing toy retailing saga may seem all too predictable, but here we go nonetheless: It turns out, having fewer retail stores for customers to visit and browse for products (like toys) can actually be bad for business. <Wow. Who’d a thunk it?> In fact, following closely on the heels of the recent story of Toys R Us’ (TRU) filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, we now also learn that Hasbro and Mattel (both) are beginning to feel their own negative economic ripple effects—and that they believe their troubles can be laid squarely at the doorstep of TRU’s earlier woes. According to the AP:

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“Mattel, the maker of Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels cars, reported disappointing third-quarter results late Thursday and said it was hurt by Toys R Us’ Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing last month. Earlier this week, Hasbro, the maker of My Little Pony and Monopoly, also blamed weak results on the Toys R Us bankruptcy filing.

Mattel, whose revenue in North America fell 22 percent in the three months ending Sept. 30, said that about half of that decline was due to the Toys R Us bankruptcy. Globally, most of its brands saw sales declines. Barbie sales fell 7 percent and Hot Wheels fell 6 percent. Sales of its American Girl brand, whose 18-inch dolls typically cost more than $100, fell 30 percent.” —AP

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Will Matty need a handout? Looks like this company mascot is extending his hand for…what? Will his business soon seek court protection, ala Toys R Us?

Whoa. 30 percent?  That’s quite a financial nosedive. And if ever a particular toy brand needed a store’s support (i.e. an actual, physical PLACE to go to) so as to be able to SEE and HANDLE their extensive and upscale line), it’s pricey American Girl. Anyway…

Bottom Line: If TRU’s Chapter 11 reorganization and debt payoff difficulties continue, it seems likely that additional store closings and employee layoffs industry-wide could also continue. That would result in even fewer “brick-n-mortar” toy stores, less actual shelf space for toys, and then ultimately, fewer toys overall for fans and collectors to buy and enjoy. Ouch! That’s where WE feel “the pinch.” We’re not too worried about the financial stability of either Hasbro or Mattel (they’re doing just fine, thank you), but this situation is fluid and developing. Stay tuned for further intel. Read the AP story HERE.

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No More Toy Stores? Toys ‘R Us Going Bankrupt

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Going, Going… GONE? Someday very soon, a simple trip to a neighborhood toy store may become a nostalgic memory from America’s past. In yet another startling measure of the growing number of consumers switching over to online purchasing, retailing giant, Toys ‘R Us, recently announced that it is seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Though safe for now, all of the company’s colorful stores may soon be shuttered—and completely empty. (Photo: gettyimages)

Bottom Line: Toys ‘R Us (TRU), has officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (see complete details HERE). Sadly, we saw this event coming along YEARS ago. As more and more consumers have chosen to “shop” for bargains online and purchase their toys on the internet, web-retailing powerhouses such as Amazon and Walmart (and many, many others) have continued to drain away TRU’s financial stability and perilously erode its market share.

Indeed, TRU’s once-dominant, nation-wide chain of “brick-n-mortar” toy stores is now facing a dire and uncertain future. Faithful readers of The Joe Report will recall we first reported on TRU’s mounting fiscal woes waaaay back in 2014 (see that story HERE), and since that time, the company’s situation has only continued to weaken. It’s too soon to “call the game” on this sad story, and we’ll continue to monitor developments, but if current market trends are any indication, we don’t expect news to improve for America’s once mightiest—but now FAILING—toy chain.

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How Much Larger Can Action Figures Get? New Darth Vader and Stormtrooper “Battle Buddies” Part of JAKKS BIG FIGS New “Colossal” (2:3) Scale

WHOA! How BIG can action figures get? This display at a Meijer store of the new 48" tall "Colossal" figure by Jakks is sure to stop traffic. (At least until the parents get a gander at the price tags. Ouch!) (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Almost Life-sized— This Star Wars toy display spied at a Meijer store in Urbana, Illinois, highlights two of the new 48″ tall “Colossal” figures by Jakks Toys. Their impressive height (seen in comparison to the shopping cart) is sure to surprise, maybe even STARTLE, some passing shoppers. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

We were in our local Meijer store in Urbana, Illinois, recently, when we happened upon a mid-aisle display of two of the largest and tallest action figures we’ve ever seen. Measuring in at a stunning 48″ (4 ft.) in height (what is that, 2/3rd scale?) the new Darth Vader and Stormtrooper figures were undeniably impressive and our jaws dropped appropriately (and obediently) as we approached.

Whoa, you're BIG! That's right kid, these new Jakks "Colossal Scale" figures will

Whoa, you’re BIG! That’s right kid, the new Jakks “Colossal Scale” Darth Vader figure will make you feel like a shrimp by comparison. It’ll also help to lighten your parent’s wallet—at $99 each. (Photo: Jakks)

After researching these guys further, we’ve learned they’re the forerunners of a new Jakks Big Figs “Colossal Scale” line that promises to bring really BIG figures into collector’s lives (as if our Joe Rooms weren’t packed enough already). And while they’re stiff and barely poseable, each figure does come with nicely detailed costumes, gear and/or weaponry, plus motion-sensitive electronics and sounds. Their almost life-sized dimensions too, provide exciting possibilities for further customization and enhancement by talented hobbyists. One such creative Dad has already cut up one of the stormtrooper figures so that its collective component parts could be fit onto his son’s body as a highly realistic costume. Out-STANDING work! (see video demonstration below).

This would make a great costume! That's right kid, as we now know, if you cut this toy up, children of a certain size can fit INSIDE the parts, making an astonishing stormtrooper costume. (Photo: Jakks)

This would make a great costume As we now know, if you cut this toy up, children of a certain size can fit INSIDE its parts, making for an astonishing stormtrooper costume (until he/she outgrows it). (Photo: Jakks)

Bottom Line: There are now Star Wars figures available in every size imaginable; from the smallest 1:18 scale figures to full 1:1 scale and everywhere in-between. Of course, these new (very) large Jakks toys are pricey ($99 suggested retail) and you’ll want to do some serious shopping online and elsewhere to ensure you find the best deal. The figures we found at our local Meijer were listed at $99, but after Christmas (if there’s any left) they’ll surely be marked down. Happy Hunting!

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Brit Footballer w/ German Ancestry Discovers Likeness Used by D.i.D. For 1:6 New Action Figure

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Hey, that’s ME, Mein Herr! As this side-by-side closeup reveals, the likeness of handsome UK soccer player, Bastian Schweinsteiger, was CLEARLY used by Dragon in Dream (DiD) for the headsculpt of their new “World War II Army Supply Duty – Bastian” action figure. Not too smart to put his name in the title, DiD. You might as well prepare for the inevitable lawsuit that is sure to follow. (Photo: Getty images)

Bottom Line: Sometimes being famous and having a handsome German “Nordic” face can result in unexpected consequences—such as having your likeness usurped for a 1:6 scale nazi action figure! Read all about this clear case of facial piracy on the BBC News website HERE. Gott im Himmel!

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Target to Further Diminish Allure of Toys With its New “Gender Neutral” Aisle Decor Strategy?

Are toys losing their allure? When children walk the aisles of Target, Toys 'R Us and Walmart, are they even interested in what they see? Will the gender-neutralification of aisle colors and displays further reduce the allure of toys for upcoming generations? What is THIS little boy thinking about all this? (Photo:

When children walk down the aisles of Target, Toys ‘R Us or Walmart, what do they see? Will Target’s “gender-neutralization” of toy aisles negatively impact overall sales—or boost them? (Photo: myyp.com)

Stores Becoming Reluctant to Differentiate Between Boys and Girls; Fearing Online Backlash

targetlogoGoodbye “Barbie Pink” aisles. Adios, “GIjOE Green” aisles. As far as execs at Target are concerned, there’s no longer a need to differentiate between humanity’s two sexes with such pejorative color decor schemes. In a timely follow-up to our recent story on the dwindling appeal of Barbie (see that story HERE) and Mattel’s once-famous “pink aisles,” Target recently announced that they’re going to remove all gender-indicative backing papers from their toy aisles and replace them with “gender-neutral” (wait for it…) wood paneling. <yawn> Here’s how the top minds at the store explained their thought processes behind the decision:

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“…Over the past year, guests have raised important questions about a handful of signs in our stores that offer product suggestions based on gender. In some cases, like apparel, where there are fit and sizing differences, it makes sense. In others, it may not.”

Whoa. Before we proceed any further, let’s pause for a moment to ask a reality question: exactly how MANY “guests” are we really talking about here, Target? One? Two? Or were hundreds (or thousands) of color-possessed consumers losing sleep over this subject? Target continued:

“…we know that shopping preferences and needs change and, as guests have pointed out, in some departments like Toys, Home or Entertainment, suggesting products by gender is unnecessary.”

How insulting! Toys 'R Us dared to go all pink in this aisle of toys, a move that apparently offends...someone. (Photo: Brent Cross)

Is THIS Insulting? In this undated photo, Toys ‘R Us clearly dared to go “all pink” in its decor strategy for this particular aisle of toys; a move that will certainly offend…someone. (Photo: Brent Cross)

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The “Tweet” that started a color-revolution at Target showed a sign that indicated both “Building Sets” and “Girl’s Building Sets.” Does this bother you? (Photo: Abi Bechtel)

So…let’s get this straight:

The grouping together of toys that are likely to be of greater interest to one market segment than another via color-unifying backing panels is now considered to be “unnecessary?” If so, are product display strategies, window decorating traditions and store product “flow” analyses also now considered to be passé? Or is it just the use of COLORS that some see as offensive and outdated? If not, where will this all end?

For example, in the near future, is it possible that products placed on higher shelves will somehow offend shoppers who deem such placement as showing preference to “taller guests?” Of course we’re being facetious here (or at least trying to be), but Target goes on to explain how it intends to “help” beleaguered customers with the matter of offensive aisle colors, by revealing:

“We heard you, and we agree. Right now, our teams are working across the store to identify areas where we can phase out gender-based signage to help strike a better balance… In the Toys aisles, we’ll also remove reference to gender, including the use of pink, blue, yellow or green paper on the back walls of our shelves. You’ll see these changes start to happen over the next few months.”

Abi Bechtel, the Tweeter who targeted Target for their encamps and aisle colors. (Photo: Abi Bechtel)

Abi Bechtel, the Twitter Mom who targeted Target for its “Girl’s Building Sets” aisle endcaps. (Photo: Abi Bechtel)

A Twitter Tweeter Targets…TARGET 

This all began when one woman, Abi Bechtel, posted a “tweet” about Target on Twitter. As we all know, millions of individuals take to the blogosphere or “Twitter-verse” daily to speak in favor of (or against) whatever they find to be laudatory (or offensive). It’s everyone’s right and free speech in its most basic form. Bechtel’s tweet (with the aisle sign photo) read as follows:

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“Don’t do this, @Target”

Whenever ANY comment or tweet goes “viral” online, the results can often become a public-relations nightmare for the specific person, business or institution being discussed. With the power of the internet behind a comment, a high-tech “blacklisting” of the person/business/institution can also occur, with the offended parties refusing to patronize said establishments until their feelings have been placated and/or their demands met. For Bechtel, her tweet was largely met with support, but a backlash also occurred, and she found herself the target of angry and derisive personal comments.

Do kids REALLY care about colors used in store displays? Or are toys—just TOYS? (Photo: tampabay.com)

Subliminal or Superfluous? Do today’s kids care—or even THINK—about the colors used in toy aisle displays? Or is that something only parents are concerned about? (Photo: tampabay.com)

Whenever retail stores find themselves in the crosshairs of negative social media, they often find it easier to deploy the standard compensating strategy of a corporate apology followed by a store-wide policy change that accommodates the accuser. When Target ultimately removed the offending signage and aisle colors, a clearly relieved Bechtel told the StarTribune (see HERE):

“That’s fantastic. I think it’s great they are paying attention and re-evaluating how they are doing this kind of marketing. I didn’t expect it to become the center of this entire discussion about gender and the way toys are marketed. But Caitlyn Jenner’s pictures had just come out. And the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage came out soon after. So there was a whole lot of discussion about gender and gender roles anyway. The tweet just landed at the right time.”

Bottom Line: The power of a simple tweet in this age of the internet is not to be underestimated. Bechtel’s timing was indeed fortuitous, and the resulting effect of her statement has resonated throughout many retail chains. Target VP, Kathleen Waugh, confirms Abi’s victory, stating:

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“There are no gender-specific toy sections in our stores. Toys are merchandised by product category, so customers can easily see the breadth of assortment.”

What (if any) effects Target’s toy aisle changes will have on actual toy sales (good or bad) remains to be seen. But for Bechtel, that was never the point. It was always about how toys were being marketed to children. Do you approve or disapprove with Target’s response to Bechtel’s tweet? Regardless, please let Target and the world’s toymakers know YOUR thoughts by leaving a comment to this article below. Thanks! PS…Perhaps the best-known “rant” against color-coding toy aisles came from little adorable “Riley” in her famous video over on YouTube. Take a look:

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