Licensed Collectibles Front and Center at NY Comic-Con

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Licensed collectibles of every stripe were front and center at New York Comic-Con (NYCC) with some toymakers seeking to reposition themselves in the category.

That never-ending stream of collectibles is entering the market as an ever-larger array of retailers dedicate space to them – teen retailer Tillys is one of latest to add the category in select stores.

For example, Cryptozoic Entertainment says that Walmart this fall will run a 50-store test this fall of its miniature 2.25-inch vinyl DC Pumps shoe-like figures based on nine DC Comics characters, including Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn and Supergirl.

“There is so much competition out there now in the licensed collectibles space that it requires that you find a niche whether that is through a design, price point or licensed property,” says Cryptozoic’s Colin Robinson.

Among the developments we viewed at New York Comic-Con:

  • Mattel’s Imaginext brand, long part of the Fisher Price Division, will stake out is own turf in 2018, says Imaginext’s Jason Folaron. The brand, known for its DC Super Hero playsets and figures, will deploy packaging in 2018 that highlights the Imaginext while giving less billing to Fisher-Price, which is aimed at a younger age group, says Folaron. As part of that effort, Imaginext will add a 12-piece Jurassic World collection of figures and playsets in 2018 to a roster that already includes DC Super Heroes, Power Rangers and Teen Titans Go!.
  • Kid Robot is venturing into videogame properties for the first time in 2018 with seven-inch figures and blind bags based on Gods of War and Crash Bandicooot. “We have been getting a lot of demand for videogames-related properties both from retailers and consumers so we felt it was time to make more of push in the category,” says Kid Robots’ Margot Stern.  The company also is launching a series of “Tender Heart Care Bear” vinyl figures that will feature designs from six artists.  The first of them, from artist Tara McPherson, was introduced at NYCC in a 250-piece assortment priced at $85 each. Work from three other artists is due by year-end.
  • Loot Crate plans to ship a $55 limited edition 4-5-piece subscription box based on “Stranger Things” later this month featuring licensed and self-sourced products.  At the same time, at NYCC it sold a four-inch limited edition figure ($30) based on the Stranger Things’ Eleven character as the first in an “Artist Series” that is starting with artist J Salvatore.
  • Cryptozoic, after testing the waters in 2016 with novelty items such as a Ghostbusters-themed Stay Puft Man oven glove, is sharpening its focus on collectibles while relying on its core board games for the bulk of its sales, says Robinson. Among the new items is a figure featuring the original Wonder Woman actress Linda Carter. Unlike the version being sold at retail, Cyrptozoic added a cape to a version that will be sold direct to consumers through its web site starting in Q1.  “We are trying to carve out a niche in high-end resin statues,” says Robinson.
  • Valiant Entertainment is building out its international licensing business. Agent BN Licensing signed Bioworld to supply apparel and other products in the Netherlands, while Haven Licensing will be representing the company’s brands in Australia, where Impact Posters will be fielding posters, says Valiant’s Russell Brown. Meanwhile, apparel supplier Mindstyle is shipping t-shirts in Asia based on Valiant’s Faith characters, as the company expands licensing for one of its first female-based titles. The new licensing agreements come as Sony is expected to start production in early 2018 of a Bloodshot movie, the first of five films based on Valiant properties it is expected to be released as part of a 2015 agreement.
  • There was a dedicated section for cosplay suppliers, where Cosplay Fabrics was promoting its licensing agreement with fabric designer Yaya Han. Han developed a line of cosplay fabrics – ultrapreme, military and liquid leather, metallic scales and others – that are being sold exclusively in the U.S. through Joann Fabric and Crafts Stores.  There are more than 100 fabrics available across 20 categories; Joann merchandises them in the specialty fabrics section of the stores. “We discovered that people who were doing cosplay were already shopping Joann Fabric, but they couldn’t find exactly what they needed,” said Cosplay’s Sean Burgess. “Joann Fabric knew there was a latent market and cosplay was becoming more mainstream.” Cosplay also sells the Yaya Han line through the fabric chains Spotlight in Australia and Alfatex in Germany.
  • As retailer F.Y.E. broadens its selection of licensed goods it is expanding the mix of candy and self-sourced cereal, says Event Manager Kevin Murray. At Comic-Con, F.Y.E spotlighted “Strawberry Smiggles” cereal drawn from Cartoon Network’s Rick and Morty series. It also has Reptar cereal tied to Rugrats, Booty O’s with the World Wrestling Entertainment and Pumpkin Pete’s Marshmallow Crunch with Rooster Teeth’s RWBY property. F.Y.E. gets the cereal through a distributor, which sources product for the chain.  The retailer, once best known as a music retailer, also has hired a candy buyer, installed a licensed candy “wall” in its stores and is weighing adding kiosks, says Murray.  F.Y.E. first tested the collectible format at a Woodbridge, NJ store in 2014 and has gradually expanded chainwide.
  • Santa Cruz Skateboards last week started sales of a line of GarbagePail Kids-themed skateboards ($59) through Zumiez and other retailers. The boards will only be available for a few months as Santa Cruz focuses more on “quick hit” programs and less on longer term deals it has had in the past for properties such as Star Wars and Marvel. “That is just the way the market is” for skateboards where trends rise and fall quickly, says a Santa Cruz spokesman. “We felt with GarbagePail Kids we would be able to reach people who might not otherwise know the Santa Cruz brand.” The boards will be wrapped in plastic and sold as “blind bags” so the buyer doesn’t know which design he or she has chosen until after making the purchase. Meanwhile, Kid Robot is readying a Mad Balls-licensed skateboard to go along with the Transformers model it already fields.

Contacts:

Bluefin Distributors, John Parker, CEO, 949-553-8800 x101, john@bluecorp.com

BN Licensing, Cyril Speljer, Owner, +31 88 77 345 00

Cosplay Fabrics, Sean Burgess, Marketing Dir., sean@cosplayfabrics.com

Cyrptzoic Entertainment, Colin Robinson, National Sales Coordinator, 949-769-2699, colin.robinson@cyrptzoic.com

Funko, Lauren Winarski, Licensing & Brand Mgr., lauren@funko.com

F.Y.E., Kevin Murray, Events Mgr., kmurray@twec.com

Kid Robot, Margot Stern, Dir. Marketing and Product, 303-217-9400, mstern@kidrobot.com

Loot Crate, Ellen Deng, Brand Management Dir., 650-281-8848, ellen.deng@lootcrate.com

Mattel, Jason Folaron, Associate Marketing Mgr., 716-687-3321, Jason.folaron@mattel.com

Pyramid International, Andrew Lawrence, Licensing Coordinator, 914-668-6666 x200, Andrew@pyramidentertainment.com

Santa Cruz Skateboards, Paul Merrell, Licensing Mgr.,

Valiant Entertainment, Russell Brown, Pres. Consumer Products, 212-972-0361 x229, russb@valiantentertainment