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About Trendmasters
Trendmasters acquires Innovative Time Corp - Jan 1999
The rapidly expanding toy company, known for creating licensing deals with movies such as "Godzilla" and "Independence Day," last month purchased Innovative Time Corp. of Carlsbad, Calif.

Innovative Time makes talking watches, a field Trendmaster entered last year -- developing watches under its own brand and under license with a range of moviemakers. As part of the deal, Trendmasters will relocate Innovative Time's 35 employees to St. Louis and plans to add an estimated 150,000 square feet of warehouse space to store merchandise, company co-founder Russell Hornsby said.

"This will put us firmly in the watch business," said Hornsby, who founded Trendmasters in 1989 with partner Leo Hauser.

He declined to disclose the purchase price but estimated the watches and other digital products would add $100 million in revenue to Trendmasters in the next 18 months. Hornsby said the company was developing a schedule for the move.
Mickey Novak, Innovative Time's president and founder, declined to comment. Trendmasters said Novak and Nick Gikas, Innovative Time's senior vice president, would continue in their respective roles.

The Walt Disney Co. recently assigned the licensing rights for the movie "Toy Story II," which is in production, to Innovative Time.

Trendmasters' revenue has been growing at a 20 percent annual pace since its launch nine years ago. That would place 1998 revenue at roughly $150 million.

Trendmasters has 170 employees at its headquarters in downtown St. Louis and another 30 in Hong Kong, its port of entry to China, where it manufactures most of its toys, games and other electronic gizmos.

Last March, Trendmasters entered the watch business with a series of electronic talking products it markets under the brand "C-Watch." Each of the watches has a chip that makes the watch "talk." Each watch can hold up to 72 seconds of voices, in addition to spieling off the time, said Chris Mouser, Trendmasters' director of multimedia and interactive games. The watches sell for $20 to $30 each, with the branded versions generally fetching higher prices, according to the company.

The C-Watches ranked 10th among the top-selling toys promoted on TV in December, according to Toy Book magazine, which follows the toy industry. Trendmasters' own C-watch characters include "Hot Head," "Go Girl" and others, usually with voices familiar to the cartoon set -- such as Rob Paulsen from "Pinky and the Brain" and Nancy Cartwright from "The Simpsons."

"We can capture every single, magical moment you've ever heard from a movie or a television show and put it on a watch," Hornsby said.

Hornsby said the Trendmaster time pieces appeal largely to teen-agers. But he said growth of the watch market has been flat for several years.

Trendmasters is introducing seven of its own watch characters this month, as well as shipping another dozen licensed models built on themes from Comedy Central's "South Park" TV show and from movies such as "Lost in Space" and "Austin Powers."

Trendmasters also has licensed talking watches with "Winnie the Pooh" and "Bambi" characters.
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