Non-licensed toys to rule retail this holiday season

Take a seat, Pikachu.

Licensed toys based on children's films and TV shows will not drive toy sales this Christmas like they did last year. That's the word coming from toy analyst Sean McGowan, who presented his picks for the top-selling...
November 1, 2000

Take a seat, Pikachu.

Licensed toys based on children’s films and TV shows will not drive toy sales this Christmas like they did last year. That’s the word coming from toy analyst Sean McGowan, who presented his picks for the top-selling toys this Christmas at the media-toy industry confab PlayDate 2000. The picks-pulled from McGowan’s PlayDate survey-polled major U.S. retailers, including Wal-Mart, Toys `R’ Us, Target, Kmart, Amazon, eToys and Zany Brainy, and found that most retailers were hedging their bets on non-licensed toy originals. To wit: Retailers chose scooters-specifically those produced by Razor and Huffy-to be the most sought-after toy this holiday season. Other toys expected to cause a stir at stores include: The robotic dogs Tekno (by Manley Toy Quest), Poo-Chi (by Tiger) and Rocket (by Fisher-Price); Amazing Babies (by Playmates); finger bikes and boards (by Spin Master, Tech Deck, Jakks Pacific); Gundam Wing toys and figures (by Bandai); The Harry Potter Trivia Game (by Mattel); Hit Clips (by Tiger Electronics); Let’s Pretend Elmo (by Mattel); Pokémon Trading Cards (by Wizards of the Coast); Britney and Christina Singing Dolls (by Yaboom); Lego Soccer Championship Challenge; Top It (by Hasbro); and Tucker My Talking Truckboat (by Hasbro). The lack of licensed toys at the top of the list (last year, the survey was dominated by Pokémon) is reflective of the shortage of hit kids properties currently available in the marketplace, says McGowan. Even movies like X-Men, for example, which did respectable business at the box office earlier this year, failed to translate into huge demand at retail. ‘There were really no properties that retailers could get behind this year,’ says McGowan.

Top products buyers have pegged to sell strongly in other key categories include: Interplay’s Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn (for PC Games); Activision’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, for PlayStation (for video console games); and LeapFrog’s LeapPad (for specialty toys). As for products that have a good chance of becoming sleeper hits this year, McGowan’s survey identified Haystack Toys’ AirMaze as the number-one candidate. Powered by a fan, AirMaze consists of a large silky sheet that blows up into a fort or a castle that kids can crawl into and out of. Other products listed in the sleeper category were Spin Master’s Airhogs Aftershock, Trendmaster’s C-Book Reader and various Scholastic’s Clifford the Big Red Dog CD-ROMs.

Though retailers concluded Sony PlayStation 2 will dominate video game consoles this Christmas, McGowan believes sales of PSX2 games will be lower than expected since Sony recently revealed that it wouldn’t be able to ship as many consoles as it had originally projected.

Whatever toys eventually emerge as hits this Christmas, McGowan projects overall toy sales for 2000 to fall. ‘It’s not going to be a great year,’ he says, in part because the industry saw above-average growth in `99, and also because many retailers were saddled with millions of dollars in Star Wars merchandise that they couldn’t move. McGowan, however, is predicting sales to pick up in 2001 when the Harry Potter merchandise program moves into high gear.

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