Many holiday toys to cost less than $20

Mattel Inc. and Hasbro Inc. said most of their toys will cost less than $20 this holiday-shopping season as cash-strapped parents temper impulse purchases amid the U.S. economic slowdown.

Mattel, the world's largest toymaker and seller of Barbie dolls, will offer High School Musical 3 dolls for $14.99 each and its Color Me Gemz Jewelry Box for $19.99. Spin Master Ltd.'s Bakugan collectible figures, named as one of the “most wanted” toys by the Time to Play Web site, start at $4.99 apiece.

Retailers face a slowdown in consumer spending as people pay more for gasoline and food, while seeing the value of their homes decline and U.S. job losses mount. Sales during the holiday season may fall 3 percent, a BMO Capital Markets analyst said Wednesday. Toymakers usually get at least a third of their annual revenue in the fourth quarter.

“The sales we're going to lose are those incremental sales, that impulse sale,” Chris Byrne, an industry expert known as the Toy Guy, said in an interview at a conference in New York. He declined to predict holiday toy sales, saying he was “optimistic.”

Byrne, who's covered the toy industry for 30 years, and Jim Silver, editor-in-chief at ANb Media Inc. and former editor-in-chief and co-publisher of Toy Wishes, introduced, a Web site featuring toy reviews, recommendations and recall information, Wednesday at the conference. Previously they picked top holiday products at Toy Wishes magazine for nine years, Byrne said.

The average toy price at Barbie-maker Mattel is just under $20, while products range from 99 cents to $350 for Power Wheels. Two-thirds of Hasbro's toys sell for under $20.

There aren't as many toys $100 and higher this year, said Byrne. Hasbro's FurReal Friends Biscuit, an animatronic puppy being introduced this year and one of the most wanted toys, costs $179.99. In 2006, the company began offering the Butterscotch pony for $300.

Byrne and Silver released a list of 16 toys predicted to be the most wanted 2008 holiday items, including Mattel's Elmo Live and Laugh & Learn and Smart Bounce and Spin Pony; Hasbro's Star Wars Clone Trooper Voice Changer Helmet; and Jakks Pacific Inc.'s Eye-Clops Night Vision Goggles and Girl Gourmet Cupcake Maker.

Spin Master's Bakugan “continues to be this season's hottest sensation,” Johnson wrote in a research note. The Bakugan Battle Brawlers are spheres with built-in magnets that become warrior action figures when put on metal Gate Cards. Byrne predicted Bakugan and Mattel's Elmo Live, a red furry monster that waves his arms and sings, will be among the best-selling toys.