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Mega Brands introduces new preschool toys

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK — Mega Brands is building up its Mega Bloks brand with a new lineup of preschool toys.

This year’s Mega Bloks preschool construction toy launch includes:

  • The 3-in-1 Build ‘n Go walker, which is designed to grow with a child as he or she progresses from crawling to walking. It does triple duty as a wagon, walker and building platform;

  • The Tub Town collection, which is a series of big storage containers filled with fun building blocks featuring such classic play themes as farm, princess and dragons; and

  • The Build ‘n Go wagon, which includes loads of blocks and features a building plate that can be mounted on the bin so kids can build and take their creations along with them.

Each toy is designed to enhance and encourage children’s development throughout their preschool years, Mega Brands said.

The items are on display at the 2011 International Toy Fair.

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Aisle411 expands market reach

BY Michael Johnsen

ST. LOUIS — Aisle411, a mobile retail navigation service that helps shoppers locate products down to the shelf location, on Tuesday announced its service now is live in more than 1,000 stores. The service added three markets: Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Diego.

Other markets identified for expansion included Atlanta; Baltimore; Boston; Houston; Minneapolis; New York; Phoenix; Sacramento, Calif.; Seattle and Washington, D.C.

Aisle411 offers a unique in-store search and comprehensive mobile retail shopping solution. Users can locate products in stores down to the specific section of the aisle, find product reviews, manage shopping lists, share experiences with friends via social media integration and get reward points and mobile coupons for using the service.

"A recent study by Accenture found that 73% of mobile-powered shoppers preferred peering into their phones for basic assistance instead of talking to a retail clerk," stated Nathan Pettyjohn, CEO of Aisle411. "By offering shoppers the information they want at their fingertips, Aisle411 is delivering an unparalleled retail experience that is transforming the way customers interact with retailers, advertisers and brands.

The Aisle411 app is available for free from the iPhone app store. Android and BlackBerry apps will be available later this year. These platforms also will begin integrating with Aisle411’s online website in 2011, the company stated.

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Winn-Dixie closes gap toward quarterly black

BY Michael Johnsen

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Operations at Winn-Dixie Stores continued to improve across the second quarter, helping to drive shares up by 11 cents to $6.92 per share in mid-day trading.

“Overall I feel good about our progress this quarter,” Peter Lynch, Winn-Dixie chairman, CEO and president, told analysts Tuesday morning during a conference call. “[We] continued to improve sales through strategic adjustments to our promotional activity.”

Net sales for the second quarter essentially were flat at $2.1 billion, as compared with the same period in the prior fiscal year, the grocer reported. Identical-store sales, which exclude stores that opened or closed during the quarter, fell slightly by 0.3% for the second quarter.

Winn-Dixie’s identical-store sales trend improved by 250 basis points compared with the first quarter of fiscal 2011, and 470 basis points compared with the fourth quarter of fiscal 2010. Those improvements came despite increased competitive activity and a continued mix shift from branded pharmaceutical to generic products, Lynch said. In addition, having the New Orleans Saints play in last year’s Super Bowl, an earlier Lent and Mardi Gras helped boost sales a year ago, Lynch added.

Winn-Dixie reported a net loss of $24 million, or 43 cents per diluted share, compared with net income of $2.1 million, or 4 cents per diluted share, for the same period last year.

The grocer dropped its expected capital expenditures for fiscal 2011 by $26 million to $132 million — a result of pushing 15 of 17 planned “transformational” remodels out to the first half of fiscal 2012. “Our transformational stores continue to exceed our expectations, but we feel it is appropriate to take a bit more time to refine, construct and launch the next set of these stores,” Lynch stated. Presently, the chain’s three transformational stores are generating $475 in sales per sq. ft. versus a chain average of $300 in sales per sq. ft.

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