Hot Toy Trends: Legos, Princesses—and Lucrative Licensing

Zoobles, Squinkies and Sing-A-Ma-Jigs.

Silly names, for sure, but all part of one of the biggest trends for this holiday season: collecting.


Many of the toys we combed through for our holiday toy slideshow were priced low, which is fitting, given the cost-consciousness that reigns among consumers these days.

Still, the fun part about collecting is you can buy one—or many—to suit your interests and your pocketbook.

So whether its the pastel-colored characters featured in Blip Toys' Squinkiesor Spin Master's Zooblesor the light cycle and action figuresfrom the upcoming "Tron Legacy" movie, it just may be that the hunt will be on to find just the right pieces.

Another big trend is that retailers are increasingly looking to exclusive toys to preserve their margins and help drive traffic.

For example, Toys 'R Us and the Disney Store will be the only retailers selling the Disney Princess & Me 18-inch dolls this holiday season. This line of dolls, modeled after Disney princesses such as Cinderella and Belle, have made it on to several lists of hot holiday toys this year, including those from "The Toy Insider" and "Time to Play" magazine.

These dolls compete with Mattel's more pricey American Girl line to provide girls with not only a doll, clothing and accessories, but also a script and character to role-play.

Toys 'R Us Chief Merchandising Officer Karen Dodge identified sales of 18-inch dolls as one its top toy trends for this holiday season.

The retailer has been promoting the Princess & Me dolls with in-store events around the U.S., including a press event I attended at its Times Square location with my daughter.

But the trend extends beyond this one line. Toys 'R Us also has a private-label line called Journey Girls and its FAO Schwarz division has its own Classic Doll Collection. This is in addition to the Best Friends Club, Ink dolls from MGA Entertainment.

Both Target and Walmart also have their own entries into the category with Target selling a line called Our Generation, while Walmart sells a line of 18-inch dolls from Madame Alexander.

Exclusive toy lines are also seen as elements of broader licenses. Target, for example, has a Toy Story 3 Andy's Toys Gift Pack, which features characters from the recent film, including Sheriff Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie, Bullseye, Rex, Hamm and Alien.

Walmart, meanwhile, struck a deal with DreamWorkstied to the release of "How to Train Your Dragon." As part of the partnership, Walmart is selling a toy line that is available exclusively in-store and online, and it includes action figures, role-play items, outdoor play sets, stuffed animals and crafts.

A Walmart spokeswoman also said the company is seeing a lot of interest in toys based on popular licenses, such asToy Story 3, Iron Man 2 and WWE.

In addition to a strong trend toward collecting, BMO Capital Markets analyst Gerrick Johnson said he expects the construction category, which would includes both Lego blocks and products such as Jakks Pacific's make-it-yourself Real Construction,to be strong.

He also thinks Hasbro'sNerf Shooters products will sell well this holiday season. The company has introduced several new products this year that are capable of rapidly firing Nerf darts.

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