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Micro R/C cars are racing off the shelves

While there was no single toy that blew out the buzz-o-meter last Christmas, micro R/C cars made some pretty steady gains on the toy circuit. According to industry tracker The NPD Group, the larger R/C category posted a 2.3% growth in sales in Q4 2002 over Q4 2001. But when you take into account the category's 32.3% increase in units sold, it becomes clear that lower-priced mini R/Cs were a major category driver last holiday season.
June 1, 2003

While there was no single toy that blew out the buzz-o-meter last Christmas, micro R/C cars made some pretty steady gains on the toy circuit. According to industry tracker The NPD Group, the larger R/C category posted a 2.3% growth in sales in Q4 2002 over Q4 2001. But when you take into account the category’s 32.3% increase in units sold, it becomes clear that lower-priced mini R/Cs were a major category driver last holiday season.

Although RadioShack’s proprietary ZipZaps line doesn’t figure into this tally (NPD doesn’t include the Fort Worth, Texas-based electronics chain’s sales in its measurement), it is largely recognized as the market-leading micro-RC cluster. RadioShack spokesperson Kay Jackson says the initial run of ZipZaps product sold out quickly last fall, and some stores had as many as 200 consumers on their reorder waiting lists leading up to the holidays. ‘It’s probably the most successful product at RadioShack and the most successful launch in the history of our 80-year-old company,’ she adds.

About the size of a die-cast car, ZipZaps retail in starter kits for US$19.99, and interchangeable body upgrades (including licensed SpongeBob SquarePants, Wild Thornberrys, The Fast and the Furious and X-Men SKUs) range from US$4.99 to US$12.99. Affordability is key to the appeal of the cars, says Jackson, along with the fact that they charge in about 45 seconds and can fit into a pocket. ‘Several years ago, this technology would have been cost-prohibitive,’ she says. ‘It’s the same little motor that makes your cell phone vibrate and move across the desk.’ RadioShack will bring out new SKUs for 2 Fast 2 Furious this month and is on the lookout for more licenses.

MGA Entertainment CEO Isaac Larian says he was surprised at how well his North Hills California-based company’s line of Micro Blast Racer R/Cs sold after their Q4 2002 release. With no advertising support, the cars climbed up NPD’s list of top-selling R/C cars for 2002 to 10th spot at year’s end, before hitting number three in Q1 2003. The line of 18 SKUs includes cars, tanks and submarines (US$10 to US$15), all of which charge up in two minutes for about 15 minutes of play. The company has seven new releases slated for the fall, and MGA plans to support them with its first Micro Blast Racer TV ad campaign.

Silverlit Toys sales and marketing manager Debora Penman says her City of Industry, California-based company was caught a bit off guard last year when the micro R/C category took off as quickly as it did. Silverlit hustled to come up with X-Trek, a line that sets a new standard for R/C technology. Launching this month, the two-inch cars (US$19.99) feature a programmable controller that allows drivers to save up to 18 different functions. The racetrack ranges from 14 to 63 feet (US$29.99 to US$59.99) and comes with a pit stop so the cars can charge without ever leaving the track.

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