The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Lifestyles

September 19, 2013

Hugging Elmo, bracelet loom on Toys R Us hot list

Will your kids be clamoring for an Elmo that gives hugs, a loom that lets you make rubber bracelets or a kid-size go-cart this holiday?

Those and others have made Toys R Us’ annual list of “hot” toys that the company is betting kids will want around holiday time.

It’s a crucial calculation because retailers can make up to 40 percent of annual holiday sales during the holiday season, so Wayne, N.J.-based Toys R Us needs to make sure it has the right mix of toys at the right prices.

Overall holiday spending is expected to be cautious. Retail revenue in November and December is expected to rise 2.4 percent during the biggest shopping period of the year, Chicago-based research firm ShopperTrak said Tuesday. That compares with a 3 percent increase in 2012 from 2011.

Meanwhile, Toys R Us, the largest specialty toy retailer in the U.S., has its own challenges. It’s facing tough competition from discount stores and online retailers, and is in the midst of a CEO search since Jerry Storch left in February.

But executives at the privately held company say they expect a bustling season.

“Christmas always comes and parents want to give their kids items on their wish list,” said Chief Merchandising Officer Richard Berry. “We’re pretty bullish on what holiday looks like.”

Toys R Us’ list of the top 15 toys for the season is split nearly evenly between toys that are available everywhere and toys that are exclusive to Toys R Us. Exclusives help retailers compete since shoppers can’t buy the toys elsewhere for cheaper.

Among non-exclusive offerings: Hasbro’s Playskool Big Hugs Elmo, a $59.99 22-inch Muppet doll with flexible arms that plays songs, knows phrases and gives out hugs; LeapFrog’s LeapPad Ultra, the educational toy company’s latest $149.99 tablet for kids; and a $119.99 Lego set Legends of Chima The Lion CHI Temple construction set.

Exclusives on the list include a $14.99 Shimmer ‘N Sparkle Cra-Z-Loom by Cra-Z-Art, which creates rubber band bracelets; a $399.99 Razor Crazy Cart go-cart for kids and a Toys R Us’ own $149.99 tablet for kids called the tabeo e2.

For a full list of the 15 top toys and the overall list of 36 products, go to toysrus.com/hottoys.

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