Happiness Express, a toy company, was started in 1989 by Joseph Sutton and Isaac Sutton. The company took off quickly and was able to gain a share of the very competitive toy manufacturing market. In the first year of operation they earned a few thousand dollars in sales, but by their fifth year they had total revenues of more than $40 million. The business model for the company was designed to identify the latest children’s characters that would be most marketable in the United States. They accomplished this by relying on market research that would identify children’s areas of interest in new media. Happiness Express relied primarily on this research and through this research developed their motto, “In Kids We Trust.” Once the brothers had determined which media characters would become popular with children, they purchased the merchandise-licensing rights for these characters from the various studios and publishing companies. Happiness Express could then use these merchandising rights to manufacture the character’s figurines, shoelaces, toothbrushes, stuffed animals and an array of “back-to-school” items. After the products were manufactured, the brothers would then market these products to FAO Schwartz, Kmart, Target, Toys “R” Us, and Wal-Mart.
Happiness Express began their operations by purchasing the licensing rights to “The Little Mermaid” and “Barney”. The success of these lines made it possible for the company to firmly establish itself in the toy market. In July 1994, Happiness Express went public with an initial offering of $10 per share, and within a few months the company stock price had doubled. In 1995, Happiness Express was named the “#1 Hot Growth Company” by Business Week.
In 1994, the “Barney” merchandise accounted for 55% of the company’s total revenue. However, by 1995 the “Barney-hype” had dissipated substantially and accounted for less than 5% of the total revenues for the company. Thankfully, when one character is no longer popular there is always one to take its place. In this case, the toy that replaced the lost revenue was the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers”. The “Power Rangers” produced 75% of Happiness Express’s revenues in 1995. Although they were named by Business Week as a promising company to watch, many critics did not believe that the Sutton brothers could continue to select the top toys in the market. The critics also expressed doubt that Happiness Express could continue to perform at the financial level that they had over the past five years.
In late 1995, a Wall Street investment firm projected that Happiness Express would have a sizable drop in earnings during the fiscal year of 1996. They believed this drop in earnings would occur because of the decline in demand for “Power Rangers” merchandise. In response to this prediction, Joseph Sutton referred to an earnings forecast that was conducted by Donaldson, Lufkin, & Jenrette (DLJ), an investment banking firm, that projected a large increase in revenues...