Santa's elves prepare for what may be their best Christmas ever
Make way for a fun-and-games Christmas. Stand aside for an avalanche of GoBots, Trivial Pursuits, G.I. Joes, Gloworms, Transformers, Cabbage Patch Kids, Care Bears and Rainbow Brites. Hold your breath for a flood of He-Mans and My Little Ponys. After two years of a sturdy economic recovery in which adult Americans got their goodies, it is now the turn of their children. Toymakers and -sellers are happily anticipating their biggest Christmas, and their biggest sales year, ever.
The 235 members of the Toy Manufacturers of America, which accounts for 90% of all the toys sold in the U.S., are expecting retail sales this year of $12.5 billion, up from $10.4 billion in 1983. It will be a "super year by a comfortable margin," says David Leibowitz, a toy-industry analyst for American Securities in New York City. New Jersey-based Toys "R" Us, America's largest seller of playthings (1983 sales: $1.32 billion), expects a sales Increase of about 33%.
Two popular items, Cabbage Patch dolls and Trivial Pursuit, both introduced ast year, are no longer simply hot-selling toys. They have now become American social milestones. Says Thomas Kully, a toy-industry watcher at the investment firm of William Blair & Co. of Chicago: 'Those two products are absolutely the biggest the industry has ever seen." Shipments of Cabbage Patch Kids and ancillary licensed products, including a board game, storybooks, decals and patches, will reach $1 billion in 1984. More than a year after they appeared and despite the fact hat Coleco, their manufacturer, does not even advertise them, the dolls are still in short supply. That does not hurt sales; in fact, it helps. Says Margaret Preble, a sociology instructor in Virginia: "The shortage gives implied status to those who can get a doll." An official of Toys "R" Us says "thousands of people" are on its Cabbage Patch doll lists in its 198 U.S. stores.
Meanwhile, Trivial Pursuit has taken hold of the nation. Last year all board-game sales were worth $200 million at wholesale; this year Trivial Pursuit alone will have sales of close to $400 million. An estimated 22 million Trivial game boards and question sets will be sold in 1984. The game's success has also helped revive old board favorites. Sales this year of Scrabble sets are up 27%, to 2 million, and dollar sales of Parker Brothers' Clue are up 20%. Psychologists and sociologists are searching for an explanation for Trivial Pursuit's phenomenal popularity. Says Psychology Professor Ricki Levenson of New York University: "Trivia plugs into everybody's secret addiction to gossip. Knowledge of trivia, like the name of Princess Di's hairdresser, is mental junk food that people delight in consuming."