If you were checking out the latest hot holiday toy lists and are filled with a slight sense of deja vu, you are probably not alone.
Several major toy retailers — Toys ‘R Us, Wal-Mart Stores , Sears Holdings’ Kmart — have weighed in with their picks for this year’s hottest toys. Topping those lists are retro brands like Furby, Lego, Barbie, and new editions of brands that were popular last year.
You'll also notice another thing: the toys are a little pricier this year. That could be a good thing for the toy industry, which has been suffering from declining sales. U.S. toy sales fell 2 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to market researcher NPD Group. And trends are even worse in the year-to-date period ended August 2012, when sales have slipped 7 percent from the same period a year ago.
But the holidays are key. The industry gets about 50 percent of its annual sales in the fourth quarter, so there is still a chance it could narrow the gap with 2011.
A blockbuster toy could help turn things around if it created enough excitment among consumers. At the moment it's too soon to tell, but it’s never too soon for retailers to place their bets.
The retailers offer up the lists as a guide for parents who might want to take advantage of the layaway programs these retailers are offering this year.
Toys ‘R Us, the world’s largest toy retailer, is also taking reservations for the toys it has put on its holiday hot toy list. The reservation guarantees the product will be available for purchase by Dec. 16.
But will there be a hot toy this year? There are already some strong contenders. Several toys have earned a place on more than one lists. Hasbro's Furby and the tot tablets such as Leapfrog's LeapPad2 are among those scoring the most mentions so far.
But you'll also notice a few toys on each of the retailers' lists that aren't anywhere else. That’s because several retailers are touting toys that are exclusive to their own stores. For example, Toys ‘R Us’ “Fabulous 15” list includes Moose’s Gelarti Designer Studio and Yvolution’s YFliker scooter, which are only available at its stores. Kmart's “Fab 15” list includes Mattel’sMonster High’s Skultimate Roller Maze gift set and Hasbro’s FurReal Friends Bouncy, Happy-To-See-Me Pup, which are exclusives to its stores.
But even these exclusive toys are likely to be very popular, especially when they involve brands like Monster High and Lego, which have been holiday favorites for several years.
The lists also offer a few clues regarding popular trends in the toy industry. First, it looks as though retailers are expecting parents to spend a little more this year. Some of the toys on this year’s hot toy lists are a little pricier than the ones on last year’s lists.
There’s also a lot of retro brands. Furby is back and so are the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Classic toy brands such as , Barbie and Twister have snagged some spots. There’s a new version of Activision's Skylanders videogame, and LeapPad and VTech are back with newer versions of last year’s popular kid tablets.
To get a peek at what could be hot this holiday season, take a look at ourhot holiday toy slideshow.
-By Christina Cheddar Berk, CNBC.com News Editor