TOYS MOVE INTO OTHER CHANNELS, EXPERT SAYS

NEW YORK -- Toys continue to pop up in nontraditional retail channels, which could be good news for supermarkets, said Reyne Rice, toy trends specialist and spokeswoman for the Toy Industry Association."Toy companies are bringing products where the people are," Rice said at the second annual Toy Industry Association and Toy Wishes Holiday Preview held here in early October.There will probably be further

NEW YORK -- Toys continue to pop up in nontraditional retail channels, which could be good news for supermarkets, said Reyne Rice, toy trends specialist and spokeswoman for the Toy Industry Association.

"Toy companies are bringing products where the people are," Rice said at the second annual Toy Industry Association and Toy Wishes Holiday Preview held here in early October.

There will probably be further moves into the supermarket channel as manufacturers recognize the value of the frequency of shopper trips, she said. Other channels, such as Starbucks and other alternative retailers, will see growth as well, she added.

On this year's "Hot Dozen" list, revealed at the preview, were some examples of products that could be sold at supermarkets. The Tamagotchi Connection toys, Rice said, are priced under $15, making them appropriate for an impulse buy. The Tamagotchi Connection toys are a new version of the virtual pets that were popular a few years ago. The new version has a pause button and the ability to wirelessly interact.

The "Hot Dozen" list highlights the toys predicted to be the most in demand and the toughest to find during the holiday season. The Hot Dozen are also finalists for the first-ever "Ultimate Toy of 2004" award, which will be announced during "The Ultimate Toy Awards" show Dec. 4 on NBC. The show is produced by DIC Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions.

As manufacturers realize the potential in the supermarket channel, lower-priced, sometimes smaller, versions of toys will appear as well, Rice said. Bratz, for example, makes Mini-Bratz dolls in addition to its line of full-size fashion dolls. Tangle Toys, a toy that engages a child's "fidget factor," has also done well with a smaller version of its toys at grocery stores, she said.

While many of the toys on the Hot Dozen list for 2004 have higher price points, there are some, such as Ms. Pac-Man Television Games with a price point of $20, that could find a place in the food channel.

Other toys featured at the preview were a variety of retro and perennial licensed characters ranging from SpongeBob SquarePants to revamped Care Bears, Cabbage Patch Kids, and Strawberry Shortcake toys and dolls.