Give your star a Shining Star®

According to an article in Forbes, RUSS’ Shining Stars® have made the Toys “R” Us “Fabulous 15″ list, the KB toys Hot Holiday List and were All-Stars on the Toy Wishes Magazine holiday list.

RUSS’ collection of soft, plush animals is reminiscent of Beanie Babies and a favorite of children ages 3-10. However, the popularity of these toys does not stem solely from the resemblance to a previous fad. RUSS has teamed up with the International Star Registry, allowing one to name a real star with the purchase of a $15 Shining Star®.

Owners of a Shining Star® can also become members of shiningstars.com by entering the secret code found in the sealed handtag of every toy. Once members, they can participate in Starcade chat, enter contests, play games and earn glow points. Glow points can be used to buy, build and save the cyber worlds they create for their Shining Stars®.

As explained in the Forbes article, children were encouraged to donate their glow points during the “Time to Shine” contest in October. For every million glow points donated, RUSS donated a Shining Star® to a seriously ill child at the Starlight Starbright Children’s Foundation, an organization with which the company recently partnered.

The winner of “Time to Shine” attended Starlight Starbright’s 18th Annual Celebrity Sports Auction on Oct. 30 and met players from all of New York’s major sports teams. The runner-up received an autographed Shining Star® from Starlight StarPower ambassador and High School Musical star Corbin Bleu. His involvement is detailed in Shining Star News, where he is quoted as saying, “I think what Russ Berrie is doing is pretty incredible.” To date, over 1.5 billion glow points have been donated.

In addition, RUSS has donated $65,000 and may donate up to $850,000.

With all the perks of owning a Shining Star® and superstars such as Bleu endorsing them, the toys are bound to sell quickly. So whether buying one for yourself or as a gift, I’d advise you to visit your nearest toy store or online retailer and purchase your favorite Shining Star® today!

Transformers figures transform the toy market

According to an article in The New York Times, Hasbro has seen a 62 percent increase in its profits due to high sales of Transformers and Spider-Man toys.

Another article details the long lines outside the Toys “R” Us in New York’s Times Square this past Black Friday. Toys “R” Us Chief Executive Jerry Storch said the lines were some of the longest the store has seen, exceeded only the year Nintendo Wii went on sale.

It’s no wonder the toys are such a hit. I helped promote the movie during my summer internship with Allied Advertising and the screenings were so packed that people were turned away. In Portland, a brawl broke out when a man fought his way back in and demanded a seat.

Many attendees were fans of the original 1984 “Transformers” series and the 1986 movie. However, despite the PG-13 rating of the 2007 movie, many were young boys and girls, often no older than 5, accompanied by their parents.

The toys appeal to the same broad audience and with the DVD release on Oct. 16, those that did not see the movie in theaters became fans at home.

The Ultimate Bumblebee to 2008 Camaro Transformer is the most popular toy, listed as retailing at $99.99. However, it can be found at Toys “R” Us for $89.99 with toysrus.com offering free shipping. This transformer sells on amazon.com for $83.84; shipping is free. However, the site only has two left.  So whether a new or old fan, I’d advise you to buy your favorite autobot today!

Spice Up Your Holiday Season!

The business section of The Wall Street Journal lay open on my table, announcing that Victoria’s Secret would be the exclusive retailer of the new Spice Girls: Greatest Hits CD.

Growing up, these women were my idols. I had all their CDs as well as the limited edition Spice Girls dolls and their movie, Spice World. So you can imagine how excited I was when I found out about their new CD, featuring hits like “Wannabe” and “Say You’ll Be There” as well as new tracks. After reading the article on Oct. 16, I called various Victoria’s Secret stores in the greater Seattle area, trying to find out a little more about the CD’s release. Like Apple, Victoria’s Secret has a no-quote policy. But the saleswomen and managers did tell me it would hit the market Nov. 13.

However, not all stores are receiving copies. For example, a saleswoman at the University Village Victoria’s Secret did not think her store would stock the CD but told me the larger stores in Bellevue Square, Alderwood and Pacific Place would. The CD, selling for $12, can also be purchased online at victoriassecret.com.

So why did Capitol Records choose Victoria’s Secret as the venue? In the Wall Street Journal article, Chairman of EMI Group Limited’s Capitol Records Jason Flom is quoted as saying that “the two things people care about most are music and sex.” Therefore, what could be better than combining the two? Flom also noted that music warehouses are fading out and mainstream retailers are becoming the primary outlets of music, making CDs impulse buys.

If you’re a loyal fan like I am, you’ll want to snag a CD quickly because the Spice Girls are making quite a comeback. Tickets to their reunion concert, beginning Dec. 2, sold out in 38 seconds. However, they will perform in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, airing Dec. 4 at 10/9c on CBS, and everyone can watch that!

The North Face Isn’t Heading South Anytime Soon

The North Face has been dominating the Northwest’s active wear and outerwear market for many years and its popularity isn’t fading.

The Denali jacket, loved by youth, teens and adults, continues to remain on the best seller’s list. This Polartec® fleece with Supplex® nylon on the upper body keeps wearers warm and dry. REI factories have tested the nylon and found it to be abrasion-resistant or able to withstand wear and tear, making it a smart investment. It is a great staple that lasts through many rainy and cold seasons.

The functionality of this jacket is widely known. A saleswoman at the Seattle Flagship REI, Kelsey Hulse, expects to run out of Denali fleeces before Christmas. She also anticipates that shell pants, another North Face classic, will sell out before the holidays.

Hulse notes that new North Face fashions, such as jackets lined with brightly colored or natural looking faux fur, double-breasted down jackets and three-in-one coats are “already doing well.”

“People seem to be interested due to brand recognition,” she says.

It can be disheartening to hear that classics like the Denali jacket and even new fashions are selling out so quickly. But I have some advice. First, purchase your desired North Face item as soon as possible. Second, make sure you exhaust all your retail options. REI has six stores in the greater Seattle area and North Face clothing is also sold at other sporting goods stores such as Sports Authority. Nordstrom is also a retailer of The North Face, carrying a wide variety of fashions. Finally, try buying online- you may find some great sales! Travelcountry.com frequently has sales on many North Face items. Currently, they are having a North Face closeout sale, not to mention the Denali jackets went on sale twice last month and shipping was free! And let’s not forget thenorthface.com, which is likely to have what you’re looking for.

iPhone iNvestigation

According to ABC News, Apple is now requiring all iPhones be purchased with a credit card and are imposing a limit of two per customer.

It isn’t unusual to hear outrage over this new policy. Many potential iPhone customers feel that requiring a credit card is a way for Apple to track users. They are also upset over the two per customer limit as the iPhone is a hot item, purchased for both personal use and as a gift.

I contacted various Apple stores to find out more about this policy. However, the crews were less than eager to divulge information. A Bellevue Square salesman, wishing to remain anonymous, kept repeating that it is “an Apple policy” and he did not know any more about it. The manager of the Alderwood store, Henry House, answered, “I don’t know,” to all of my questions. He gave me the number to the media help line, which proved to be a dead end. The operator referred me back to apple.com, saying, “Students find our site map extremely helpful in providing answers to their questions.”

Well, I did not find it helpful so I searched for related articles and found the ABC interview with Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris. Kerris said the credit card rule is to stop unauthorized reselling of the phones and the two per customer limit is to ensure there will be enough phones through the holidays.

I can’t speak on the effectiveness of the credit card policy but apparently the limit is helping retain phones. The Bellevue Square salesman said the store hopes to have them in stock through the holiday season and that they get “new shipment and stock daily.” According to apple.com, all of the Washington stores (Bellevue Square, Alderwood Mall, University Village and Southcenter) have iPhones available. To check the availability of iPhones, visit apple.com/retail/iphone.

All Hail Halo 3!

Halo 3 is “the fastest-selling video game ever and one of the most successful entertainment properties in history,” proclaims Xbox.com.

And to think the publisher, Microsoft, is based in our city. How lucky are we? Very, I’d say. Over 2,000 eager Halo 3 fans lined up at the Bellevue Best Buy to meet Bill Gates at the release party on Sep. 25 at 12:01 a.m. The store garnered over $90,000, selling about 1,500 copies at $59.99 a piece. The first in line got to buy a copy from Gates himself!

Staff members of Bungie, the game developer, handed out free t-shirts and such to an excited crowd. Pagliacci also provided pizza-yum!

The General Store Manager of the Bellevue Best Buy, Dan Boggs, notes that consumers are drawn to this game series because of its shooter genre. He describes it as “absolutely phenomenal” with “great graphics.”

According to Boggs, gamers appreciate being able to play Halo 3 individually or with teams. On the release day, gamers played for more than 3.6 million hours online. “We had about 40 to 60 teams of four playing at the same time,” Boggs declares.

Halo 3 brought in more than $300 million in the first week not counting the 1.7 million pre-sold copies.

Boggs says that although keeping enough copies in stock has been tough this past month they haven’t run out. “Microsoft is doing a great job at keeping the supply very open,” he said. The store does not expect to run out during the holidays.

So if you’re anxious to save humanity, your local Best Buy, Circuit City, Radio Shack, Sears or other Halo 3 retailer is likely to fulfill your desire and sell you a copy. And for those of you that just don’t want to make the drive (maybe too busy playing video games?) you can check with online retailers such as amazon.com.

Happy gaming!

Ugh, the search for UGGs®

When UGG® boots took the market by force during the 2003 holiday season, I doubted their popularity would last more than a few months. I refused to buy the furry boots in protest of what I thought would be a rather expensive and quickly passing trend. Boy was I wrong.

UGG® Australia has created a new kind of footwear, one appreciated by both comfort-loving and style-seeking consumers. Buyers so cherish the softness of the Grade-A Australian sheepskin lining combined with the Poron® memory foam and the funky design that the boots are already selling out!

The salesperson that assisted me at my local Nordstrom in Bellevue last Saturday afternoon was very helpful but also a little stressed. After I realized that my normal size, a seven, was too big (this is common- most people go down a size when buying UGGs®), he said he would try to find a size six but it was doubtful they were in stock because smaller sizes sell the quickest.

After searching for quite sometime, he returned with a brand new pair of sixes in the tall chocolate classic boot, my favorite, and declared “You’re lucky we don’t have to ship these from Beirut!”

I learned that his sarcasm wasn’t too far from the truth. He explained that Nordstrom locations do not want to “give up” any of their supply to other stores (i.e. the Downtown Seattle store might refuse to ship a pair to the Bellevue location). Nordstrom.com is selling out fast as are other UGG® retailers such as Neiman Marcus.

So if you’re desperate for a pair of these fun and practical boots, I’d advise you to visit your local Nordstrom, the primary UGG® retailer, and/or any other stores that sell the boots as soon as possible. If they don’t have your desired style and size, don’t fret just yet. Continue to check back at the stores and websites- returns and new shipment are fairly common and you want to be one of the first in line when the opportunity to buy this staple comes along.