Mattel Inc.’s $29.99 Elmo hands, which emit sounds and phrases from the popular Sesame Street character, and Hasbro Inc.’s $44.99 Optimus Prime from the movie “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” were among the “Hot 20” chosen by the Toy Insider, a consumer shopping guide released recently. Half of the toys retail for $30 or less and all are under $100.  (Toymakers do not pay for their products to appear on the list.) Consumer Spending logo

This year parents again will look for bargains, and manufacturers have responded with lower prices, said Jonathan Samet, the Toy Insider’s publisher.

“Gift givers this year are going to be very sensitive about the money they allocate toward their holiday shopping,” said Samet, who is based in New York and has worked in the toy industry for 26 years. Even if the economy improves, “I still think that parents are going to be more sensitive to what they spend.”

Promoting Toys

Retailers are also looking for ways to boost revenue.  U.S. toy sales through August dropped 2% to $10.3 billion from $10.4 billion a year earlier, according to NPD Group.  In 2008, toy sales fell 3% to $21.6 billion, according to NPD data.

Toy sales are expected to decline about 1% this holiday season, according toy analysts at BMO Capital Markets in New York.  The National Retail Federation also predicts a 1% decline in holiday sales for 2009.

“It’s still going to be weak, but I would be surprised if the decline is bigger than it was last year,” Johnson said, citing retailers’ efforts to boost toy sales.

Hot Toys for 2009

Zhu Zhu Pets, robotic hamsters that sell for as little at $9.99, may be the hot product this year.  Zhu Zhu Pets are currently sold out on the Web sites of Wayne, New Jersey- based Toys “R” Us and Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart.

Toys based on movie and television properties will also be popular this holiday. In addition to the Optimus Prime toy, a “Force Trainer” tied to the Star Wars series, and the “Twilight Scene It?” DVD game are on the “Hot 20” list.

Toys that connect to virtual worlds on the Internet have become more popular as children have been introduced to technology at an earlier age. Spin Master’s “Liv Dolls” and Leapfrog Enterprises Inc.’s “My Pal Scout & My Pal Violet,” which can be customized online, are among products on the Toy Insider’s list.

The Toy Insider’s “Hot 20” Toys for the 2009 Holiday Season

0-2 Years

  • Elmo Tickle Hands – Mattel’s Fisher-Price
  • Mega Bloks Play ‘N Go Table – Mega Brands
  • My Pal Scout & My Pal Violet – Leapfrog
  • Tonka Chuck My Talking Truck – Hasbro’s Tonka

3-5 Years

  • 1-2-3 Stomp! – Wild Planet
  • Liv Dolls – Spin Master
  • Rocky the Robot Truck – Matchbox
  • Tightrope Terror – Jakks Pacific
  • Transformers Revenge of the Fallen Optimus Prime – Hasbro
  • Zippity Learning System – Leapfrog

6-8 Years

  • Air Hogs Zero Gravity Laser – Spin Master
  • Bakugan 7 in 1 Maxus Dragonoid – Spin Master
  • Battle Strikers Turbo Tops Tournament Set – Mega Brands
  • Girl Gourmet Sweets Candy Jewel Factory – Jakks Pacific
  • Moxie Girlz – MGA Entertainment
  • Printies Design Studio Kits – Techno Source

9+ Years

  • Power Miners Titanium Command Rig – Lego
  • Star Wars The Force Trainer – Uncle Milton
  • Style Six Silk Screener – Jakks Pacific
  • Twilight Scene It? The DVD Game: Deluxe Edition – Screenlife

Schwartz, Allison.  “Elmo Tickle Hands at $30 to Top Holiday Gifts, Toy Insider Says,” Bloomberg.com.  September 29, 2009.

“Hot 20” Toys for the 2009 Holiday Season, conducted by The Toy Insider.  Website: www.thetoyinsider.com.