Archive for Saturday, December 9, 2006

Toy Story for 2006: high tech, high priced

December 9, 2006


The $200 Robosapien V2 robot is the must-have Christmas toy for 11-year-old Jenna Jarvis.

Toy makers like such passion. And this year they are selling more toys that cost upward of $100 after watching consumers spend big bucks for iPods and game consoles during past seasons.

Even though the toys are pricey, parents such as Pete Jarvis are willing to pay.

"This will be her big present," said Jarvis, 36, of Pasadena, Calif.

The $10 Barbies and Legos aren't going away. But toy makers are betting that a blend of high-tech wizardry with life-like horses, Jeeps and robots will persuade youngsters to put such extravagant items on their Christmas lists.

Industry consultants think it could be a watershed year for high-priced toys as consumers decide whether they will fully embrace them. For their part, toy company executives are confident they can harness the same kind of success that their electronic competitors have enjoyed for years.

What's different this year is that as prices of technology components such as microchips have dropped, toy manufacturers have created more high-tech items at somewhat affordable prices. Just a few years ago, these same products would have cost hundreds more to make and sell, toy makers said.

And more toys resemble electronics products, blurring the line between what is a toy and what is a gadget. Within the toy industry, sales of youth electronics are growing while those of such traditional products as action figures have been steadily declining during the past few years.

Last year, the number of toy items that sold for $100 or more increased by 11 percent from 2003, according to the NPD Group, a consumer market research company in Port Washington, N.Y. Analysts said there are more this year.

Santa's list

For the first time, Toy Wishes magazine's annual list of 12 hot toys includes three items priced $200 or more: ¢ Hasbro's Butterscotch My Furreal Friends Pony, $299.99. ¢ Lego MINDSTORMS NXT robot, $249.99. ¢ Nintendo Wii, $250. The most expensive toy on last year's list, at $99.99, was the Leapster L-Max Learning game system.


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