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Shopping Life

Toy sellers and manufacturers are bullish on the current economy. This is a great time, they said recently, to be selling toys, and not cars, furniture or cashmere sweaters.

Executives from the country’s top toy companies were giddy as they gathered for an industry holiday preview in Manhattan, saying they believe they have strong products and a level of consumer demand that is recession-resistant.

“We’re very positive about the season,” said Gerald Storch, chairman and chief executive officer of Toys “R” Us Inc. “Christmas will come, and parents will buy toys for their children.”

Toys showed their resilience in 2007 and will again this year, Storch said.

“Last year was a tough year for most retailers, but we had a great year. And I believe we’re going to do fine this year as well,” he said.

Neil Friedman, president of Mattel Brands, said a number of Mattel products are already reporting strong sales, including Elmo Live, a $59.99 plush doll that moves, responds to sounds and tells jokes.

“We see a lot of things that are selling nicely, which is hopefully a good indication of things to come,” Friedman said.

In 2007, a series of recalls contributed to a sales drop of 2.4 percent to $22.3 billion, according to Port Washington, N.Y.-based research firm The NPD Group Inc.

This year, there have been no major toy recalls; however, high gasoline and food prices and economic uncertainty have parents watching their discretionary spending.

Toy sales are down 1 percent for the first half of this year, NPD reports. “The safety problem is a thing of the past,” said Jim Silver, industry analyst and co-editor of the toy rating Web site timetoplaymag.com.

Silver added that initiatives by the industry and the Consumer Product Safety Commission have addressed the problems that led to last year’s recalls.

Tougher safety standards, however, could make it harder to re-stock best-sellers that disappear from the shelves in the weeks before Christmas, Silver said. Toys made in China now require additional time because of the new standards.

The (Hackensack, N.J.) Record


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