S&S Believes in Brands

In October, Simon & Schuster's Little Simon imprint followed up its success with the Cheerios Play Book by introducing the licensed Sun-Maid Raisin Play Book for children six months to two years; 215,000 copies are in print. Coupon inserts for 50 cents off any Sun-Maid product appear in 50,000 copies of the Play Book; Little Simon is offering retailers a 15-copy wire shelf extender for display. Since July 1998, the Cheerios Play Book (licensed from General Mills) has had total printings of 900,000 copies; the Cheerios Animal Play Book, released this September, has 350,000 copies in print. Both the Cheerios and Sun-Maid titles are sold in grocery stores as well as through traditional channels.

In September, Little Simon also launched the first four titles under its license with Lionel, the purveyor of 3.6 million toy and model trains and accessories annually. A total of 16 titles are planned in two lines, Little Lionel Rail Tales storybooks and Little Lionel shaped board books. Cross-promotions include books being featured on the Lionel.com Web site, with a link to S&S's children's site, a consumer giveaway through the Train Collector Association and a $2 rebate for Little Lionel trains in the board books. Little Simon has printed 100,000 of the four titles.

Scholastic G s for Grrrls

Scholastic Publishing has signed a license with 2 Grrrls, a marketer of gifts and accessories with a "be who you want to be" theme. Two nonfiction books--What a Friend and Hello Gorgeous, both titled after 2 Grrrls catchphrases--will be available in May 2000 in book clubs and by fall 2000 at retail. They will target eight- to 12-year-old girls. "They're both what I call lifestyle books," said Craig Walker, v-p and editorial director for trade paperbacks at Scholastic. "They reflect the way girls see themselves and others."

The four-year-old 2 Grrrls product line, consisting of more than 60 items, is sold in more than 2600 specialty retail outlets and saw sales increase more than 400% in 1998, after a rise of 300% in 1997. While the gift line was originally intended for young adult women, both Scholastic and 2 Grrrls believe the message will appeal to younger girls. "The 2 Grrrls philosophy, as it's emerging and evolving, seems like a great thing to get into the hands of young girls," said 2 Grrrls co-founder Trilby White. "I think the eight-year-old girls will dig it."

Sitting Ducks Fly High

Universal Studios Consumer Products is launching a licensing program based on Sitting Ducks, a deluxe picture-book and poster line by Canadian-born, U.S.-based artist Michael Bedard. Putnam published the book in the U.S. in October 1998 and has reprinted three times for a total of 40,000 copies. Retailers have sold more than $70 million worth of Sitting Ducks posters worldwide.

Merchandise plans include high-end stationery, toys, accessories, home furnishings, apparel, giftware, collectibles and food, mostly for adults, sold through bookstores, art galleries, museum shops, catalogues and gift stores.

Hot Items

As expected, Warner Bros., which plans to release a Harry Potter film in 2001, has assumed all worldwide licensing responsibilities for Harry Potter. Products will debut in Warner Bros. Studio Stores in fall 2000.... Saban Entertainment has licensed three publishers for a total of 20 titles based on NASCAR Racers, an animated series premiering in February. HarperCollins will publish novelty, digest and storybooks, Dalmatian coloring and activity books, and Publications International novelty titles.... Landoll's American Education Publishing imprint has acquired the rights to Disney films and characters for educational workbooks and learning cards. The first titles will be released in 2000 and will feature Winnie the Pooh.... Landoll will also publish books tied to two spring 2000 DreamWorks movie releases, The Road to El Dorado and Chicken Run.