Santa's on a budget this year. And toy retailers and makers plan to make the best of it by offering more deals. Two influential lists of expected hot toys show only one that costs more than $100.
On the heels of mixed third-quarter results from Hasbro on Monday and Mattel on Friday, observers are closely watching the industry for a gauge of the crucial holiday season.
BMO Capital Markets analyst Gerrick Johnson predicts that toy sales will fall 1 percent during the holiday quarter. "I think it's going to be weak, but I don't think it's going to be the disaster it was last year," Johnson said.
One bright spot comes from an unlikely place: a small manufacturer's toy hamster that retails for $8 to $10 and could be the first true "must-have" toy since Mattel's Fisher Price TMX Elmo in 2006. Cepia Inc.'s Zhu Zhu Pet Hamsters squeak and move around, and they've been impossible to keep on shelves, Toys R Us and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. say.
Wal-Mart also is expanding a $10 toy promotion to 100 items, up from 10 last year. Toys R Us is opening 350 temporary stores in malls and inside Babies R Us stores in an effort to gain market share since the demise last year of KBToys.
Hasbro chief executive Brian Goldner was optimistic for the holiday season while discussing Monday's third-quarter results.
"While it is still very early in the fourth quarter, ... the trends are encouraging," he said.