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Popular toys flying off shelves earlier this year

- Doc McStuffins “Time For Your Check Up” doll from Just Play is based on the Disney Jr. show Doc McStuffins. It sells for $29.99. Toys R Us
Doc McStuffins “Time For Your Check Up” doll from Just Play is based on the  Disney Jr. show Doc McStuffins.  It sells for $29.99. Toys R Us
- One Direction, the British-Irish boy band consisting of members Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson, now have dolls featuring each performer. Each singing doll is $29.99. Or the collector dolls are $19.99. Toys R Us
One Direction, the British-Irish boy band consisting of members Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson, now have dolls featuring each performer.  Each singing doll is $29.99. Or the collector dolls are $19.99. Toys R Us
- Harmony B. Sharp is a born performer. The interactive Lalaloopsy Silly Hair Star Doll set comes with 6 removable hairstyles that play 6 different songs. It sells for $49.99 Allen Wallace
Harmony B. Sharp is a born performer. The interactive Lalaloopsy Silly Hair Star Doll set comes with 6 removable hairstyles that play 6 different songs. It sells for $49.99 Allen Wallace
- Furby, the ever-popular, interactive toy is back. Phoenix Red Furby sells for $54. Toys R Us
Furby, the ever-popular, interactive toy  is back. Phoenix Red Furby sells for $54. Toys R Us
- Furby, the ever-popular, interactive toy that has a mind of its own, is back. Talk to it, tickle it, play music for it, even feed it! But keep in mind -- your Furby will develop its own personality based on how you treat it. This Teal Furby sells for $54. Toys R Us
Furby, the ever-popular, interactive toy that has a mind of its own, is back.  Talk to it, tickle it, play music for it, even feed it! But keep in mind  --  your Furby will develop its own personality based on how you treat it.  This Teal Furby sells for $54. Toys R Us
- Jake and the Never Land Pirates Musical Pirate Ship Bucky, by Fisher-Price, sells for $39.99. Allen Wallace
Jake and the Never Land Pirates  Musical Pirate Ship Bucky, by Fisher-Price, sells for $39.99. Allen Wallace
- The Hot Wheels Remote Control Terrain Twister Vehicle by Mattel sells for $99.99. Denis Horan
The Hot Wheels Remote Control Terrain Twister Vehicle by Mattel sells for $99.99. Denis Horan
- The LeapFrog LeapPad2 Explorer Tablet sells for $99.99. Toys R Us
The LeapFrog LeapPad2 Explorer Tablet sells for $99.99. Toys R Us
- Micro Chargers Time Track Race Track by Moose Tracks sells for $34.99. Toys R Us
Micro Chargers Time Track Race Track by Moose Tracks sells for $34.99. Toys R Us
- Ninjago Epic Dragon Battle by LEGO sells for $139.99 Toys R Us
Ninjago Epic Dragon Battle by LEGO  sells for $139.99 Toys R Us
- Ninjago Epic Dragon Battle by LEGO sells for $139.99 Toys R Us
Ninjago Epic Dragon Battle by LEGO  sells for $139.99 Toys R Us
- YFliker F1 Scooter - Green and Black by Y-volution sells for $79.99. SinarG5
YFliker F1 Scooter - Green and Black by Y-volution sells for $79.99. SinarG5
- Gelarti Designer Studio by Moose Toy sells for $24.99. Allen Wallace
Gelarti Designer Studio by Moose Toy sells for $24.99. Allen Wallace
- The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Secret Sewer Lair playset by Playmates sells for $129.99. Toys R Us
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Secret Sewer Lair playset by Playmates sells for $129.99. Toys R Us
- Skylanders Giants Starter Pack by Activision is available in several platforms such as Nintendo Wii, as Xbox and Sony PS3. It sells for $74.99. Toys R Us
Skylanders Giants Starter Pack  by Activision is available in several platforms such as Nintendo Wii, as Xbox and Sony PS3.  It sells for $74.99. Toys R Us
- Tabeo, a 7- inch kids tablet by Toys R Us, sells for $149.99. Allen Wallace
Tabeo, a  7- inch kids tablet by Toys R Us, sells for $149.99. Allen Wallace
- Nintendo Wii U will be available Nov. 18, 2012, for pre-order. Toys R Us
Nintendo Wii U will be available  Nov. 18, 2012, for pre-order. Toys R Us
- Furby, the ever-popular, interactive toy is back. Black Magic Furby sells for $54. Toys R Us
Furby, the ever-popular, interactive toy  is back. Black Magic Furby sells for $54. Toys R Us

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Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, 9:35 p.m.
 

It's not as early as you think. If you want to land that hot toy for your favorite child, shop now, experts advise. The most sought-after toys may sell out weeks before Christmas and not be re-stocked. And put some careful thought into what toy you buy a kid, to make sure it's age-appropriate and appealing. Toys R Us predicts these will be at the top of wish lists.

We have almost two months until Christmas, but buying toys early saves you a hassle and headache. It guarantees that the toys you want will be available. With the economy struggling, toy manufacturers and sellers are cutting back on the supply of toys, industry experts say, so they don't risk losing money on unsold merchandise.

Jack Cohen — owner of S.W. Randall Toyes and Giftes, an independent, local, specialty store with locations Downtown and in Squirrel Hill and Shadyside — says he already can't re-order any of the popular wooden Thomas the Tank Engine toys from Learning Curve, which is out of them.

About half of the people who came in the last week of October were specifically shopping for holiday gifts, Cohen says.

People seem to be buying even earlier this year, he says, possibly because it will be easier to stick to a tight budget if they spread out their shopping over a few months.

“The woman who just left said she's done — she bought everything she needs,” he says of a customer who carried out two big bags full of toys. “I was shocked.”

Some parents were shopping in September and putting items on layaway, says Adrienne O'Hara, spokeswoman for Wayne, N.J.-based Toys R Us.

“We've given parents so many different opportunities to shop and save for those who don't want to get up early” on Black Friday, O'Hara says.

The sellout risk for popular toys is high for buyers who wait until the last minute, says Richard Gottlieb, owner and president of Global Toy Experts, because of decreased inventory in a weak economy.

“The biggest reason (for early shopping) is the chances of getting the toy you want are going to be much higher,” Gottlieb says. His New York City-based company provides consulting to toy companies that want to enter the North American marketplace. “In these days, you'd rather buy leaner.”

And with most toys being made in China, it's not easy to get a quick turnaround and re-stock the sold-out toys, he says.

Choosing a toy

Whether you buy toys early or procrastinate, what should you buy for the children in your life? A toy can either delight or bore kids, depending on their interests. Some toys, though — such as those with small parts — can be dangerous to younger children, which is one of the reasons gift-givers should heed age ranges printed on toy boxes.

If you are buying toys for someone else's children, asking the parents what the kids want is a good starting point, O'Hara says.

Parents can put together wish lists and take the lists shopping. For younger children, O'Hara recommends toys that stimulate creativity and imagination, including something simple like building blocks.

Gottlieb — whose company publishes the magazine “Global Toy News” — recommends that grandparents buy a toy that reflects the giver's personal interests. A history buff, for instance, can give a child a Civil War playset. The child may grow to share that same interest.

“Buy for your own passion. What do you care about?” Gottlieb says. “If you're really into a particular craft, science or character you loved as a kid, share your enthusiasm.

“Gift the child with your passion,” he says. “They may or may not pick up on it, but it's authentic, it's who you are. ... Let their parents get them what they want, and let Santa Claus get them what they want.”

Gottlieb recommends looking for “legacy toys” that will last a long time — perhaps a checkers or chess set — and provide good play value, rather than cheap “landfill toys.”

“A toy can really have a lifetime impact,” he says.

Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at kgormly@tribweb.com or 412-320-7824.

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