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Holiday's 'Hot Dozen' toys
Annual list of the must-have toys features plug-and-play TV games, Barbie and Elmo.
October 5, 2004: 10:26 AM EDT
By Parija Bhatnagar, CNN/Money staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Barbie dolls from the "Princess and the Pauper" line and some high-tech toys featuring Elmo and Barney are among the "Hot Dozen" toys on the Toy Wishes magazine list announced Tuesday.

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Announced at a joint press conference by the Toy Industry Association (TIA) and Toy Wishes in New York City, the "Hot Dozen" list has been touted as the "official" kickoff to the holiday toy-buying season.

"The dominant trend this year is more toys based on technology," said Jim Silver, editor-in-chief of Toy Wishes magazine. Five of the 12 toys on the list incorporate an interactive screen element into the play experience.

There are the plug-and-play TV games from toymaker Jakks Pacific (JAKK: Research, Estimates) and Fisher-Price's InteracTV lets kids watch DVDs of their favorite characters, such as Barney and Dora the Explorer, while they use an electronic tablet to answer questions and play along.

Even Elmo is getting a technology enhancement his year. The new E-L-M-O from manufacturer Fisher-Price, uses his arms and legs to spell out all the letters in his name.

"Historically, toys have always reflected our culture at any particular point in time," said Chris Byrne, an independent toy consultant. "Today we live in a high-tech world, where technology is being used by kids even at a very young age. Toymakers are responding to that trend."

It's not all fun and games for retailers

The nation's toy merchants will also be hoping that the upcoming holiday season at least plays out better than last year, when aggressive price wars coupled with slow sales led to a massive industry shakeout, the effects of which are still being felt.

The fourth quarter is typically the most important sales period for the industry, accounting for as much as 50 to 60 percent of annual sales during the October, November and December months.

When it's all over, critics say they still anticipate flat year-over-year sales for the $20 billion toy industry. That's not necessarily a bad thing, Byrne said.

"This is a mature industry that may not be growing, but it's still healthy in terms of the breadth and depth of new products," he said.

Despite a plethora of products on store shelves, Reyne Rice, a consultant with the Toy Industry Association, says pricing will be a key factor of success.

Jim Silver

"The good thing for consumers is that there are many items under the $20 mark," Rice said. "This is an important price point, particularly for people who are not themselves parents but usually buy toys as gifts."

Said Rice, "We'll still see price wars once we move further into the season. The difference is that they may not be across-the-board but only on the highly promoted items."

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