Lack of Hot Toys Challenges Retailers

ByABC News
November 22, 2000, 11:24 AM

Nov. 30 -- You may be a mean one, Mr. Grinch, but youre no Pokémon.

Jim Carreys turn as the furry, green, would-be Christmas stealer may be a big box office draw, but its not likely to generate much buzz in toy aisles at least not enough to provide retailers with a blockbuster season. Theres simply a lack of the sort of hot items that, in the past, have sparked shopping center brawls among full-grown adults, and that makes this year a challenging one for toy retailers both offline and online.

Its a pretty dull year in the toy business, said Tom Alfonsi, executive vice president of merchandising at KB Toys.

Outgrowing the Toy Store

Its not as simple as a lack of Furby-worthy ideas. First, the manufacturers have had a tough couple of years. Mattel has been distracted by its disastrous purchase and sale of the Learning Co. Hasbro, meantime, has seen once-hot demand for Star Wars and Pokémon merchandise decline. In October it warned of lower-than-expected earnings and said it would close three production facilities. That kind of turmoil has likely led to caution, said Alfonsi.

Moreover, Alfonsi said the phenomenon of age compression-or kids growing up faster is real. Theyre playing sports at a younger age, and theyre into music and fashion much earlier than they ever were, he said. Fifteen years ago a 10-year-old girl was interested in a toy store. Not anymore.

The result: There just arent too many hot items out there. The years great electronic hope, Sonys Playstation 2, isnt going to be widely available due to shortages. If there was substantial product, wed be talking about Playstation 2 as a major growth engine, said Toys R Us CEO John Eyler. Pokémon and Star Wars are passé, and there arent any other big toy licenses that are expected to drive sales.