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Toy Trends: Lean and Barbie Green

Thursday, 13 Nov 2008 | 12:04 PM ET

Families across the economic spectrum are cutting back this holiday season and toy makers have responded by offering a range of price points for some of the most popular brands.

Barbie B Cause Mini Backpack
Source: toysrus.com
Barbie B Cause Mini Backpack

"Manufacturers have really broadened their price points," said Reyne Rice, a toy-trend specialist for the Toy Industry Association. "So, whatever lifestyle brand a child is into, there’s a price point that fits into Mom or Dad’s wallet."

For example, Disney’s Hannah Montana products fall in a range of price points, from the basic doll, to the mid-tier one that sings, and to the high-end doll that comes with karaoke or dance mats. There’s also a Hannah Montana Malibu House that sells for $150.

Even Barbie is checking out a few other neighborhoods.

Mattel offers Barbie dolls as low as $6 or $7, though for the high-end fantasy, there's the three-story Diamond Castle playset. The castle, which retails for $120, is modeled after the one in the DVD “Barbie and the Diamond Castle."

While the bargain Barbie options are out there, Mattel's giving Santa an extra nudge to splurge, by offering a $50 prepaid Visa gift cardwhen shoppers buy $100 worth of select Barbie products.

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There’s another trend in Barbie land this year — she’s gone green! Why? B Cause. No, really, that’s the name of the Barbie line of green products: "B Cause." Sold exclusively at Toys “R” Us, the line includes everything from backpacks to diaries and cosmetic sets, all made with recycled fabric and trim from former Barbie fashions. (Which means that they’re not natural-fiber beige, they’re hot pink, electric blue and lime green!)

Green is having a "major influence" on holiday toys this year, according to TIA. Aurora has a line of Ecoplush organic products, focused on arctic and endangered species such as polar bears, penguins, pandas and lemurs. Happe’s Rapelli Game incorporates wood and bamboo to plant the seeds of recycling and USAopoly’s Planet Earth games aims to get kids thinking about the planet beyond their backyard.

And, there’s an increase in products that TIA calls the "Get up and move" toys. They include everything from Hasbro’s U-Dance to the Jakks Pacific 5-in-1 Ulti-Motion Swing Zone Sports, aimed to get kids off the couch and moving.

Rice said that’s due to increased concerns about childhood obesity.

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"We don’t want couch potatoes — we want our kids to be up and active … not wait until adulthood to start exercising," Rice said. These products "get them up and moving."

Speaking of which, Rice thinks this year’s Elmo is one of the best Elmos ever — he gets kids participating in his singing, joke-telling show, not just watching idly.

Elmo Live’s $59.99 price point may be a little steep for some families this year but Rice said so far, pre-orders have been strong.

There will be a lot of tie-ins with DVDs, from Hannah Montana to Indiana Jones. But the one that’s stirring up the most dust — that’s fairy dust — is Disney’s Tinkerbell. The DVD sold one million copies in two days and the related products are expected to be hot sellers this year.

Less glittery, but still popular are board games, which are expected to be big sellers this year as many families, still smarting from high gas prices, choose "staycations" for the holidays.

How many points would you get in Scrabble for “staycation?!”

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Questions? Comments? retaildetail@cnbc.com

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