Sunday, November 25, 2007

hi tech toys

Many of us will also be shopping for a lot of cool gadgets this holiday.

With all the new technology one has to wonder what's hot and worth your hard earned cash.

You can bet video gamers are gonna get their licks in.

All sorts of games are sure to sell.

Along with consoles like the Nintendo wii and Sony's newly discounted Playstation 3 there's also Microsoft's Xbox 360.

TVs are also expected to be big and high-def is all the rage.

"Big screen TVs, laptops, they fly out of here daily..I mean, fly!," said Jack Dougherty of Best Buy.

Dougherty says it's easy to guess what this year's hot holiday sellers will be…TVs, universal remotes.

In fact, most gadgets big or small are expected to sell well.

"No slowdown in iPods sales. They're just coming and coming said Dougherty.

"In fact, all sorts of mp3 players are expected to move off the shelves this year, along with DVD box sets of your favorite movies and TV shows.

But the big breakthrough item this year could very well be GPS or global positioning satellite systems for your car.

So, here are the keys,

Prices are going down at stores like best buy, but be prepared to spend a lot of time in line and eventually, you'll get the camera, laptop, or pc you've been waiting for.

Megan Treviño has not played with Barbies in ages.

Megan, a mature woman of 11, long outgrew the leggy, perma-tanned doll. These days, her wish list includes more grown-up fare. For her birthday in May, she scored a tricked-out digital camera.

"It took me a day to figure out how to use it. My brother read the instructions and showed me how to work it," Megan said.

Last Christmas the then-10-year-old unwrapped a lime-green nano iPod. But make no mistake -- the preteen also appreciates the classics.

Like preteens of past generations, Megan adores cute stuffed animals. But like the tweens of today, she prefers those featured on the popular Web site, which offers a virtual world of animal friends that users can accessorize.

"Once she turned 6, all the dolls and all that stuff went away. A lot of it was replaced with video games and the computer," said Megan's dad, Ken Treviño.

Like a scorned prom date, Megan's Barbie sits forgotten in her dream house -- a common tale nowadays as techno toys gain in popularity among older children.

Thumbing through today's newspaper will loosen dozens of sales advertisements, reflecting this season's hot toy trends, including Hannah Montana and Guitar Hero III. A bevy of electronic gadgets await the hordes of eager shoppers who will storm stores tomorrow in search of Black Friday bargains. As in past years, onlookers can expect the biggest shopping day of the year to kick the holiday shopping season into high gear. One surprise this year, though, may be seated squarely in the driver's seat.

"It's not like before where parents were selecting (what to buy). Now children are selecting," said Dr. Lloyd Dempster, a professor of psychology at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

Kids today boast incredible purchasing power, perhaps more so than their older siblings, Dempster said and added that parents are more likely to cater to younger children.

And the younger crowd often is drawn to the same gadgets that appeal to the big kids.

"Today's child is a little bit different than in past history. I think that has a lot to do with media and younger parents who are more into electronics," Dempster said. Modern day parents who grew up with advanced technology often find it natural to introduce their kids to the hi-tech world.

Between 2005 and 2006, sales of video games increased by 19 percent, and sales of electronics surged with 22 percent growth, reported the NPD Group, a New York retail tracking organization. Meanwhile, sales of toy figurines fell 9 percent. All told, the video game industry netted nearly 10 times more revenue than the action figure industry, the report said.

Megan and scores of other tweens represent the preteen shopping constituency (ages 8-12) that is reaching more for electronic gadgets than for dolls.

"Every year, electronic-type toys become more and more popular. So many of the games are becoming more interactive," said Helen Malani, a shopping expert for The Web site draws more than 20 million unique shoppers a month, she said.

Shopzilla's research team culls the data to determine what items people are searching for online, she added.

"Hannah Montana is very popular this year," Malani said. The Disney character joins Guitar Hero III and Smart Cycle Physical Learning Arcade System in the handful of popularly sought toys in 2007. The latter two involve interactive media.

"Internet connectivity" is one of the major toy trends this year, said Bob Friedland, public relations manager at the Toys "R" Us corporate office in New Jersey. The term includes toys such as an Easy Link Internet Launch Pad for toddlers and a Barbie MP3 player that, when connected to, allows the user to change the hair and clothes of her Barbie doll online, he said.

"There is a lot of play value when you add electronics. It really kind of enhances the value of the toy," Friedland said.

The trend toward techno toys is apparent online. On its Web site, electronics giant Best Buy showcases digital cameras that sport kiddie characters such as SpongeBob SquarePants, Hello Kitty, Hannah Montana, The Cheetah Girls, Bratz and, of course, Barbie.

The doll may pose in vain in some households, but her modernized electronic counterpart is making the rounds in toy land. Even as she approaches 50, the rubbery blonde continues to compete with the younger brigade of cultural icons -- and always with her signature waxen smile.

Dolls that have hit the shelves in recent years include Disney starlets Hannah Montana and The Cheetah Girls -- ladies credited with helping to spark another holiday trend called "Hey, You're a Rock Star." Corporate research analysts at Toys "R" Us coined the phrase to encompass all merchandise associated with music-making phenomena such as the Disney posse.

"It started with karaoke and has grown with 'American Idol.' (Items) run the gamut from baby up until big kids," Friedland said. Rockstar-wannabe toys range from the Little Superstar: Sing-Along Stage for tots (priced online at $34.99) to Guitar Hero III (priced according to platform) for big kids.

This season's pièce de résistance, Guitar Hero III (for PS2), retails at $49.99 at Toys "R" Us online. Throw in an extra 40 bucks, and you take home the guitar, too. An anticipated top-seller, Guitar Hero's games and accessories are featured prominently in ads such as Best Buy, Conn's, Sears and Target.

Even Sam's Club has jumped on the gaming bandwagon. The megastore advertised an impressive display of gleaming Nintendo Wiis. Not to be outdone, Big Lots is catering to wannabe musicians with an ad featuring a smiling tyke banging on a set of drums -- part of a six-piece family band set discounted from $129.99 to 50 smackeroos.

From noisemakers to playmakers, this season's offerings promise another holiday shopping craze. But gone are the days of battling in store aisles over Cabbage Patch Kids and Pound Puppies. Shoppers Friday can prepare to duke it out over a stationary bike for toddlers and digital cameras emblazoned with cartoon icons.

"Today's children have to keep up with today's fast pace. Everybody's in a hurry. They have to keep up with that. They're used to this rapid progress," said Dempster, the psychology professor.

Kids may be fine with today's speed, but are their parents ready to kick it up a notch Friday? Better pack some PowerBars in the stroller


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