Pedigree Expands Barbie and Pokémon Licenses

Publishing firm Pedigree Books has plans to extend its current licensing partnerships with two popular children's brands by creating annuals for Barbie and Pokemon. The annuals - set to hit stores this August - will include stories, activities, quizzes and fun facts. "Both Barbie and Pokemon are huge brands, and we are delighted to continue our long-established and successful partnerships together," noted Matthew Reynolds, sales and licensing manager for Pedigree Books.

Mike the Knight Inks Deal for North America

HIT Entertainment has signed Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing as its first licensee in the U.S. and Canada for preschool property Mike the Knight. Aimed at kids aged 3 to 5, the CG-animated TV series launched on Nickelodeon in February and Nick Jr this month and has aired on Canadian network Treehouse since September. The publisher will release story, picture, novelty, activity and coloring books, as well as non-interactive e-books, under its Simon Spotlight imprint starting in 2013.

J Crew Expands Abroad and Triples its Earnings

Apparel brand J Crew opened its online doors to Australia and Asia on Thursday. Having previously said overseas expansion would be a distraction from its domestic operations, the move expands the company's offering to 107 countries. Earlier in the week the retailer reported its net income had more than tripled to $15 million for the fourth-quarter.

NYIGF Names Falkenberg Show Director

The New York International Gift Fair has named Christian Falkenberg show director. He will oversee all aspects of the fair, including strategic development, brand positioning, sales, audience marketing, public relations and operations.

Falkenberg has been the NYIGF shoe manager since 2008 and has held sales and management positions with the International Hotel, Motel & Restaurant Show, Las Vegas International Hotel & Restaurant Show, AH&MA Lodging Expo and the Air & Waste Management Associate and Conference Expo.

ASTRA Accepting Best Toy Nominations

The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association is accepting nominations for the 2012 Best Toys for Kids awards. ASTRA members can nominate play products and toys that were introduced during the past year in 10 categories divided by age and specific product segments. The deadline for nominations is March 30.

Toys are judged on uniqueness, engagement, open-ended play potential and fun and safety aspects. Finalists will be selected in May. Winners will be announced during ASTRA's Marketplace & Academy in June.

Net-a-Porter Considers Childrenswear

According to British newspaper The Independent, kids are in the cards for online retailer Net-a-Porter. As big name brands like Versace, Gucci and Oscar de la Renta cash in on the childrenswear boom, the luxury e-tailer is reportedly following suit with plans to add kids' clothing to its ecommerce empire. The proposed launch is part of a growth strategy by the site's owner, luxury conglomerate Richemont.

Harry Potter Licensee Boshiwa Plunges as Auditor Quits

Shares of Boshiwa International Holding Ltd, the Chinese maker of children's apparel that has a license for the Harry Potter brand, tumbled on Thursday following the resignation of Deloitte Touch Tohmatsu. The accounting firm quit citing a lack of information necessary to complete an audit. The children's apparel company's shares dropped by 42 percent in response. According to a statement to Hong Kong's stock exchange, Boshiwa said it would delay publishing its annual results.

Three Sesame Street Apps to Hit the Market

Popular pre-school brand Sesame Street is partnering with Callaway Digital Arts to launch three additional interactive children's apps. First up is a remake of the classic Sesame Street book, "The Great Cookie Thief." The book will be reimagined for the iPad, iPhone and iPhone touch.

In addition to the app, interactive mobile apps featuring both original and adapted content will be developed. Callaway and Sesame Workshop previously worked together on the digital books, "The Monsters at the End of This Book" and "Another Monster at the End of The Book."

Lavish Rights to Release Luv Me Buddies

Licensing firm Lavish Rights has teamed up with Tarco International to create a line of eight collectible Luv Me Buddies figurines that are set to roll out across North America this summer. Luv Me Buddies is a new property that consists of more than 30 lovable animal characters, like bunnies, panda bears, pigs and monkeys.

Fisher-Price, Nickelodeon Partnership to Continue

Kids' entertainment powerhouse Nickelodeon has renewed its longtime partnership with Fisher-Price, allowing the toy giant to continue developing toys based on pre-school properties such as Dora the Explorer and Team Umizoomi. Fisher-Price will produce items like infant and pre-school toys, plush, figures, vehicles and play sets.