published Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

Retailers release ‘hot toy’ lists for holidays

The top holiday toy for this year is the Perplexus game by Learning Express Toys.
The top holiday toy for this year is the Perplexus game by Learning Express Toys.

Toys R Us top 15

Doc McStuffins Time for Your Check Up doll by Just Play, $39.99: Doctor doll based on Disney Jr. show character.

Furby by Hasbro, $59.99: Update on hit 1998 furry interactive toy robot.

Gelarti Designer Studio by Moose Toys, $24.99: Sticker set that lets kids paint and customize reusable stickers.

Hot Wheels R/C Terrain Twister by Mattel, $99.99: Radio-controlled car that takes on all terrains.

Jake and the Never Land Pirates Jake's Musical Pirate Ship Bucky by Mattel's Fisher-Price, $44.99: Ship from Disney Jr. animated series.

Lalaloopsy Silly Hair Stars Harmony B. Sharp by MGA Entertainment, $69.99: Version of popular button-eyed dolls that talks and sings.

LeapPad2 Explorer by LeapFrog, $99.99: Latest iteration of LeapFrog's kids tablet with faster processor and more memory.

Micro Chargers TimeTrack by Moose Toys, $34.99: Miniature car racing track set.

Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Secret Sewer Lair Playset by Playmates, $119.99: 42-inch playset that recreates TMNT's lair.

Ninjago Epic Dragon Battle by Lego Systems Inc., $139.99: Ninja-themed Lego board game.

One Direction collector dolls by Hasbro, $19.99: Dolls of each of the five members of One Direction.

Skylanders Giants Starter Pack by Activision Publishing Inc., not yet priced: A sequel to Skylanders Spyro's adventure that combines real-life action figures with a video game.

Tabeo by Toys R Us, $149.99: Toys R Us' own tablet offering with enhanced safety features and 50 preloaded apps.

Wii U by Nintendo, not yet priced: Nintendo's new two-screen gaming console.

Y Volution Fliker F1 Flow Series Scooter by Atomic Sports, $99.99: A three-wheeled scooter that is self-propelled by the rider's movement.

Learning Express Toys' Top 10

Ready Set Stilts and Ready Set Pogo, $34.99: Adjustable stilts and pogo stick.

Laser Fingers Party Pack, $9.99: Individual flashing lights that attach to kids' fingers.

Tenzi Dice Game, $14.99: Fast-paced game of rolling dice and matching numbers.

Perplexus Games, $19.99-29.99: A marble is trapped in a maze; kids tilt and twist the maze to get it through.

Swish Game, $12.99: Logic game focused on matching colors and shapes.

Suspend Game, $16.99: Players try to build structures from rubber-tipped wires.

Boogie Board, $39.99: Pressure-sensitive drawing and doodle board.

Duct Tape Kits, $16.99-$24.99: Guide to creating crafts from duct tape.

LoopDeDoo Bracelet Maker, $34.99: Everything kids need to create bracelets.

Magna Tiles Kits, $49.99: Magnetic tiles that kids put together to form sculptures.

Technically fall has just begun, but for some it’s not too soon to think about what the kiddies will want for the holidays.

Toy retailers across the country are releasing their annual “hot toy” lists to predict the holiday season’s best sellers.

Knowing early what will be popular during the holiday shopping season is crucial to retailers seeking to have the right mix of toys at the right prices. The holiday season can account for about 40 percent of a toy seller’s annual profit.

Last year, U.S. retail sales of toys fell 2 percent to $21.18 billion, according to research firm NPD Group.

The Toys R Us “hot toy” list includes tablets for kids, fashion dolls in the likeness of boy-band sensation One Direction, and even retro hits like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Furby.

Reserve toy in advance

This year, Toys R Us, is introducing a “hot toy” reservation program. Starting Wednesday, the Wayne, N.J.-based retailer will let customers reserve the 50 toys on its list. The reservation system will run through the end of October. Toys must be reserved in stores, and customers have to put down 20 percent of the toys’ cost.

The Toys R Us hot toy list has a mix of items that it carries exclusively in its 600 U.S. stores, as well as toys available everywhere. Toys on the list come from both established companies as well as from some lesser-known toy makers in the U.K. and Australia.

There’s no indication yet of a runaway success like 2009’s Zhu Zhu Pets stuffed hamsters and last year’s Leapfrog LeapPad tablet. But Toys R Us executives are betting that if there is, it is on their list.

“We have an incredibly skilled team of merchants here that track new products and identify toys,” said Lisa Harnisch, the company’s general merchandising manager.

But local Learning Express Toys shop owner Mary Beth Conklin said she doesn’t pay close attention to the Toys R Us list — because Learning Express Toys puts out its own best-seller predictions.

“We do a lot of specialty toys, so it is a little different than the Toys R Us list,” she said.

The 140-store Learning Express chain focuses on coupling learning and fun, and enlists education specialists to pick toys for its list that develop kids’ creativity, strategizing and collaboration skills.

The list features 20 toys, including stilts, craft kits, logic games and a 3D paint kit.

Conklin, who owns two stores in Chattanooga, said she does about 60 percent of her business during the holiday season, and The Learning Express Toys “hot toys” list helps her identify which products to put on her shelves when business picks up.

“It influences us quite a bit,” she said. “We know the items selected will be really good sellers. These are items that we are going to stock.”

Times Free Press reporter Shelly Bradbury contributed to this report.

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