NEW YORK — It's only October, but for some it's not too soon to think about what the kiddies will want for the holidays.
Toys "R" Us has come out with its annual "hot toy" list that includes tablets for kids, fashion dolls in the likeness of boy-band sensation One Direction, and even retro hits like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Furby.
Knowing early what will be popular during the holiday shopping season is crucial to retailers seeking to have the right mix of toys at the right prices. The holiday season can account for about 40 percent of a toy seller's annual profit.
Last year, U.S. retail sales of toys fell 2 percent to $21.18 billion, according to research firm NPD Group.
This year, Toys "R" Us is introducing a "hot toy" reservation program. Starting Wednesday, the Wayne, N.J.-based retailer will let customers reserve the 50 toys on its list. The reservation system will run through the end of October. Toys must be reserved in stores and customers have to put down 20 percent of the toys' cost.
The Toys "R" Us hot toy list has a mix of items that it carries exclusively, as well as toys available everywhere. Toys on the list come from established companies as well as from some lesser-known toymakers in the U.K. and Australia.
There's no indication yet of a runaway success like 2009's Zhu Zhu Pets stuffed hamsters and last year's Leapfrog LeapPad tablet. But Toys "R Us executives are betting that if there is, it is on their list.
"We have an incredibly skilled team of merchants here that track new products and identify toys," said Lisa Harnisch, the company's general merchandising manager.
Here are the top 15 toys on Toys "R" Us' list. The complete list of 50 can be found at toysrus.com/hottoys.
Doc McStuffins Time for Your Check Up doll by Just Play, $39.99: doctor doll based on Disney Jr. show character
Furby by Hasbro, $59.99: update on hit 1998 furry interactive toy robot
Gelarti Designer Studio by Moose Toys, $24.99: sticker set that lets kids paint and customize reusable stickers
Hot Wheels R/C Terrain Twister by Mattel, $99.99: radio-controlled car that takes on all terrains
Jake and the Never Land Pirates Jake's Musical Pirate Ship Bucky by Mattel's Fisher-Price, $44.99: ship from Disney Jr. animated series
Lalaloopsy Silly Hair Stars Harmony B. Sharp by MGA Entertainment, $69.99: version of popular button-eyed dolls that talk and sing
LeapPad2 Explorer by LeapFrog, $99.99: latest iteration of LeapFrog's kids tablet with faster processor and more memory
Y Volution Fliker F1 Flow Series Scooter by Atomic Sports, $99.99: a three-wheeled scooter that is self-propelled by the rider's movement
m Wii U by Nintendo, not yet priced: Nintendo's new two-screen gaming console
Micro Chargers TimeTrack by Moose Toys, $34.99: miniature car racing track set
Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Secret Sewer Lair Playset by Playmates, $119.99: 42-inch playset that re-creates TMNT's lair
Ninjago Epic Dragon Battle by Lego Systems Inc., $139.99: Ninja-themed Lego board game
Skylanders Giants Starter Pack by Activision Publishing Inc., not yet priced: a sequel to Skylanders Spyro's adventure that combines real-life action figures with a video game
Tabeo by Toys R Us, $149.99: Toys "R" Us' own tablet offering with enhanced safety features and 50 preloaded apps