A blog for all things retail and licensing.

Merchandise Monday: Visionworks

Having a new, stylish pair of glasses for the latest school year is almost as important as that new backpack or set of notebooks. As someone who has had glasses since age six, I understand the significance to having a cool pair of glasses on the first day back. (Mine were definitely not cool.) Fortunately, for kids, pre-teens and teens, Visionworks has a vast selection of stylish frames from top designers to ensure a great back-to-school look.
Chelsea Morgan

These frames are exclusive to Visionworks and boast flashy colors, funky prints and fun shapes within the collection.


Nike Boys

Nike’s mission is to provide inspiration and innovation for every athlete. For this collection for boys, the frames are active-wear inspired with the signature swoosh logo. These frames are great for pairing with you kid’s Nike gym gear.


Vera Bradley

Vera Bradley is known for its colorful prints and patterns, mainly in the handbag world. But now it’s venturing out to give teens, tweens and petite faces a unique and vibrant pair of frames.


Robert Mitchel

Another exclusive collection to Visionworks, these frames offer a sophisticated, colorful look to compliment your young gentlemen’s back-to-school look.


See more New & Notable products here.
By Stephanie Crets

Yahoo Sets Its Sights on Polyvore

Anyone who loves fashion, creativity and a sense of community probably knows about Polyvore. I’ve made several of my own collages through its program, such as styles I’m coveting for spring or fall, a wish list for my new apartment and, most importantly, holiday shopping lists.

Polyvore brings 350 retailers together in one convenient place and allows users to curate and create a collage through an easy-to-use search function. Once you’ve created a collage of items you want to buy (or hope someone else will buy for you), you can share it to social media or on your website with provided html tags. The collage also includes direct links to retailers for each item, making shopping incredibly easy. The website also creates a community among its fashion-focused members, as they inspire each other and drive sales to retailers. The average basket size from Polyvore to a retailer is about $338.

Because of its position in the e-commerce market, the seven-year-old company announced this week that it will be acquired by Yahoo. With this acquisition, Yahoo hopes to enhance its consumer and advertiser offerings by utilizing Polyvore’s platform of combined community and commerce. Polyvore already dominates social, mobile and native content, so Yahoo hopes the company will accelerate its own growth in those arenas.

“I’m delighted to join Yahoo. Our core mission of empowering people to feel good about their style will remain the same, but with Yahoo’s help we’ll be able to make Polyvore even bigger and better for our user community,” says Jess Lee, co-founder and CEO of Polyvore.

Polyvore assures its users that this acquisition will only bring only positive changes for its users, allowing it to expand its resources. With Yahoo’s assistance, it plans to add new product features for everyone and new perks for its top members.

“Polyvore has built an excellent team, a category-leading product and a strong business based on a highly engaged community,” Yahoo’s SVP of Publisher Products, Simon Khalaf says. “The combination of Yahoo’s industry-leading digital content with Polyvore’s expertise in community and commerce has outstanding potential. We are thrilled to have the Polyvore team join us.”

While both assures its users that nothing will change, I wonder if there will be a period of growing pains. When Yahoo acquired Tumblr in 2013, there was an enormous outcry from its users because they thought their content would be controlled and limited. (It didn’t really, as far as I can tell as a regular Tumblr user.) Polyvore provides a much different type of content, so I tend to believe the usability and overall function of the site will remain unchanged and that this acquisition will only be for the better.


By Stephanie Crets

The Force is Strong with Toys “R” Us

By Stephanie Crets

By now we’ve all watched the trailer for the next Star Wars installment a million times. Or at least I have. Now retailers around the world are preparing for the influx of new Star Wars merchandise. But none more than Toys “R” Us.

Toys “R” Us is kicking off the hype for the new film with Force Friday on Sept. 5, a special event where its stores around the world will open their doors at midnight to give fans a chance to purchase exclusive, new Star Wars toys. Those who attend the midnight event will also have a chance to receive special giveaways, such as a limited edition LEGO Star Wars Commemorative Brick and an exclusive Star Wars poster.

“Since the introduction of the first Star Wars toy in 1977, Toys “R” Us has served as the ultimate destination for Star Wars playthings, providing millions of kids and collectors worldwide with their most beloved memorabilia,” says Richard Barry, executive vice president and global chief merchandising officer at Toys “R” Us. “Since then, Star Wars has become a time-honored franchise with loyal fan interest, making it a perennial, top-selling licensed property. With the upcoming introduction of the new Star Wars toy line, we’re excited to welcome the next generation of fans into our stores around the world with exclusive products, special events, feature shops and giveaways.”

If you’re lucky enough to live in New York City, you can attend the biggest Star Wars celebration at Toys “R” Us’s international flagship store in Times Square. The festivities kick off on Sept. 3 and the store will host a bunch of Star Wars-themed activities and events, such as:

  • Star Wars trivia;
  • A LEGO Star Wars make and take;
  • An art class and meet and greet with Star Wars and science fiction artist Jeff Carlisle;
  • Star Wars-themed cookie decorating at a “Wookiee” Cookie Party;
  • Costume contest;
  • Light Saber Academy class with members of New York Jedi, a community of cosplayers, martial artists and teachers who share practical stage combat techniques oriented toward light sabers;
  • A book signing and meet-and-greet with Steve Sansweet, CEO and president of Rancho Obi-Wan Inc., storied Star Wars author and former head of fan relations and director of content management at Lucasfilm Ltd.; and
  • Photo opportunities with costumed characters, including Furbacca, a character versioned after the Hasbro toy that makes wookiee sounds like Chewbacca, Geoffrey the Giraffe and more.

Force Friday will take place in Toys “R” Us stores in the United States, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the U.K. Leading up to this event, all stores will feature a countdown clock to increase the hype – if you weren’t hyped enough already.

Considering Toys “R” Us is a recognized name in 38 countries around the world as the authority on all things toys, it’s leveraging this position to bring awareness to these exclusive new toys. Not that Star Wars needs any assistance in creating brand awareness, but producing an event to celebrate the fans and give them the opportunity to purchase the highly anticipated new toys before anyone else demonstrates its commitment to its shoppers. It’s a testament to both brands that this will likely be a very successful event, even though the new Star Wars film has yet to even be released.

Many of the new toys will celebrate Star Wars: Episodes IV-VI. During Force Friday, shoppers can purchase:

  • Leia Organa, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo action figures
  • Chewbacca and R2D2 stuffed toys
  • Bobba Fett, Yoda and Gamorrean Guard masks
  • Charm bracelets featuring Darth Vadar and X-Wing fighters
  • 17 Ewok stuffed toys
  • 13 different puzzle sets

If you can’t make it to the store for Force Friday, you can still browse and shop the new merchandise at midnight on the website.

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is in theaters Dec. 18.

Merchandise Monday: Back to School with DC Comics and Crayola

Whether your kiddo is heading to pre-school, grade school or middle school, you can send them off in superhero style with Warner Bros.’ line of DC Comics-inspired backpacks, pencil boxes and more. But if your kids are still too young for school or you need something to entertain them before school starts, Crayola offers a variety of different products to help them hone their creativity at home.



Fast Forward Inc. Mini Backpacks

Supergirl will always have your back with this stylish mini backpack, featuring a bright pink sparkle logo.  It’s perfect for toting around all your back-to-school essentials. Also available in Batgirl.




Crayola Crayon Bank

These 12-inch-high Crayola crayon banks are perfect for storing lunch money. They come in four assorted colors and are made out of metal with a plastic lid that contains a coin slot.



Vaultz Locking Binder Pouches

Lockable binder pouches are essential for securing school supplies, phones, cash, calculators, small valuables and anything else you want to protect. This product features a decorative locking zipper latch for stylish security.



Crayola Book Making Kits

Let your kids tap into their creative side and take a break from the usual homework with these book-making kits. Each one comes with all the materials needed to create their very own book or comic book, including a free professionally printed copy of the completed book delivered to your home.



Fast Forward Inc. Batman Backpack with Lunch Kit

Batman protects not only your kids’ school supplies, but also their lunch. This full-size Batman backpack also features a detachable Batman logo lunch kit.




Crayola Super Fun Coloring and Activity Book

This coloring and activity book comes with a shaped, foil-embellished cover, more than 30 stickers and 80 coloring pages for your younger kiddo.


Accutime Cape Watch

These caped watches featuring Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman will always keep kids (hopefully) on time for class.




Crayola Glow Easel

Kids can bring their creations to life with the double-sided glow easel. This product allows two kids to draw and create at the same time and comes with two Crayola Gel Markers, four pieces of Crayola color chalk and an eraser.

See more New & Notable products here.

By Stephanie Crets

How Do You Protect Your Budget and Your Identity While on Summer Vacation?

By Stephanie Crets

Summertime means beaches, barbecues and vacations. But hopefully it doesn’t mean credit card fraud or debt. Unfortunately, many people fall victim to these two issues, especially while on vacation. You leave your troubles behind and end up racking up way more with over-spending and lack of identity protection.

According to a recent survey conducted by Experian, people spend 68 percent more than they expect while traveling or vacationing and utilize their credit cards to pay for things they didn’t budget for. This leaves 52 percent of people surveyed strapped with credit card debt when they return home.

Some of the other survey results illustrate how budgets and vacations don’t mix well for anyone, especially for the millennial generation:

  • Forty-six percent of vacationers and 50 percent of millennials surveyed have paid for a vacation using a credit card when they didn’t have enough saved.
  • Thirty-seven percent of people and 44 percent millennials have cancelled vacation plans due to budget issues.
  • Thirty-three percent of travelers and 50 percent of millennials plan to use their tax refund to pay for 2015 summer travel.
  • Seventy-five percent say a staycation is a good way to minimize spending during time off.

“People want to come home from vacation with happy memories, not with unanticipated and unmanageable credit card bills,” says Guy Abramo, president of Experian Consumer Services. “Racking up excessive credit card debt without a plan to pay it off can put people, especially millennials, in a bind that could affect their financial health and credit status for years to come.”

While some of those surveyed were wise enough to cancel their expensive holiday plans, others were obviously coming home to a mound of debt. A majority, however, had the right idea with a staycation, which also benefits those worrying about protecting their valuable assets during travel. The last thing someone wants to worry about is his or her credit card being stolen or losing a passport. You go on vacation to relax, not to worry, but it happens more frequently than people realize.

One-in-five people surveyed had something containing personal information – such as a driver’s license, passport, smartphone or credit/debit card – stolen or lost while on vacation, according to a survey by Protect My ID. Respondents showed a nine-point increase over last year’s results with 39 percent saying they have been personally victimized by identity theft while traveling.

“Vacations give people the perfect chance to relax and stop thinking about everyday life, and that’s something identity thieves count on to make it easier to commit their crimes,” Abramo says. “By taking some precautions before, during and after vacation, people can reduce the risk of identity theft happening to them.”

While the vacationers themselves are not entirely at fault, there are ways to protect yourself and your sensitive information while traveling:

  • Leave unnecessary information at home, such as your Social Security card or birth certificate.
  • Limit the number of credit/debit cards you bring and use.
  • Avoid any public Wi-Fi for checking sensitive information, such as your bank account, because these locations make it much easier for hackers to access whatever you’ve input.
  • Ensure that your smartphone or laptop is password-protected. If you lose either, it’ll make it that much harder for someone to access your information. Most smartphones also have a tracking and remote wiping capabilities. So, if you can’t get your phone back, you can at least get rid of all your data from afar.
  • Be watchful and mindful of your accounts for the duration of your trip. You never know what could happen.

Upon returning home, make sure to review all of your accounts to ensure nothing was compromised during your trip. Taking these kinds of precautions could save you a headache in the long run and allow you to actually enjoy your vacation. Just make sure you’re also watchful of how much you’re spending on those carefully protected credit/debt cards.


Go Shopping and Get Money Back

By Stephanie Crets

Clipping coupons and endlessly Googling for coupons and rebates sounds exhausting and limiting. Especially if you don’t know if you’ll ever find something for the item you want to buy. With Ibotta Inc.’s shopping app, however, shoppers get instant rebate gratification.

Unveiled this week, Ibotta has created a new shopping list feature that finds cash-back rebates when users add desired items to their shopping list. Items that can be added range from food to paper goods to office supplies to clothing items and much more, available at a range of stores, including Walmart, CVS, Amazon.com, Best Buy and Babies R Us.

Once items have been added and Ibotta generates a list of rebates, users will then be prompted to complete one or more tasks to unlock the rebate. Tasks include Learn a Fact, Watch a Video, Take a Survey and more. The tasks are quick and easy to unlock. Plus, the more tasks you complete, the more cash you unlock. Once you have your shopping list and rebates ready, go shopping at any of Ibotta’s over 80 approved retailers, in store or online. Afterwards, take a picture of your receipt and receive your cash within 24 hours by linking Ibotta with your PayPal or Venmo account within the app.

According to Ibotta, consumers can earn up to hundreds of dollars a year by using the app. “Everyone loves a deal,” says Richard Donahue, vice president of marketing at Ibotta. “We’ve made it easy to get cash back on whatever you are looking to buy. Simply add it to your list and like magic, we’ll find you cash.”


For more information, Ibotta has created a detailed step-by-step guide on how to use its app.

Digital Brands Going Brick and Mortar (Things Get Real, Real Fast)

Guest post by Alex Vera, Director of Creative Services, IDL Worldwide

There’s an irony in the concern that brick and mortar retail is doomed to slowly erode: Some of the largest global brands are intentionally giving birth to their brands in the physical space – in real life. Their challenge is, “How do we impactfully engage the consumer when the consumer only knows us on-screen or online?”

Google and Nickelodeon are two such examples whose thinking and executions offer key lessons for any brand. Why? Because this type of migration requires a deep understanding of what a brand stands for and the key elements of what makes a brand compelling to its consumers.

This goes well beyond replicating the brand’s visual attributes and intellectual property. It means revealing the underlying essence of these attributes that truly connect with the shopper and the fan. When you’ve hit on this, the transition from digital to physical is so transparent it’s almost self-evident. But when brands simply migrate their literal assets to the store setting and expect them to cue their deeper values, it’s very easy to miss the mark.

For example, Google opened its first branded retail environment – actually a shop-in-shop – in London this March. In doing so, they thought long and hard about a key element of their persona – the notion of playful innovation. Yes, Google is a tech powerhouse underneath, but think of its two core brand beacons: the ever-changing “GOOGLE” logo on its search engine and the barely human but very lovable Android for its smartphone business.

Google took this sense of playfulness and adventure to heart and delivered it in-store – not just within the space, but in the store fixtures as well. Google used a wood texture that introduces a natural feel and brought in its primary colors through a stained application. This appears in a broad range of executions that convey a sense of comfort and warmth, whether through the use of wood, lighting or accents.

The result is a retail persona that’s tactile and welcoming, and a tone that invites the sense of childlike exploration that matches what we’ve come to love about the brand through its search engine, Android platform and Google experiments delivered in the digital space.

When you walk into the shop and see these technologies brought to life, the experiences close the loop that the retail presentation started, with the presentation providing context and color to its relationship with the consumer.

Google has continuously found opportunities to interpret its brand physically without adhering too much to its traditional brand guidelines. When the shopper combines his or her understanding of Google’s vast technological expertise with this very tactile, inviting context, the result is a surprising and delightful experience that meshes the human with the digital, elevating the brand in ways that support its digital persona.

Nickelodeon’s migration to a physical space shows the same kind of deep understanding of the brand’s persona. Nickelodeon is a longstanding, iconic American brand with roots in the earliest days of cable TV and an overwhelming popularity with young people. But how did Nickelodeon interpret its evergreen properties and characters in a chaotic competitive environment for the first time? By delivering them very cleanly.

For its installation in the Times Square Toys“R”Us, Nickelodeon color-bombed the entire space orange – one dominant color drawn from its core brand. This is brilliant because it’s on-brand but not necessarily what you expect in this context from the loud, boisterous, hey-you-can’t-do-that-on-TV home of SpongeBob SquarePants.

Nickelodeon chose to stand out with simplicity, to ID the brand and mark the space, then employ the medium it knows best to digitally implement the characters we know and love, on big bug-catcher video screens. There’s a surprising amount of physical space between the various installations to ensure that the orange context isn’t cluttered or obscured. And the installations themselves are geometrically precise and well organized, so that your eye can focus on them individually. Nickelodeon appears to have learned from the wiser children’s museums, employing the right balance of irreverence and focused presentation.

At that point you start to interact on the micro level, and here’s where it gets more energetic. There are buttons that say, “Do Not Touch,” so of course, you’re going to touch. Collages of characters on the columns provide visual reference and texture. Now you’re fully engaged and you say, “Yes, this is why I identify with this brand.”

There are some key lessons from Google and Nickelodeon’s successful interpretive executions. Consumers have come to expect that a brand promise will be delivered consistently through all touchpoints. This is the basis for omnichannel marketing. But this doesn’t mean that all – or even a lot – of a brand’s many assets have to migrate literally from the digital realm into the built environment.

First, the brand has to peel away assets that are merely layers to arrive at those that can identify with consumers most authentically at retail. These can be a broad range of physical attributes. Google and Nickelodeon employed very different physical, real-world techniques – for Google, subtle, surprising layers; for Nickelodeon, a single iconic color.

In both examples, the brands dug deeply into their own core personalities and chose – then evolved – crucial assets to bring the shopper into a place that’s both exciting and new, but reassuringly familiar.

As Director of Creative Services for IDL, Alex Vera brings over 16 years of experience in retail design to IDL. His career has focused on creative leadership, retail strategy, environmental graphics, fixture design and conceptual/thematic development. He leads the combined IDL design studio, which is comprised of industrial designers, print, 2D and 3D. Alex has executed projects for global brands, including Nike, Starbucks and Coca Cola. He was recently selected by design:retail as one of the publication’s Top 40 Under 40Alex holds a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design from Pratt Institute in New York City. He has worked as a Designer and Creative Director for several prestigious, retail-centric firms, where he designed and deployed initiatives for some of the world’s most recognized consumer and retail brands. http://idlww.com


Target Your Back-to-School Dorm Style

By Stephanie Crets

In the age of Buzzfeed quizzes and connecting with new people through social media, Target is tackling back-to-school shopping a little differently with its new Made for U College Styler website.

With this tool, college students – or even those post-college but about to move to their first apartment – can take a quiz to determine the perfect décor style for their future dorm room or apartment. Users navigate through different categories of products from bedding to storage to kitchen to electronics and more, favorite items and curate a list of must-have items for their home away from home.

After connecting your Facebook or Instagram account to the website, you can take the personality quiz to get an even more personalized list of items. The questions ask you where your happy place is, musical tastes, color combination preferences and more to determine your design aesthetic, pulling from more than 400 of Target’s back-to-school items. Based on the results, the website compiles a sample room to shop through, along with a number of items broken down into categories. You can share your results on Facebook, Twitter or create a Pinterest board.

I took the quiz and apparently I’m an “Upstarter,” which means everything in my apartment should be very organized with a gold theme. Thus, much of my item suggestions were storage related with many gold metallic lamps and pillows. This seemed fairly accurate because now I really want this lamp.

The coolest part about this website is that you and your future roommate can connect through social media on the site. You can discover if that person is your “style bestie” or “design enemy.” After they’ve taken the quiz, you can mesh your shopping lists together and design your future home, while hopefully avoiding any arguments.

If you still need more ideas, the site also offers an inspiration section to explore many different room setups. Once you’re ready to “shop your faves,” you’ll be redirected to Target’s main website to add the list of items to your shopping cart and complete your transaction.

Target’s new website makes back-to-school shopping a more personalized, fun experience with an eye-catching, user-friendly interface. They are using the social trends to their advantage and it seems to be working out for them. I’ll be curious to see how many sales were driven to Target’s main website from the Made for U website. If it’s a success, I bet many other retailers will soon follow suit to target other popular shopping seasons.


*Photo credit to Target’s Made for U site of my post-quiz result.

Merchandise Monday: Steve Jackson Games

Steve Jackson Games publishes card games, board games, books, magazines and more. Its most popular game series is called Munchkin, a card-based dungeon game experience. You can fight monsters, steal treasure, backstab or help your companions and level up as you play to become a powerful dungeon master. The game has become so popular over the years that it has spawned many spinoff products, such as plush toys, comic books and board games, along with several expansion packs that be combined for the ultimate gaming experience.




Munchkin Panic

Based on the Munchkin characters, this board game combines the all-for-one game play of Castle Panic with the all-for-me style of gameplay in the Munchkin card game. Players must balance out their greed with the need to cooperate with fellow players to defend the castle from the monsters.






Munchkin Adventure Time

Using the same card gameplay as the Munchkin game, players can now play as their favorite Adventure Time characters. Defeat the monsters, find all the treasure and get up to level 10 to win the game. This card game can also be combined with other Munchkin games and expansion packs.





Funko Munchkin Figure

Now you can have your favorite character in vinyl figurine form to defend your desk or bookshelf from monsters. The figures from Funko come in three versions: Dopple Spyke, Color Spyke and Glowy Spyke.






Munchkin Comic Book

Based on the card game, now the Munchkin characters come alive in comic book form. The stories will take place from the perspective of one Munchkin, a gang of them or even from one of the monsters that lives in the dungeon.





Be sure to catch Steve Jackson Games at GenCon 2015 in Indianapolis, Ind., this weekend July 30 through August 2, where it will be running game demos the entire show, including demos of new Munchkin games Munchkin Steampunk Deluxe and Munchkin Oz.

See more New & Notable products here.

By Stephanie Crets

Zebra Technology Printers Play an Important Role in Instacart’s Success

By Stephanie Crets

To keep up with the Joneses of competitors, businesses always need to be forward-thinking, especially when it comes to technology and innovation. Companies need to look for solutions to bring their businesses into the future instead of falling behind and constantly playing catch-up.

Zebra Technologies is all about looking ahead in the current technology landscape and the Internet of Things (IoT). As a global leader in the industry for innovation and reliability, Zebra says it offers an extensive portfolio of services and technologies for businesses and it gives physical things, such as printing services, a digital voice.

Recently, it teamed up with Instacart, a grocery service that offers same-day delivery in many cities throughout the Unites States, to assist the company with its cloud printing and device management using Zebra printers via its IoT solution Zatar.

Zatar is Zebra’s platform as a service (PaaS) IoT solution that allows businesses and developers to build custom applications so they can manage and control all the facets of their company from any location. With this duo solution in place, Instacart can print more accurate and secure labels at its locations around the United States.

Accuracy and security with label printing is a huge deal for Instacart because it prides itself on delivering groceries to its customers within an hour. A mix-up could have dire effects on its business model, causing it to lose customers or compromise its offerings. Printing is often an overlooked area, but Zebra makes sure to harness its power through Zatar. Thanks to a simple application programming interface (API), Zatar connects Instacart’s Zebra printers via the cloud so it can easily interact, monitor and manage its printers globally from any location.

By taking advantage of the Zebra/Zatar technologies, Instacart has a better handle on its real-time business and will be able to make better business decisions, respond and manage real-time issues and figure out how to improve its business along the way. Through these relationships, Instacart is staying one step ahead of the ever-evolving technology landscape, Zebra says.