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Hunt for the hottest holiday toys has begun BY SUZANNE PEREZ TOBIAS The Wichita Eagle Nov. 03, 2002

Hunt for the hottest holiday toys has begun
BY SUZANNE PEREZ TOBIAS The Wichita Eagle
Nov. 03, 2002
Item# hunforhothol

Product Description

Hunt for the hottest holiday toys has begun


The Wichita Eagle

Gail Harper knows what it's like to hunt for a hot toy.

She normally doesn't think about Christmas shopping until the last minute and then scrambles to find the things her children want.

One year she drove to Oklahoma City to buy a toy race track for her son because she couldn't find it in Wichita.

"It can get pretty crazy," Harper said last week as she accompanied her daughter and grandson on a shopping trip to Toys R Us.

If her story sounds familiar to you -- if you still recall the year you traded your Cadillac for a Cabbage Patch Kid -- here's a gentle reminder:

Stores are about to get crazy. And that's especially true if you're hunting for a hot toy.

Although the holiday shopping season for most retailers begins the day after Thanksgiving and peaks the weekend before Christmas, the most popular toys start flying off the shelves before Halloween.

"We're already doing a lot better than last year, as far as our sales," said Darren Baltz, director of the Toys R Us in west Wichita.

The nationwide toy store chain, which began its holiday advertising several weeks ago, is unveiling its annual catalog of kid wishes --"The Big Toy Book" -- in newspapers today. Other stores, such as Target and Wal-Mart, also crank up toy promotions long before Thanksgiving.

Wichita shoppers already are clamoring for some toys, such as "Fur Real Friends," a line of furry robotic felines that meow, purr and hiss just like real cats.

"We can't keep them on the shelf," Baltz said. "People are calling and putting them on hold. As soon as we get a shipment in, they're gone."

The eerily real cat, which sells for about $30, is likely to be one of this year's elusive toys, Baltz said. But it won't be the only one.

Barbie as Rapunzel, the doll with "more than a foot of luxurious locks," already is a tough find in some stores, toy industry watchers say.

So is Chicken Dance Elmo. This year, the furry "Sesame Street" creature is dressed as a chicken, flapping his wings and moving his legs as he does the dance we all try to avoid at weddings.

Harry Potter's Chamber of Secrets Lego set is likely to be a hot seller, with the movie opening in just a couple of weeks. Other popular toys include Yu-Gi-Oh card sets and video games, Dora the Explorer dolls and the LeapPad line of educational toys, Baltz said.

Most of those toys are still widely available in Wichita stores, but some may sell out earlier than usual.

Jim Silver, co-publisher of Toy Wishes magazine, expects some of this year's in-demand merchandise to be gone by Dec 1, if not Thanksgiving.

Under normal circumstances, retailers would order late shipments if any are available. But because of backlogs at the West Coast docks this year, manufacturers shipping from Asia may have a tough time filling such orders in time for the holidays, Silver said.

"If you know there's one or two things your child really wants, buy now," he said. "It's never too early to start shopping."

Harper, the Wichita grandmother, said she fortunately doesn't have to worry about snagging hot toys these days. Her children are grown, and her 2-year-old grandson is too young to know what's popular.

Her daughter, Sherrie Terry, doesn't have to scramble either, mostly because she doesn't procrastinate.

"I usually start (Christmas shopping) in July," Terry said. "I like to get it over with before the stores get crazy."

Last week, 2-year-old Adrian Terry, dressed in his Halloween cowboy outfit, accompanied his mother to Toys R Us, where she made some final holiday purchases.

Filling her shopping cart were a play kitchen that doubles as a toy box, a bucket of pretend food, a whale-shaped inflatable ball pit and a set of plastic barnyard animals.

"This is probably going to be it," Terry said.

Harper looked on in amazement. "She's so good," she said.

"She's already done."


Contributing: Washington Post




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