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June 2009 | Vol. VIII - No. 6
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Top-10 Most-Wanted Licensed Toys

These Products Build on “Character”


With additional reporting by Terri Hughes-Lazzell, Chris Lundy, Claudia Newcorn, J. D. Meisner and Brenda Ruggiero

In April 2009, TDmonthly surveyed specialty toy retailers around the country about their sales of licensed product. More than half — 28 of the 49 polled — stated that they do not carry any character licenses, because these products do not fit in with the philosophy of their business, their unique mix of merchandise, or the niche they fill for their customers. Nonetheless, some familiar licenses have become standbys for even independent toy retailers. Here are the top-10 best-selling licensed toys:




MSRP: $12.95
Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Puppets



With his bright yellow feathers and familiar, wide-eyed face, Big Bird is a staple character for many children.  Gund captures one of Sesame Street's cardinal characters in a soft, flexible hand puppet where little players or big can move both his wings and his long beak to act out favorite or original stories. The puppet measures approximately 12” tall.
— “The Gund plush [is] the only licensed product that's ever done really well,” Mike DiAndrea, manager of Hardware Centre in Paoli, Pa., told TDmonthly in spring 2009 of his top-selling licensed toys, Gund Sesame Street characters.
— “The Sesame Street 11" dolls are selling very well,” Fran Anaya, owner of Golden Aspen Toys in Flagstaff, Ariz., said, reporting sales of 15 to 20 plush characters per month in spring 2009.
— Nine out of 49 retailers named Sesame Street as their best-selling licensed character line during an April 2009 survey.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 23876      (added 5/26/2009)
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MSRP: $21.99
Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Rail Roads & Trains



Thomas, Sodor's cheeky favorite train car, comes all decked out in birthday finery. Covered with streamers and confetti, this engine comes packaged pulling a special boxcar whose panel door slides back to reveal a load of wrapped presents. This festive addition to a child's train table is compatible with all of Learning Curve's wooden rail line, as well as many other major brands.
— “There's definitely a group that's really into it,” said Scott Loveless, owner of Toys That Teach in Bothell, Wash., of his persistent sales of Thomas the Tank Engine in spring 2009.
— “Thomas is about all we do in licensed toys, and it's still selling. We're getting requests again,” Peggy Sebert, owner of Becky & Me Toys in Glenview, Ill., told TDmonthly in April 2009. 
— Six of 49 retailers named Thomas as their best-selling licensed toy line in spring 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 23877      (added 5/26/2009)
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MSRP: $29.99
Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Construction



Modeled after the agile one-pilot fighting crafts in the original Star Wars movie, this kit builds into a detailed TIE fighter. The nose of the ship opens to access the cockpit, which houses the included Darth Vader figurine.  Flick-firing missiles, Darth Vader's red light saber, and other movie details add to the building activity in this set.
— Three of 49 retailers named Star Wars Lego sets as their best-selling licensed toy in April 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 23878      (added 5/26/2009)
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MSRP: $17.99
Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Girls
Category: Play Sets



In this ready-to-play set from International Playthings, children help 4-year-old Olivia's older sister Ashley set up a birthday party for the special girl. Designed in detail to fit in with International Playthings' extensive Calico Critters line, the kit includes a cake, drinks, presents and party hats to enrich the fantasy-play and include all of a child's favorite Calico Critters characters.
— The Calico Critters line from International Playthings accounted for the top licensed toy sales in three of 49 stores surveyed in April 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 23879      (added 5/26/2009)
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MSRP: $74.95
Age Range: 14 and up
Gender: Girls
Category: Dolls



Part of the “Since 1959” collection to commemorate the most famous vintage fashion dolls, Southern Belle Barbie is designed with feminine sophistication in mind. Her delicate pink dress is edged in intricate lace, with special heed paid to realistic garment details. She sports a sleek bob haircut and elegant makeup, and represents a modern take on the classic Plantation Belle doll fashion. 
— Cathy Gabay, owner of The Toy Parade in Salina, Kan., told TDmonthly in April 2009 that Barbie is one of only two licenses she chooses to sell in her store.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 23880      (added 5/26/2009)
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MSRP: $9.99
Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Licensed Products



The right size for a school lunch or a few essential treasures, this tin keepsake box features Curious George, the charmingly precocious monkey, flying along on a blue bicycle complete with the wide grin to tell what a good time he's having. The bright yellow box has a plastic handle and a metal latch to hold it closed in transit.
— Two of 49 retailers surveyed in April 2009 said Curious George is their top-selling licensed toy.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 23881      (added 5/26/2009)
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MSRP: $13.00
Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Dolls



A favorite childhood character, Dora the Explorer is an adventurous little girl who loves to explore and learn. In this interactive toy, Dora wears a jacket with patches from four countries around the world that she visits in the television show. Upon pressing each patch, children can learn the words for “hello” and “goodbye” in the language for each country. Dora also speaks other phrases in English and Spanish, and sings the Friendship Song. Included are four collectible friendship bracelets from each country.
— “Dora the Explorer … even beats out Elmo,” remarked Tracie Meadows, owner of Whippersnappers in St. Simon's Island, Ga., of her best-selling licensed toy in April 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 23882      (added 5/26/2009)
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MSRP: $16.50
Age Range: 5 and up
Gender: Girls
Category: Plush



Sanrio's popular character Hello Kitty comes to little girls in an 8” tall plush toy. Dressed in a candy-pink tutu and leotard with matching ballet slippers, this little ballerina is accessorized with Hello Kitty's recognizable bow in matching satin material as well as a tiny gold crown for her performance. 
— “I know it is a good product when people never return them,” Barbara Vininsky, owner of Jack and Jill, said of the Hello Kitty merchandise in her Montreal, Quebec, store.
— Hello Kitty products were popular at the Toy Shop of Concord in Concord, Mass., at the end of 2009, according to Owner David Hesel.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 23883      (added 5/26/2009)
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Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Die-Cast



Produced in a detailed 1:16 scale, this die-cast replica of a John Deere tractor demonstrates a high degree of attention to realistic features. The classic John Deere green and yellow color scheme is accented with chains on the oversized back tires so that this heavy duty farm equipment can take on any terrain to get the work done.
— “We don't do much license product, but we do some, like John Deere. That does well for us,” said Phil Wrzesinski, owner of Toy House and Baby Too in Jackson, Mich., during an April 2009 survey of 49 retailers about their sales of licensed toys.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 23884      (added 5/26/2009)
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Marie RavenWriter's Bio: Marie Raven has a long history with the specialty toy industry as a family business. In addition to freelancing for TDmonthly Magazine, she writes creative and technical material for various other businesses. Read more articles by this author

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