NEW YORK -- Usually, it's hard to tell what toys will be hot until they're already gone from store shelves. But this year, retailers' beefed up layaway and toy reservation services are providing early indicators to what the popular toys might be this holiday season.
Wal-Mart, Kmart and Toys R Us all report toys like kids' tablet LeapPad2, robotic pet Furby, and Power Wheels battery-powered cars are all popular layaway items. But not all toys on the lists are big-ticket electronics. Barbies and Monster High dolls are up there, too.
BMO Capital Markets analyst Gerrick L. Johnson said programs such as layaway _ along with price matching offers and expanded shipping offers _ might have a positive effect on toy sales, because they make expensive items more accessible, make all items easier to buy, and entice earlier sales.
"The earlier consumers start shopping, the more they tend to buy in the end," he wrote in a note to investors.
Here's a look at top toys so far on retailers' layaway and toy reservation programs.
_ Wal-Mart Stores: Top toys on layaway include the LeapFrog's $99.99 LeapPad2 Explorer tablet for kids; Hasbro's $59.99 robotic pet Furby; vehicles like the $249.99 Power Wheels Dune Racer 12-Volt Battery Powered Ride On, an assortment of scooters including the $220 Razor Pocket Mod Electric Scooter and VTech's $79.99 Innotab2 kids' tablet.
Low-tech toys on layaway include Mattel's Monster High dolls (in a range of styles) and Fisher Price's $50 Little People Disney Princess Songs Palace Playset.
_ Kmart Stores: At Kmart, top layaway items include the LeapPad2 and their exclusive $240 Hot Wheels Dune Racer vehicle. Smaller ticket items on layaway include Kmart's exclusive $39.99 Holiday Brunette Barbie, Furby, Monster High Roller Maze assortment of dolls, Mattel's $29.97 WWE Brawlin' Buddies plus dolls and Spinmaster's $49.99 Air Hogs Hover Assault flying helicopters.
_ Toys R Us: Top layaway items include electronics as well as a variety of Fisher-Price Power Wheels vehicles, toy train sets, dollhouses and bikes. The company introduced a "hot toy" reservation service this year. Top reserved items include Just Play's $39.99 Doc McStuffins Time for Your Check Up doll; Toys R Us' exclusive $37.99 Monster High doll two-pack, Meowlady and Purrsephone; and Skylanders Giants figurines that tie into a videogame.
Toys R Us closed reservations for its own tablet for kids, the $149.99 Tabeo, and Nintendo's $349.99 Wii U gaming console, due to the high demand.