NEW YORK -- Licensed products tied to the popular Harry Potter children's series and to Pokemon headline the roster of entertainment properties on the horizon in the coming months for retailers.
ail toy sales last year, Peter Eio, chairman of the New York-based Toy Manufacturers of America, noted during the 97th annual American International Toy Fair held here last month.
This year's fair again debuted an abundance of new products, based on successful licenses and characters, that will be appropriate for supermarkets, according to Rich Maryyanek, senior vice president of marketing for Golden Books Family Entertainment, New York. The company has the publishing rights to an extensive roster of children's and family licenses, including Power Puffs, Scooby Doo and Barbie.
Pokemon products from Golden and Hasbro, Pawtucket, R.I., will offer some of the best opportunities for supermarkets to capitalize on the potential for this year, said industry observers.
With a piece of the Pokemon pie, Golden is releasing sticker books tied to the second Pokemon movie, scheduled for a summer theatrical release, as well as magnets and a line of workbooks. "The math workbook is already out," said Maryyanek, "and we've already had to go back to press." Coming are workbooks with concentrations on writing, phonics and spelling.
In addition to discussing future potential, Maryyanek explained how Golden has worked with a number of supermarket chains to customize in-store promotions designed to drive traffic at chains like H.E. Butt Grocery Co., San Antonio, and Kroger Co., Cincinnati. He mentioned H-E-B's permanent, 4-foot book sections in cereal aisles and added that the retailer is testing a spinner of Golden products that is themed on "The Road to Reading."
"We had 3,000 kids show up at a Kroger in Atlanta [last year] for a read-in -- a family-centered event about reading and spending time together," he said. Maryyanek also talked about what he called non-traditional ways in which Golden works with supermarkets to present products and to break out of category sections. He noted a program at Albertson's, Boise, Idaho, where private-label diaper packaging features "The Poky Little Puppy." Said Maryyanek, "Supermarkets are near and dear to our hearts."
Hasbro will be releasing 82 new Pokemon cards in April, which will coincide with the video release of "Pokemon: The First Movie."
The cards depict the evil incarnations of 30 Pokemon characters. Backed by upcoming film releases -- a third Pokemon movie is slated for 2001 -- the licensors are planning to extend the franchise into new areas. Pokemon vitamins will become available during the first half of this year.
Pokemon cards have been a bonanza for food retailers who have had difficulty reaching the newly dubbed "tweens," those children who are between the ages of 9 and 12, industry sources noted.
Expected to reach the same demographic are products tied to the successful R.K. Rowling Harry Potter stories. The acquisition by Mattel, El Segundo, Calif., of the Harry Potter franchise, which consists of a series of books and upcoming films, may have been the biggest news at the Toy Fair. Warner Brothers Worldwide Consumer Products,Burbank, Calif., awarded Mattel the master toy license for Harry Potter. The deal is another sign indicating that sales of toys based on licensed properties in 2000 will continue to increase, observers said.
Warner indicated that the first wave of Harry Potter toys, to be released this fall, would be available only through the company's own chain of retail stores. However, it is likely that by the release of the first Harry Potter film, now planned for the fourth quarter of 2001, a wide range of products and price points will be available to all classes of retail. These products include packs of trading cards with pictures of the main characters from the novels and pieces of the story. Hasbro, which supplies Pokemon trading cards, will also release the Harry Potter merchandise.
Another familiar franchise that's extending itself in ways that are supermarket-friendly is Barney. To support the repricing of four of the franchise's best-selling videos, Lyrick Studios, Richardson, Texas, is running a cross promotion with Luvs Diapers (Procter & Gamble) that kicked off last month and goes through the end of June. The promotion began with a freestanding insert distributed to almost 50 million households offering consumers $2 off the combined purchase of a pack of Luvs and one of the four repriced titles.
Lyrick Studios is actively pursuing supermarket business, according to Spencer Humphrey, vice president of publishing, producing clip-strips and J-hooks for its new line of infant-oriented merchandise, Barney for Babies.
Also set to do big business are the licensees for the little mouse with the big box office -- "Stuart Little." Sony Pictures Consumer Products, Los Angeles, did not expect such a huge hit, but theatrical release kept going and going. Now, as the box-office grosses climb north of $130 million, licensees are scrambling to catch up and piggyback promotional efforts on the film's Easter video release and on the recently announced sequel, due in theaters for the fourth quarter of 2001.