Toy guns that shoot beams of infrared light and a second-generation menagerie of talking animals will help determine whether retailers chortle “ho ho ho” or sigh “ho-hum” over their sales this Christmas season.
High-tech toys are among the few standouts foreseen by industry analysts and retailers, who expect only mediocre sales increases overall this year in the $12 billion toy market.
Some computerized cuddles come as plush toys, which have evolved into a number of new “life” forms since the species first appeared in the form of Teddy Ruxpin last year.
Action toys, from 22-year-old GI Joe to ultra-modern Lazer Tag, also are considered some of the most popular picks.
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Out of this world toy book – Vintage Toys R Us catalog from 1986
Mattel & Barbie toys from the ’80s
Mattel & Masters of the Universe toys
Worlds of Wonder toys, including Teddy Ruxpin & Lazer Tag
Galoob toys, including Smarty Bear & Sweet Secrets
Milton-Bradley board games and other games in our vintage Toys R Us catalog
Kenner Toys, including Centurions & M.A.S.K.
Cabbage Patch Kids dolls & clothes – Coleco toys
Ideal toys, including Sesame Street, Transformers & more
Hasbro toys, including Inhumanoids in a vintage Toys R Us catalog
Tyco toys, including cars and trains in this vintage Toys R Us catalog
BMX bikes & Woodmaster toys and furniture
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Blockbusters and best-sellers
“So far there doesn’t appear to be a single blockbuster hit in the toy industry as in past years when we had products such as Cabbage Patch (Kids) or Trivial Pursuit, which were big successes,” said Charles Riotto, marketing projects director for the Toy Manufacturers of America.
Sales also are hindered by low supplies. Some shipments have been delayed because of production problems stemming from new technology, analysts say.
This is apparently the case for the electronic light guns marketed by Worlds of Wonder as Lazer Tag and by LJ N Toys Ltd. as Photon. The space-age version of tag, at $40 to $70 for the basic equipment, includes a pistol and sensor badge a target worn by a player that beeps when hit by the gun’s infra-red light beam — and with Photon, a sensor helmet.
A few of this year’s projected best sellers are already proven hits, including Worlds of Wonder’s trend-setting Teddy Ruxpin, a talking, animated stuffed bear and Tonka’s Pound Puppies line of stuffed dogs.
This year’s shoppers will encounter the second generation of these critters, some of which build on the idea of Teddy Ruxpin, who talks and moves his eyes and mouth when a child inserts a cassette tape.
Some toy animals can echo a child’s own words and other computer chip-controlled creatures make up random, sometimes interactive sentences.
Interactive versions include Hasbro’s Yakkity Yaks, under the identities of Bingo Bear and Montgomery Monkey, Coleco Industries Inc.’s Talking Wrinkles, and Lewis Galoob Toys Inc’s Baby Talk. A child operates the toy’s mouth like a puppet or touches the figure in various places and it makes random remarks in response.
Interactive creatures such as the Yakkity Yaks will ask the child to do something on their own, such as give the toy a hug, and won’t respond further until the child does so. Those figures do not need a cassette player, so can be made more soft and cuddly, say the manufacturers.
The interactive and chip-controlled toys range from $60 to $70, although some run a bit higher.
“All of these items are really great because they’re entertaining, not only to the child, but also to the parents,” said Angela Bourdon, corporate spokeswoman of Toys “R” Us, the nation’s biggest toy retailer.
There also are modern versions of traditional toys, or toys that have become perennial favorites.
Hasbro’s Jem and the Holograms rock ‘n’ roll theme dolls are going head-to-head with Mattel’s Barbie and the Rockers. Ms. Bourdon said both dolls have the same general persona, with J em posing as an executive by day and fronting a rock group at night, with available stages, lights and cameras. Jem also has a social conscience, funneling profits from her record company into a home for runaway girls.
The toy picked by some to be this year’s best seller is an old soldier. Hasbro’s GI Joe line, revamped in 1982 into a smaller form from the original 12-inch dogface that first appeared in 1964, was named by retail store toy buyers nationwide as the 1986 best seller in a survey by Playthings magazine.
Another updated perennial is a computerized version of Ohio Art Co.’s 27-year-old Etch-A-Sketch, which some analysts say illustrates renewed popularity of toys that Baby Boomers had in their childhood and now want to buy for their own children.
In its survey of buyers representing more than 5,400 toy retailing outlets nationwide, Playthings came up with the following list of the season’s best-selling toys:
Hasbro’s GI Joe line
Tonka’s Pound Puppies
Mattel’s Barbie and the Rockers
Worlds of Wonder’s Teddy Ruxpin
Galoob’s Baby Talk
LJN’s World Wrestling Federation Superstars