December 2009 | Vol. VIII - No. 12
For a post-Christmas report on specialty sales, see "Did You Order the Right Toys for Christmas?"
Friday, Dec. 4 – If you’re wondering what your fellow specialty retailers are selling out of this Christmas, just take a look at the 26 products and brands detailed below. Each received mention as a top seller by two or more retailers in a late November/early December TDmonthly Magazine poll of 44 specialty retail stores in the United States.
Directly below, we’ve indicated the hottest products in each of the seven U.S. regions, based on concentration of responses from the retailers surveyed:
Mid-Atlantic: Buckyballs by Maxfield & Oberton; Pyramid by Playmobil; Bananagrams
New England: North Pole Camouflage by Educational Insights, Blokus from Mattel; Playmobil; Bananagrams
Midwest: Hexbugs by Innovation First; Qwirkle by Mindware; Pyramid by Playmobil
West: Stomp Rockets by D&L Co.; Magformers by Rainbow Products; Pyramid by Playmobil
Southwest: Gobblet by Blue Orange Games
West Coast: Magformers by Rainbow Products; Bananagrams; Playmobil
Pyramid by PLAYMOBIL INC.
Keep the Pyramid from being invaded by releasing various traps with your very own amulet. Intruders will have to overcome the collapsible staircase, chute, and scorpion trap. There is also a secret treasure chamber, trapdoor with slide, and rotary secret chamber. The pyramid walls are removable. Set includes 4 figures, tomb, and many other accessories. Dimensions: 21 x 21 x 14 inches (L x W x H). Recommended for ages 5 and up. Choking Hazard. Small parts. Not for children under 3 years.
— "We sold out and are taking orders for it," Mike DiAndrea, manager of Hardware Center Inc. in Paoli, Pa., told TDmonthly of this high-ticket item in late November 2009. He cited unit sales of about 25 per week.
— Eight of 44 retailers surveyed in late fall 2009 named the Playmobil Pyramid as one of their top sellers. Seven others cited the Playmobil line in general as a popular purchase.
( Watch Video) 12/8/2008 (MSRP: $104.99; Age: 5 and Up)
BANANAGRAMS® by BANANAGRAMS
The fast-moving word game consists of 144 ivory-like letter tiles in a zippered banana pouch. Players place the tiles face down on the table and randomly select 21 tiles. They turn their letters right-side up simultaneously and proceed to form as many intersecting and interconnecting words as possible, rearranging their own letters as many times as desired throughout the game. Awards: TDmonthly Top Seller 2007; 2009 TOTY Game of the YEAR, 2006 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal; 2007 iParenting; 2007 Parents' Choice Recommended; 2007 Dr. Toy Best Products. (Read Review)
— This product has been making the TDmonthly Best-sellers lists since 2007.
— As of 05/13/2011 this product had 4.8 out of 5 stars from 456 reviews on Amazon.com.
— Eight of 66 retailers vouched for its best-selling status in May 2008; seven of 63 did in Sept. 2008. Shani Watmough of Planet Toys in Rockland, Maine, said her store sells 60 per month. Fifteen of 38 named it a top-selling game in Feb. 2010.
— As of April 5, 2010, Bananagrams had spent 570 days in the top-100 best-selling toys and games on Amazon.com.
— According to owner Brett Sommer of Figpickels Toy Emporium in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, “It was the 2009 game of the year. The brilliant packaging definitely helps this product." ( Watch Video) 6/19/2006 (MSRP: $14.99; Age: 7 and Up)
Uglydog Blue by PRETTY UGLY LLC
This quirky, 14" plush pet is a helpful little fellow who aspires to be just like his owner. Launch date: 2009.
— Four of 44 specialty retailers named Uglydolls when asked about their best-selling toys and games in late fall 2009, citing sales from 25 to more than 100 pieces per month.
— Uglydolls are top sellers at the Toy Shop of Concord in Concord, Mass., Owner David Hesel told TDmonthly at the end of 2009. 12/3/2009 (MSRP: $20.00)
Clear Colors Magna-Tiles® by VALTECH CO.
This 32-piece set of transparent tiles in various shapes makes for a colorful building project. It comes with 14 small squares, two large squares, four isosceles triangles, four right triangles and eight equilateral triangles.
— Four of 44 retailers told TDmonthly in late fall 2009 that Magna-Tiles is one of their best-selling products. Isaac Judd, CEO of Magic Beans in Brookline, Mass., estimated his store sold about 100 Magna-Tiles sets in November 2009.
― “[An] item I do very well with is from Valtech, their Magna-Tiles,” said Deran Muckjian, owner of Catch a Falling Star in Lexington, Mass., of best-selling construction toys in April 2010.
― Three of 43 retailers surveyed in spring 2010 told TDmonthly Magna-Tiles are a best-selling construction item in their stores. 12/3/2009
Qwirkle by MINDWARE
Requiring no reading from its players, Qwirkle is a simple-to-learn but stimulating game based around matching the attributes of the game play tiles. Players build rows and columns by placing tiles adjacent to tiles they share an attribute with (shape or color), and score bonus points if they can think ahead and put a tile down touching multiple other tiles. While the game is easy to understand, a good eye and quick thinking make Qwirkle challenging enough for a wide range of ages to play together.
Awards: 2011 Speiele des Jahres (German game of the year).
― “We sell a lot of Qwirkle,” Sue Banducci said of popular games in her Danville, Calif., store, Games Unlimited. “Qwirkle was best-selling over Christmas,” said Shirley Reilly, owner of Let's Play in Hillsboro, Ore., in January 2009.
― When asked about his top-selling games in early 2009, Tye Steinbach of Thinker Toys in Portland, Ore. told TDmonthly, “It was probably Qwirkle. We're not huge gamers in our family, but it's really fun.”
— Four of 44 specialty retailers named Qwirkle as a best seller in late fall 2009. Ages & Stages Toy Box in Golden, Colo., sells about 10 Qwirkle games per month, Manager Holly Anvers told TDmonthly.
— As of 12/17/2012 this product had 4.8 out of 5 stars from 483 reviews on Amazon.com and was No. 6 on the top 100 bestselling toys and games. Pros: Exciting; intellectually stimulating, easy to learn. Cons: Some said it took too long to play; only had 3 reviews less than 3 stars, however. ( Watch Video) 2/9/2009 (MSRP: $24.95; Age: 6 and Up)
CHICKYBOOM, The Rocking Rolling Roost! by BLUE ORANGE GAMES
The chickens are hanging out on their colorful wooden perch. But if one of them decides to leave, the whole perch will teeter. The goal is to collect as many chickens, hay bales and wagon wheels before the rocking perch topples. The chickens, hay bales and wagon wheels have different weights, meaning different point values. The player with the highest score wins the game. Selecting a heavier piece receives more points but entails more risk of making the perch topple. If a player causes the perch to topple, five points will be deducted from his or her total. "Two trees are planted for every tree used in the creation of this game," Adeline Bertrix, sales manager at Blue Orange Games, told TDmonthly. Launch date: February 15, 2009.
— Chickyboom is a top seller at Golden Apple Learning Store in Pleasanton, Calif., Owner John MacDougall told TDmonthly in summer 2009.
— Three of 44 retailers named this game as an overall best seller in late fall 2009. ( Watch Video) 4/28/2009 (MSRP: $24.99; Age: 4 and Up)
HEXBUG Micro Robotic Creature by INNOVATION FIRST LABS, INC.
The micro-robotic HEXBUG is a tiny, obedient insect that features bump-sensor feelers that help it avoid objects in its path. It responds to clapping or other loud noise by backing up or changing direction. The HEXBUG is small enough to fit in the hand and comes in five different body types and colors including pink, blue, green, yellow and orange. Awards: TDmonthly Innovations 2008.
— According to more than 60 reviews on Amazon.com and Radioshack.com, this fun, durable toy has been rated 4 out of 5 stars due to its entertaining and educational features. It is portable for any occasion and appropriate for any age. Consumers should be careful though, as they have been known to be flimsy and easily breakable, like real bugs! (09.12.08)
— "Everyone wants one, from adults to kids," Charles Bonner, owner of Heights Toy Center in Little Rock, Ark., told TDmonthly of this best seller in April 2009. "I sell 200 to 250 a month." Three of 44 retailers tagged Hexbugs as an overall best seller in late fall 2009.
— During a September 2010 survey, two of 44 retailers listed Hexbugs as their top-seller for tweens.
( Watch Video) 2/12/2008 (MSRP: $9.99; Age: 8 and Up)
Buckyballs™ by Zoomdoggle by MAXFIELD & OBERTON
This set includes 216 powerful rare earth magnets that can be molded, shaped and snapped together in an endless variety of configurations. Each Buckyball has two poles — one repels, one attracts. Not intended for children. Watch video
— ''Pun's has sold about four dozen in the last month alone,'' Joe Berardoni, Sr., owner of Pun's Toy Shop in Bryn Mawr, Pa., shared with TDmonthly in the fall of 2010.
—Jeanette Lauture, owner of Aunt Jean's Toys & Treats in Montclair, N.J., sold nine of 24 units in two days after opening a box for display, she told TDmonthly. Two of 39 retailers named Buckyballs as a best-selling travel toy in March 2010.
— Dean Smith, Co-owner of JaZams in Princeton, N.J., told TDmonthly in a Summer 2011 survey that he sells "probably 50" sets of Buckyballs each month.
— May 27, 2010 RECALL of 175,000 sets (prior to March 2010) with 13+ labeling violating a federal standard that powerful magnets not be sold to children under 14. ( Watch Video) 11/25/2009 (MSRP: $29.95; Age: 14 and Up)
YAMSLAM, Roll to Win by BLUE ORANGE GAMES
Calculated chances and strategic choices will place the odds in favor of players as they let the five dice roll them to a win with Yamslam. After each roll, a player chooses the dice that will get the best combination. Each combination is worth a different value and has only four chips, so it's important to take the best ones before they run out. Players race to get special bonuses before their friends do, keeping the suspense rolling until the end. The game has appeal for all ages and is convenient for travel, as it is "self contained in a beautiful tin box," Adeline Bertrix, sales manager for Blue Orange Games, told TDmonthly. Launch date: February 15, 2009.
Awards: Dr. Toy's 100 Best Children's Products 2009; 2012 TDmonthly Top Toy Award. Why it won: This dice-rolling game from Blue Orange is fun for both kids and adults. With each roll of the dice players must strategize how they can win the chip with the highest point value. Without even realizing it, kids are learning basic math skills like addition and probability. The game is self-contained in a red tin, making it easy to play on the road or tote along to a party.
— Yamslam is on the best-seller list at Golden Apple Learning Store in Pleasanton, Calif., Owner John MacDougall told TDmonthly in summer 2009.
— "Right now, a game called Yamslam is our best-selling game," said Sue Banducci of Games Unlimited in Danville, Calif., in late 2009. She was anticipating sales of about 250 units during December.
— Three of 38 retailers cited Yamslam as a best-selling game in Feb. 2010.
( Watch Video) 1/23/2009 (MSRP: $19.99; Age: 7 and Up)
Pentago Cruise Edition by MINDTWISTER USA
This "cruise edition" of the quick-play, easy-to-learn strategy game Pentago is ideal for portability and travel. Launch date: 2007.
Awards: May 2012 TDmonthly Top Toy Award. Why it won: Not only is this game a proven best seller; it also earned a high rating from TDmonthly's panel of reviewers, as well as users on Amazon.com.
— Brooke Andrews, owner of Millers Toy Store in Mamoroneck, N.Y., told TDmonthly in late fall 2009 that her store sells about 12 Pentago games per week. Erika Evers, owner of Dancing Bear Toys in Hendersonville, N.C., estimated sales of about 8 to 12 units per month.
— As of 4/12/2012 this product had 4.8 out of 5 stars from 24 reviews on Amazon.com. 8/20/2008 (MSRP: $19.95; Age: 6 and Up)
North Pole Camouflage by EDUCATIONAL INSIGHTS INC.
With 48 game cards and six transparent puzzle pieces, this spatial reasoning game challenges kids to cover up arctic animals, making sure they don't overlap with people in the scenes. The single-player game has four levels of difficulty and built-in storage for all the pieces.
— "By the end of the month, I'll be selling 200 to 300 [of this game]," Lori Hershman, owner of Evan's Toy Shoppe in Camden, Conn., told TDmonthly in early December 2009. "It's very easy to explain and every age is attracted to it. Maybe it's because we (the staff) love it so much."
— Two of 44 specialty retailers named it as an overall best seller in late fall 2009. 12/3/2009 (MSRP: $22.99; Age: 7 to 11)
Snap Caps® Sugar Rush by m3 girl designs LLC
Snap Caps® are the original, interchangeable, magnetic bottle cap necklace. This set features some sweet snacks for the sweet tooth in every little girl.
— Two of 44 specialty retailers named Snap Caps when asked about their top sellers going into the holiday season 2009. 7/14/2009 (Age: 5 and Up)
Junior Stomp Rocket by D & L COMPANY
As a creative, educational action toy, it’s loads of fun — kids jump on the air bladder to launch a 9" all-foam rocket into the air. The Junior Stomp Rocket is used by science teachers to help children learn about trajectory, force and motion. It is also valued by psychologists, physical therapists, special-ed teachers and parents of children with special needs. “Stomp Rockets are recognized for their positive contribution to the lives of millions of children and adults around the world,” Frank Reed, of D & L Company, told TDmonthly. Awards: Top Toy of the Year 2005, Creative Child Magazine; Excellent Product 2005, iParenting Media.
— “Our top selling flying toy is The Stomp Rocket Jr.,” confirmed Sallie Kashiwa, manager of Timbuk Toys in Denver, in October 2008. “We go through about four cases (40) a month.”
— Six of 68 retailers said in fall 2008 that the Stomp Rocket is their best-selling flying toy. Holly Anvers, manager of Ages & Stages Toy Box in Golden, Colo., cited sales of about 40 units per month in late fall 2009.
— Eighteen percent of 38 specialty retailers named Stomp Rockets an overall best-selling toy in July 2010. Scott Loveless, owner of Toys That Teach in Bothell, Wash., told TDmonthly in summer 2010 that his store sells “somewhere along the lines of 40 to 60” Stomp Rockets each month. “Stomp Rockets … are always a summer favorite.”
— In autumn 2010, Marc Holcomb, owner of Toys & Co. In Greensboro, S.C., said he sold approximately 50 per month per store. “It's our #1 gift item,'' he told TDmonthly. ( Watch Video) 8/10/2010 (MSRP: $15.00; Age: 3 and Up)
Gobblet by BLUE ORANGE GAMES
Players try to get four wooden columns in a row. The pieces can be moved after they’ve been initially played on the grid.
— Kathie Dockstader, buyer for Top Ten Toys in Seattle, said, "people like it because it´s visually stunning … it adds an element. It makes you want to play." Jude LaRene, owner of Izilla Toys in Seattle, recommended this for Christmas because: “It’s still a game many don't have yet and everyone loves.”
— “Customers are looking for word games; I call them logical-thinking games. [Games] such as Gobblet by Blue Orange,” Terry Myers, owner of Kaleidoscope Toys in Round Rock, Texas, told TDmonthly.
— Two of 44 retailers named Gobblet as one of their absolute best sellers in late fall 2009. ( Watch Video) 7/15/2005 (MSRP: $29.95; Age: 7 and Up)
Zipfy – The Freestyle Mini Luge by GREAT CIRCLE WORKS INC.
Inspired by the Olympic sport of the luge, the lightweight Zipfy (less than 3.7 lbs.) is compact and fast. Made of high-density polyethylene plastic, it is engineered for performance, safety and maneuverability on every type of snow. It features a feet-first design so that riders can control their speed and stop by digging their heels into the snow. It makes for a great family sport and comes in electric eel green, firefly red, and black diamond colors. “With a low center of gravity and the rail design on the underbelly of the sled, riders can carve down the slopes, simply by leaning into the turn,” Mark Cahsens of Zipfy Inc. told TDmonthly. Launch date: October 2007.
— Joe Berardoni, owner of Pun's Toys in Bryn Mawr, Pa., told TDmonthly in late fall 2009 that the Zipfy was one of his top-three best sellers.
— "I sold 12 of the Zipfy luges last week. The sleds are awesome," Jeanette Lauture, owner of Aunt Jean's Toys & Treats in Montclair, N.J., told TDmonthly in early December 2009.
—"During the Christmas season this past December, we sold over a hundred," Joe Berardoni, owner of Pun's Toys in Bryn Mawr, Pa. , told TDmonthly in early 2011.
3/9/2007 (MSRP: $39.99; Age: 5 and Up)
Iwako Japanese Erasers – Cupcakes by BC INDUSTRIES
These small cupcake erasers with removable parts are available as a trio and in single packs.
— Three of 38 specialty retailers named Iwako erasers as a best-selling novelty item in late summer 2009. Going into the holiday season 2009 (late fall), two of 44 retailers named the erasers among their absolute best sellers. 9/30/2009
Blokus by MATTEL INC.
Europe´s 2002 game of the year, Blokus is a strategy game for the family. It's similar to the ancient Go Game — the board is a grid and players use their pieces to try to control as much territory as possible. The game pieces are in four, 21-piece sets of varying shapes. Each player chooses a color and works on expanding his territory on the board while blocking others from doing the same. Each new piece laid down must touch at least one other piece of the same color, but can only touch at corners, not along edges. The game ends when all players have been blocked from laying down more pieces. Points are deducted for pieces not played, and the player with the highest score at the end, wins. Blokus comes with a game board with 400 squares, 84 game pieces (red, green, blue and yellow), and instructions.
— In spring 2007, Sally Lesser, owner of Massachusetts’ Henry Bear’s Park, called Blokus a “consistent best-seller” at her three stores. It's also tops at Juggles in Wakefield, R.I., and Kazoodles in Vancouver, Wash. Six of 63 retailers named Blokus as their overall best seller in September 2008. Three of 52 retailers named Blokus as one of their overall top sellers in November 2008. Blokus is no longer distributed by Educational Insights as of 12/4/08.
― “No. 1 is Blokus,” Linda Hanzelko, owner of Timmy's Toy Chest in Lake Mary, Fla., told TDmonthly when asked about best-selling games in early 2009. “It's an easy sell. It's one that people come back later and say 'You were right.'” In late 2009, Lori Hershman, owner of Evan's Toy Shoppe in Hamden, Ct., estimated sales of about 34 units monthly. Six of 38 retailers called it a best-selling game in Feb. 2010, selling from three to 150 units per month. 5/27/2005 (MSRP: $29.99; Age: 5 to 12)
Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway: Stop & Go Figure 8 Set by LEARNING CURVE
This 32-piece wooden railway set includes 15 pieces of track to connect into the figure 8 pattern, a couple of trees, a conductor, three vehicles, a bridge and a Stop & Go Station.
— David Campbell, owner of Amazing Toys in Great Falls, Mont., told TDmonthly in late 2009 his store sells about two per week of this item.
— "I started doing a lot better with Thomas when they brought back reps," Steve Levy, owner of Toy City in Keene, N.H., said in fall 2009. 12/4/2009 (MSRP: $39.99; Age: 3 and Up)
Automoblox S9 Mini Sedan by AUTOMOBLOX
With a future-retro design, and connectable, interchangeable parts, this sleek toy vehicle can fit in the palm of a hand. Automoblox Minis received a TDmonthly Top Toy Award 2007.
— Automoblox has been a best-selling line, according to retailers surveyed by TDmonthly, since 2007.
— "That little three-piece Automoblox set sold extremely well. I've sold about 40 of them in two months," Janet Gregory, owner of Over the Rainbow in Anchorage, Alaska, told TDmonthly leading up to Christmas 2009. Two of 44 specialty retailers named Automoblox as an overall best seller in late 2009.
— In a February 2012 survey about wooden toys, two out of 14 retailers said that Automoblox were their bestseller in the category. Pam Byrd, manager and buyer at The Little Cottage Toy Shop in Franklin, Tenn., told TDmonthly that "Automoblox is still strong."
Where to Buy: Blue Turtle Toys; Camelot Kids; The Satin Button ( Watch Video) 10/29/2009 (MSRP: $10.00; Age: 3 and Up)
EzyRoller - Pink by EZYROLLER LLC
This sleek ride-on is fueled by cambering motion — the rider pushing his or her legs against the front bar, to the left and right. It has a hand brake and features an extendable design to host riders up to 6' tall. Maximum recommended weight is 150 lbs.
— Learning Tree Toys, Games & Books in Oklahoma City, Okla., sells about a dozen EzyRollers per month, Owner Patti Tepper-Rasmussen told TDmonthly in fall 2009.
— Jackie Roy, owner of Learning Resources Toy Magic in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., told TDmonthly in late 2009 that she brought in five EzyRollers on trial on sold out in a week and a half.
— Two of 37 specialty retailers cited the EzyRoller as a top-selling ride-on in spring 2010. “The EzyRoller, by far, continues to be the best,” Christine Osborne of Wonder Works in Charleston, S.C., told TDmonthly in March 2010, reporting sales of a couple dozen per month.
Past Videos: WTHRA 2008 ( Watch Video) 11/3/2009 (MSRP: $99.95; Age: 3 and Up)
Pengoloo by BLUE ORANGE GAMES
The wooden game will help children enhance their memory skills. The game invites children to guess which penguin is hiding which brightly colored egg. Each egg hides perfectly inside each penguin. Launch date: 2008.
— In late fall 2009, Sue Banducci of Games Unlimited in Danville, Calif., estimated sales of 150 to 200 Pengoloo games in December. Two of 44 specialty retailers named the game as one of their overall best sellers. ( Watch Video) 2/14/2008 (Age: 4 and Up)
The Calico Critters Townhome by INTERNATIONAL PLAYTHINGS LLC
The Calico Critters' Townhome is a large, four-room home with a room divider that can create a fifth room. The house can be opened and closed for lots of decorating and pretend-play fun. There is a movable staircase and an extra floor area to create larger rooms. When closed, the house measures 12" by 12" by 12". What makes this house even more special is that there are lights inside that can be turned on or off with the flip of a switch. It recently won a 2006 Oppenheim Platinum Seal Award.
— Seven of 32 specialty retailers named Calico Critters in October 2008 when asked which items they expect to be their hottest holiday sellers. In late November/early December 2009, two of 44 retailers cited Calico Critters as one of their overall best sellers. 3/17/2006 (MSRP: $79.99; Age: 3 and Up)
Star Wars Darth Vader's TIE Fighter by LEGO
Darth Vader pilots this vehicle that first appeared in Episode IV: A New Hope. The original LEGO model debuted a decade ago, and this mold incorporates a new style, coloration and firing action. Includes Darth Vader and 250 other pieces.
— Two of 44 specialty retailers named LEGO when asked about overall best sellers leading up to Christmas 2009.
— Star Wars Legos are top sellers at the Toy Shop of Concord in Concord, Mass., Owner David Hesel told TDmonthly in late 2009. 10/29/2009 (MSRP: $29.99; Age: 7 and Up)
Square Up! by MINDWARE
Square Up! offers a new twist on the slider puzzle – playing an opponent! The object of the game is to slide the squares to match the cube shaker before your opponent finishes. It’s a fast, two-player, visual thinking game. Each board measures about 8” square.
— This game was listed as a best seller by Michele and Ken Gietz of Where’d You Get That!? in Williamstown, Mass., in fall 2008. “It’s great for travel or restaurants,” they said. “It’s two-player, but each gets their own sliding squares board and special shaker. We’ve sold many for a small store in the last six months.”
— Brooke Andrews, owner of Millers Toy Store in Mamoroneck, N.J., told TDmonthly in late 2009 her store sells about 12 units per week of this game. Two of 44 retailers named it as one of their top-three best sellers. ( Watch Video) 9/19/2008 (MSRP: $19.95; Age: 6 to 10)