It's an all-out consumer throw-down this month, as parents scramble to get the best and most-hyped items to toss under the tree for their children. Like every Christmas, there are some toys that are "hot" and others that are just OK. Here are the top picks for those that kids are clamoring for, as well as expert predictions on what may sell out.
TUTORIAL: Demand and Supply
Classic Is "In" Again
While the store ads and commercials are full of noise promoting toys like Elefun, Lalaloopsy dolls and Pillow Pets, these might not be the items that sell the best. In fact, Josh Green, CEO of the global trade intelligence company Panjiva, is betting on classic toys in the 2011 market.
"Looking at shipments from August through October, when most holiday shipments arrive, timeless toys such as Barbie, Lego and Hot Wheels far outnumber shipments of many items on this year's hot toy lists," said Green. These toys are at their highest shipment levels since Panjiva started tracking the information in 2007. (For related reading, see 5 Most Profitable Toys Of Past Christmases.)
Hot Trends Won't Stick Around
Retailers are hoping to avoid holiday "leftovers" and are placing fewer orders for those seasonal hits that come one year and go the next. Items like the newest video games and kids' technology platforms - such as the Leapster line - won't stay in stock for long, says Green. As a result, parents who hope to grab these "hot" items for a child's very specific wish list should buy early.
Licensed Characters Always Win
With certain franchise-based toys winning out year after year, it can be assumed that kids will be clamoring for these perennials again in 2011. Elmo and "Toy Story"-inspired toys, for example, are already placing high. Green has reported an uptick in shipments of these toys leading up to the holiday season. While the specifics of the toys change every year (Tickle Me Elmo has now morphed into Let's Rock Elmo), the familiarity of these products will likely continue to lure newer and younger consumers each season.
"Just Like Mommy and Daddy" Creates Demand
In addition to using the number of product shipments to determine what toys will win the sales wars this year, there is always the sentiment of the parents who are taking "standing orders" from tiny wish list requesters. Small children across the U.S. are already grabbing for the iPad, motivating Mom and Dad to purchase a more suitable "child-appropriate" substitution. This, in turn, has created a high demand for products like the Leapfrog LeapPad, a kiddie version of the most popular tablets that is already creating a stir on parenting forums and shopping sites. (For related reading, see 5 Digital Gift Ideas For The Holiday Season.)
Strange Fads Are Among Us
While there is quite a bit of logic involved in pinpointing the perfect toy gift, some of the best-loved items come from the most whimsical of places. As a result, you will find toys inspired by the highly-addictive "Angry Birds" app to be high on the hot list, as well as several other unlikely themes. Toys that Jennifer Jolly, the Tech Lifestyle Editor for Tecca.com, thinks may do well this season are those inspired by bacon or mustache trends. Who knew?
The Bottom Line
Regardless of what the experts think, the fate of 2011's toys will lie in the hands of the smallest consumer. Whether or not kids actually go for the heavy hitters like Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure, items from the Monster High line or Air Swimmers eXtreme, parents will try again this year to buy a little holiday cheer through toys. (To learn more holiday gift options, read 7 Unique And Inexpensive Gifts For The Holidays.)