The most toy-filled time of the year

Four tips as con­sumers start plan­ning hol­i­day shop­ping strat­egy for kids

Simcoe Reformer - - LIFE - Anne D’In­no­cen­zio

NEW YORK — Want the hol­i­day sea­son’s hottest toys? Or maybe you want a retro game. What­ever the goal, with some hol­i­day toys al­ready in stores, shop­pers may want to start plan­ning their strat­egy.

That may mean buy­ing the most pop­u­lar toys when­ever you can and fo­cus­ing on deals af­ter­ward. Af­ter its Chap­ter 11 bank­ruptcy fil­ing, Toys ‘R’ Us has promised busi­ness as usual, though there could be some wrin­kles if ner­vous sup­pli­ers hold back on ship­ments.

“If you are look­ing at the top 100 toys, you need to buy it ear­lier than later,” said Jim Sil­ver, ed­i­tor-inchief of TTPM, an on­line toy re­view site. “If you are look­ing for a clas­sic board game, you can shop later.” The site of­fers shop­pers in­for­ma­tion on the in­ven­tory of par­tic­u­lar toys by store and also of­fers price com­par­i­son of toys.

Sil­ver says that sev­eral toys like Spin Mas­ter’s Luvabella, an in­ter­ac­tive baby doll, and BB-8, a toy droid in­spired by the Star Wars movie se­ries, are hard to get right now.

While some hot hol­i­day toys run close to $200, there are plenty that are af­ford­able like WowWee’s Finger­lings, in­ter­ac­tive mon­key fig­ures that sell start­ing at just un­der $20. And shop­pers are also start­ing to see bet­ter ser­vice. Toys ‘R’ Us, for in­stance, is adding demon­stra­tors for the hol­i­day sea­son to show peo­ple how toys work and is open­ing Play Labs at 42 U.S. stores, ar­eas where chil­dren can play with dif­fer­ent items.

Some tips for toy shop­ping this year:

Get the hot toys early

Try shop­ping on­line be­cause in a few clicks you can search such sites as Walmart, Toys ‘R’ Us and Ama­zon to find out quickly if the item is avail­able, Sil­ver says. Also, it’s good to fol­low re­tail­ers on Twit­ter, where some post when they get in their next or­der of cer­tain hot toys in the fi­nal weeks be­fore Christ­mas.

Know when the sales are

If you can af­ford to wait, stores of­fer toy dis­counts of up to 50 per cent and also bun­dle toy deals dur­ing the Black Fri­day week­end in late Novem­ber. But the best time to get deals on ba­sic toys is two weeks be­fore Christ­mas, when toys are dis­counted up to 70 per cent, ac­cord­ing to DealNews.com, a deal com­par­i­son web­site. Take ad­van­tage of deal track­ers. With CamelCamelCamel.com, shop­pers can set up alerts when the price of an item falls to a cer- tain level. It also of­fers a price his­tory of all prod­ucts sold on Ama­zon.

Over­all, Ama­zon.com of­fers the low­est toy prices, with Walmart a close sec­ond, ac­cord­ing to Lind­say Sakraida, di­rec­tor of con­tent mar­ket­ing for the DealNews site, which combed deals dur­ing last year’s hol­i­day sea­son. Toys ‘R’ Us was ranked fifth.

Take ad­van­tage of lay­away

Walmart kicked off its lay­away ser­vice in Septem­ber and cus­tomers have un­til Dec. 11 to pay off their ac­count. As in past years, there’s no open­ing fee to start a lay­away ac­count but cus­tomers need to put down 10 per cent or $10, which­ever is greater. Shop­pers can put items as low as $10 on lay­away with a $50 min­i­mum bas­ket.

Em­brace ser­vices

Walmart, for in­stance, of­fers at 1,000 stores — mostly for gro­cery items but also some sea­sonal gen­eral mer­chan­dise like toys.

Be­beto matthews/ AP

Cin­na­mon Boffa, right, from Ben­salem, Pa., checks out a “Chubby Pup­pies” toy for her daugh­ter Seren­ity, left, at a Toys R Us, in New York. With some hol­i­day toys al­ready in stores, shop­pers may want to start plan­ning their strat­egy.

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