IT IS the season that has cash-strapped parents reaching nervously for their wallets.
Yesterday, the Toy Retailers’ Association revealed the ten toys it believes will be top of children’s Christmas lists this year.
A Lego coastguard set is top of the rankings, the group said at its annual “Dream Toys” event in London, followed by a doctor’s bag featuring Disney character Doc McStuffins and a range of technology-driven toys.
Experts believe parents will spend more on toys at Christmas this year than in 2012, as consumer confidence returns to the retail market and householders feel they have more disposable income to splash out during the holiday period.
“This festive season, we expect to see a slight increase in toy spend compared to last year,” said Frederique Tutt, global toy industry analyst with market research firm the NPD Group. “Much of this growth is going to be driven by a combination of innovation and technology in the sector.”
She said that toy sales had slowed earlier in the year due to the absence of a summer movie blockbuster, which usually drives merchandise sales, and poor spring weather, which delayed spending on outdoor toys.
“This is counterbalanced by the fact that sales for special occasions are on the rise and, as a result, we are confident Christmas 2013 should end the year on a positive note,” she added.
Robot toys are set to be popular this year, according to the Dream Toys’ panel, which is made up of independent buyers representing 80 per cent of toy retailers from stores. The list of top presents includes a Robo Fish Bowl, which is “indistinguishable” from a real fish when swimming; a Teksta Robotic Puppy, which responds to a child’s voice, as well as physical gestures, lights and sounds; and the new generation of the classic Furby, which can be connected to an iPad or smartphone.
The Flying Fairy by Flutterbye, which hovers above its base and can be controlled by a child’s hand, is also likely to be a winner with youngsters, the panel said.
“Christmas 2013 is set to be a strong year for toys, and this is a great Dream Toys list that reflects not only the need for toys to appeal to all budgets and tastes, but also how ‘tech’ is continuing to increase its influence within toys – from pads and robotic dogs to flying fairies and fish,” said Gary Grant, chairman of the Dream Toys committee.
“The list perfectly illustrates the innovation, diversity and widespread appeal of toys, whilst acknowledging that parents and families need a variety of price options.”
However, Marguerite Hunter-Blair, chief executive of Play Scotland, warned that few of the electronic toys on the list would be likely to keep children interested past the Christmas holidays.
“Some of the electronic toys don’t have a massive play value because they are not adaptable,” she said. “Parents might find that, in a lot of cases, their children prefer the packaging and, once the batteries run out, they are discarded at the bottom of the toy box.”
She said that pet-based toys such as the Robo Fish or Robotic Puppy could also prove detrimental to teaching children how to care for animals.
“They get the fun of a pet without the responsibility,” she said. “It means that children aren’t being taught how to feed or look after a pet – just to play with it -– which is an important skill.”