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Walmart looks to heat up hot toy list

10:36 AM, Sep 12, 2013   |    comments
The Furby Boom! was one of the toys chosen by Walmart’s kids’ panel as a hot toy for 8- to 10-year-olds. This new improved Furby can produce "virtual eggs" that turn into little Furblings. A Furby app is optional and works with Apple iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone with iOS 5.0 or later. (Photo: Walmart)
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Kids will be looking to the past this holiday season, as retro toys will likely climb to the top of many wish lists.

Walmart released its hot toy list Thursday -- for the first time featuring kid picks -- and some old favorites such as Elmo, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Furby are back again.

Hot toy lists serve as a guide for parents during the holiday shopping season by letting them in on the trends - or at least likely trends. This year, Walmart took its research a step further by allowing a group of kids to choose the top toy list, says Scott McCall, senior vice president of toys for the retailer.

"We've never really included the kids in the decision making," McCall said.

Walmart invited 1,000 kids between 18 months and 10 years old to help identify the season's top toys. In previous years, a group of buyers would decide what goes on the list, McCall said. There were some surprises this year and, in some cases, the retailer even went back to order more toys, he added.

Other retailers plan to release their hot toy lists in coming weeks, and many of them have initiatives to make the holiday season less stressful for parents.

Kmart will continue to allow its members to put items on layaway, according to Jennifer Dominiquini, chief marketing officer of fitness, sporting goods and toys for the retailer. An online toy locator will also help parents see which stores have the hot toys in stock, Dominiquini added.

Walmart plans to roll out a free layaway program Friday. The retailer will also dedicate in-store space in late September for its hot toys. In the past, the hot toys were interspersed throughout the toy department.

"We've really taken the guesswork out of Mom's hands," McCall said.

Parents may have an easier time getting their hands on toys this holiday season, according to a National Retail Federation report. Cargo import volume is expected to increase this September - up 5.1% from the same period last year. This means retailers aren't afraid to stock up this holiday season.

"We make sure we are getting inventory based on demand," Adrienne O'Hara, director of consumer public relations for Toys R Us, said. "We're making sure we have the products that kids want."

Some are worried the slow back-to-school shopping trend will continue into the holiday season. However, Jim Silver, CEO and editor in chief of TimeToPlayMag website, says this shouldn't have an effect on toy sales.

Educational toys and licensed properties are set to be the hottest items this year, Silver said. "These are the categories that are important to parents."

"There are more licensed properties doing well in one year than I've ever seen in a single year," he says. "It's very odd to have years like that."

These two trends are evident on Walmart's list with the VTech Go! Go! Smart Wheels Station Playset, an educational train set for children ages 1 to 5.

Playskool's Big Hugs Elmo - which hugs, dances and sings for children - made it onto Walmart's list, along with offerings from Disney's Planes, Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Hasbro's Furby makes a return with the Furby Boom, an interactive toy that can be taught through an iPhone app.

"I think parents played with these same toys," McCall said of the popularity of retro toys. "While they have been refreshed, there's a familiarity with these brands."

Walmart's top 20 "chosen by kids" toys

18 months to 2 years:
VTech Go! Go! Smart Wheels Train Station Playset
Baby Alive Real Surprises Doll
Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Crawl Around Car
Little People Fun Sounds Farm
Playskool Sesame Street Big Hugs Elmo


3 to 5 years:
Doc McStuffins Get Better Check Up Center
Fisher Price Imaginext DC Super Friends Batcave
Sofia the First Talking Doll and Animal Friends
FurReal Friends Cuddles My Giggly Monkey
Disney Planes Dusty Crophopper Wing Control RC

6 to 7 years:
Hot Wheels Triple Track Twister
Nerf Rebelle Heartbreaker Bow
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Secret Sewer Lair Playset
Flutterbye Flying Fairy Doll
Barbie Dreamhouse

8 to 10 years:
Air Hogs Quad X4 Stunt RC
Nerf N-Strike Elite Rapidstrike CS-18
Furby Boom!
Zoomer
Crayola Marker Maker

Fola Akinnibi, USA TODAY

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