Gift Cards Are Shoppers’ Choice This Holiday Season, Says NRF

nrfThis holiday season, gift card spending is set to top all previous records. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF)’s Gift Card Spending Survey, the average person buying gift cards will spend $172.74, up from $163.16 last year, with total spending expected to reach $31.74 billion. In an October NRF survey, 62 percent of shoppers said they would like to receive a gift card, making gift cards the most requested gift item for eight years in a row.

According to the survey, shoppers will spend more on average per card than they did last year, with total spending on gift cards increasing 83 percent since NRF began tracking consumers’ intentions to buy gift cards as holiday gifts in 2003.

The survey found adults 65 and up will spend the most on gift cards, with young adults between 18 to 24 years old spending the least, and men planning to spend significantly more than women ($180.81 versus $165.09, respectively).

Shoppers noted the ease of buying, the ability to allow recipients to select their own gifts, and sticking to holiday budgets as top reasons for choosing gift cards over traditional gifts. Gift cards for department stores, restaurants, and coffee shops are expected to be top choices this holiday season.

Toys “R” Us Reports Holiday 2013 Sales Results

Toys “R” Us Inc. has reported its comparable store net sales for the five- and nine-week periods ending January 4.

For the five-week period, the domestic segment reported a comparable store net sales increase of 1.8 percent. The learning, seasonal, and core toy categories generated the strongest comparable store net sales growth. Internationally, comparable store net sales declined 1.1 percent for the five-week period. Australia, China, and Southeast Asia experienced positive comparable store net sales growth, offset by softness in Japan, Canada, and Europe.

Comparable store net sales for the nine-week period decreased 4.7 percent in the domestic segment and 3 percent in the international segment. The nine-week domestic comparable store net sales change is lower than the five-week change, due mainly to the late timing of Thanksgiving this year versus the prior year, which partially benefitted the current year five-week period. Internationally, Australia, China, and Southeast Asia experienced positive comparable store net sales growth, offset by softness in Japan, Canada, and Europe.

The five-week period refers to December 1, 2013 to January 4, 2014, as compared to December 2, 2012 to January 5, 2013 in the prior year. The nine-week period refers to November 3, 2013 to January 4, 2014, as compared to November 4, 2012 to January 5, 2013 in the prior year.

COMMENTARY: Minecraft Brings A Whole New World

CARSONI admittedly didn’t know very much about the Minecraft toy and game selection until Halloween, when my uncle sent a photo of the costume that he had made for his son; who am I kidding—I knew nothing until then! My cousin Carson is a 5 year-old obsessed with the stuff! At the time, all I knew was that Carson could make anything look adorable, and that he had clearly moved on from trains and into this world where players can build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3-D generated world. I can’t even begin to understand all of the insider ins-and-outs of Minecraft, and it seems as though the name represents an entity of games and licensed products. I do, though, like to get as involved as I can with Carson, as I am much more aware of the favorites of his sister, Kennedy, since they were the same as mine: all things pink. Man, girls are simple! In time for the holidays, I took the game home to see what this Minecraft business is all about, so I can get those ever-elusive little kid “brownie points” while I’m home for Christmas. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Making a List and Checking It Twice

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s that time of year again. Time to deck the halls, brave the malls, trim the tree, visit family—and if you’re a kid, it’s time to get serious about that Christmas list.

As we get older, our wish lists shift to more practical items, or fewer (and often more expensive) indulgences. Sometimes it seems like just yesterday that my list included such fantasies as a horse like the one from the Billy and Blaze book series, an RV (a real one), a ride-on car, and other obnoxious requests.

Not everything was ridiculous or out of my parents’ price range, however. One Christmas I was delighted when Santa brought me a coveted doll that I’d had my eye on for months. Another year, Barbie’s shoe store made it down the chimney, to much jumping around and “YESSSS!!!”-ing. And the year that presents filled a shiny new Radio Flyer red wagon and overflowed all over the floor goes down as one of the most memorable of all.

Times have changed, and so have the requests of kids as they add, edit, erase, and perfect what may be the most important document of the year before carefully addressing it to the North Pole and sending it off to the big man himself. Here are a few gifts, old and new, that are sure to excite and delight the kids of today as they did us kids of yesteryear.

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The red wagon from my Christmas past was a simple, classic steel wagon that I thought was just the best ever. Now, Radio Flyer’s Build-a-Wagon offers customers the chance to design their wagon to their own unique specifications. Through the website, users can choose from the classic steel-and-wood design or modern plastic, quiet-ride or rugged rubber tires, and accessories including canopies, umbrellas, seat pads, and an MP3 player. [Read more...]

Long Island Newsday Picks Up the Toy Insider’s Hot 20 List of Holiday Toys

Check out Long Island Newsday’s slideshow of the Toy Insider’s Hot 20 list!

The Toy Insider’s ‘Hot 20′ list of 2013 via Long Island Newsday!

Toys for Tots, Blue Angels Mission to Save Christmas for Children Affected by Sandy

The Blue Angels turned their C-130 aircraft, affectionately nicknamed “Fat Albert,” into a modern Santa’s Sleigh with a mission to help the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation save Christmas for many children still living with destruction from Superstorm Sandy. The Blue Angels arrived at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst with Santa on board after picking up an aircraft full of toys in Atlanta, Ga., and Washington D.C. Additional toys were trucked in to meet the plane. [Read more...]

Santa to Bring High-Tech Gadgets, Familiar Favorites to Children This Holiday Season

Children’s wish lists this holiday season are full of the latest gadgets such as Apple iPads and the Nintendo Wii U, but there’s still demand for some classic gifts like Lego blocks, dolls, and toy cars, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF)’s 2012 Top Toys Survey, conducted by BIGinsight.

A surprise item in this year’s top ten is Furby, which ranked No. 3 on girls’ wish lists and No. 9 on boys’ lists. Furby became a must-have item and child favorite in the late 90s but has since undergone a digital makeover complete with LCD eyes and compatible iPad apps. Video games also appeared on both lists this year. According to NRF’s holiday survey, 45.1 percent of consumers plan to buy toys this holiday season.

Buildable Figures from Playmobil

It may be hot outside, but The Toy Book just got a preview of Playmobil’s holiday lineup. New from the company are Playmobil Figures, which will be available in August. The line offers 12 different boy figures and 12 different girl figures, which come in a surprise mystery package.

The figures come unassembled in the package, allowing children to put them together themselves. Children can interchange the parts on various Playmobil figures to make new characters with the pieces they get in the package. The figures retail for $ 2.99 and are for ages 5 and up.

NPD Analyst: Retailers Scrambling to Recover Lost Sales

Marshall Cohen, chief industry analyst of The NPD Group, initially expected that the holiday 2010 season would “be remembered as a good year, not a great one.”
“To be great,” said Cohen right before Christmas, “the consumer would have to be in a frenzy and retailers would still be stocked with plenty of product to go around.” According to Cohen, retailers practiced the theory that it is better to sell out than to have leftovers.
On Monday, Cohen revised his outlook saying: “Holiday 2010 just went from a truly Merry Christmas for retailers to a lost weekend with retailers scrambling to recover lost sales.” Cohen called the post-Christmas weekend “brutal,” citing an already shortened post-holiday shopping weekend due to the holiday falling on a Saturday and the Sunday snowstorm in the Midwest and Northeast.
“All-in-all, retailers will lose about 0.5 [percent] of sales with the loss of this big post-Christmas day. And by the time they make it up, the sales will fall out of the range of the ‘holiday numbers’,” Cohen said. “Consumers will now have to wait longer to use those gift cards and make their returns. This is an important part of the sales in that consumers tend to spend approximately an additional 16 percent above the face value of gift cards and returns.”

Giantmicrobes Introduces Food Poisoning Plush, More for the Holidays

Ever wondered what food poisoning would look like in plush form? Well wonder no more, Giantmicrobes, Inc.—designers of collectible toys inspired by the microscopic world—is releasing new editions to its educational toy line.

The new products, like all Giantmicrobes products, includes the toy modeled on electron micrographs, enlarged a million times, and includes the micrograph image as well as information about the microbe it represents. The collection spans more than 100 microbes, including Common Cold, Brain Cells, Bed Bugs, and more.

On November 5, the company released Food Poisoning and Diarrhea, as well as Nibble the Bed Bug vinyl figure. Each vinyl figure comes with an animation flipbook and an action-pose sticker.

[Read more...]