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Michael Rielly

Zhu Zhu pets, TMX Elmo among hottest toys this year

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Michael Rielly

Zhu Zhu pets, TMX Elmo among hottest toys this year

November 29, 2009

Northwest Herald

By Jami Kunzer

EXCERPT:

Looking for a Zhu Zhu pet? You’re not alone.

The battery-operated hamsters aren’t quite causing a Cabbage Patch-like frenzy, but they’re definitely the hottest toy this holiday season.

And they’re getting tougher to find, unless you want to pay double the price.

Zhu_Zhu_Pets_Hamster.jpg

“We’ve only gotten one shipment in, and it sold out in six hours,” said John Flanagan, who owns Learning Express Toys of Algonquin with his wife Sarah.

AT online stores such as Toys R Us, most of the pets and accessories were listed as “out of stock” this week. And the toy was going for double the price and higher at various other sites, such as eBay.

The pets, with names such as Mr. Squiggles and Pipsqueek, fall under one of at least four toy buying trends this year, Toys R Us spokeswoman Adrienne Giordano said.

Tiny treasures, teeny prices

“They’re toys that are small in size, but they provide a lot of fun at petite prices,” Giordano said.

The “cute factor” is a huge draw, said Bruce Lund of Lund and Company Invention, the toy design and product invention company that created the TMX Elmo (Tickle Me Extreme). TMX Elmo rolls around on the floor laughing and smashing his fist on the ground, begging for the tickler to stop.

He mentioned the Furby, a furry, talking must-have little robot that sold like mad last decade, because it “seemed like it was alive.”

“Particularly in girls, it elicits, ‘That is so cute,’” Lund said. “That’s the kind of response you want. In every case, it’s an instinctual response. You don’t think it through. It has to grab your emotions in some way.”

His company’s new line of AniMagic animals follow along this theme, Lund said. The animals, including dogs, ponies and cats are small enough to sit in a child’s lap.

They move and make noises like the animals.

Rewind

A second trend this year is retro, Giordano said.

“We’re noticing a lot of our customers are coming to the store and looking for toys they can relate to from their childhood,” she said.

Hence the revival of the original Tickle Me Elmo and the Little Tikes’ Cozy Coupe, the kid-powered car with its yellow roof and red body. The simple board game is back in as well.

...

Lund predicted the toy industry will begin to see more toys with less technology that allow people to “get back to the basics,” such as the Frisbee.

Legos always are a good stand-by, suggested Flanagan. And a line of “Uglydolls,” a family of brightly colored, plush creatures, have been hot at his store, he said.

An investment

The third trend involves parents “investing in the future” of their children, Giordano said, with items like laptops for children, including the Disney Netpal.

They come with online safety features and allow children to use them both for play and education, she said.

Toys that help children build certain skills beyond playtime also are a big draw this year as well, she said. Something like an electric guitar can “provide years of value,” she said.

Getting crafty

And finally the fourth trend – crafts or anything that families can do together or sort of “do-it-yourself” projects for children.

A line of “Design by Me” toys as well as Bendaroos, flexible building sticks, are huge this year, Giordano said.

For girls, it’s the “Project Runway” or fashion design kits and dolls that are in demand. Just ask Nancy Romes of Spring Grove, who recently found herself in Toys R Us hunting down a specific kit.

...

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