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FOR TOY INDUSTRY, REGISTERS RANG '92 OUT WITH A BANG; EXPERTS ACCURATELY PREDICTED TOY SALES BOOST

 BETHEL, Conn., Feb. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- The Duracell Toy Industry Forecast, a compilation of toy industry analyst and expert predictions released last fall, accurately predicted 1992 would be a banner year for the toy industry, with a likely 5 to 10 percent increase in sales.
 In an announcement yesterday, the Toy Manufacturers of America, Inc. (TMA), the marketing association to the industry, reaffirmed Duracell's forecast. At the opening news conference at the American International Toy Fair, TMA announced 1992 toy sales leaped 12.2 percent over last year, making toys a $17 billion industry. For the first time since TMA has been tracking toy sales, all major product category shipments increased in 1992. Sales of dolls, plush, games and puzzles and activity toys all grew significantly last year, fueling the sales growth.
 A much-hoped-for strong fourth quarter -- when approximately two-thirds of all industry sales occur -- had retail registers ringing, with some of the nation's largest retailers claiming 1992 to be the best Christmas season ever. "I think the toy industry breathed a huge sigh of relief," said John Taylor, toy industry analyst with L.H. Alton & Co. "They held their breath through Christmas, and things turned out pretty well."
 In December, total retail sales were up 8 percent over a year ago, the biggest increase in more than three years, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. And the Johnson Redbook Service's Retail Indicators reported a 10.4 percent jump in department, discount and chain store sales over last year.
 What Powered Sales?
 The Duracell Forecast had predicted "delayed families" and a new consumer spending attitude would help fuel a rebound in toy sales. The rising number of first births in the past few years and the understanding that parents spend more on their first-born children may have contributed to last year's 3 percent increase in the infant and preschool category in which manufacturers including Hasbro Inc.'s Playskool, Fisher-Price and Little Tikes reported strong sales.
 Experts had predicted in the forecast that consumers would be willing to spend if the price was right. Sales were up, and according to the Conference Board, the Consumer Confidence Index jumped 11 points in November, and an additional 13 points in December, reaching its highest level since April 1991. Experts' predictions that consumers were tired of saying "no" were on target.
 Manufacturers responded to value-conscious consumers by offering a large percentage of $20-and-under toys. TrendSights, a consumer research and evaluation firm, cited "the toy industry is succeeding at delivering value through highly playable, satisfying toys that are less expensive," in its November 1992 analysis of the Duracell toy survey results.
 In fact, contrary to previous years, the kids' favorite toys in the Fifth Annual Duracell Kid's Choice National Toy Survey(SM) did not seem to be directly correlated to higher prices. Half of the top 10 toys chosen by kids, and two-thirds of all toys tested last year, retailed for $20 or less. The top three toys were also in this range and Knock Out from Milton Bradley was the most inexpensive toy to ever reach the number one slot in the survey's five-year history.
 Many of the manufacturers exhibiting at Toy Fair are introducing toys which fit into the $20-and-under category. TMA Chairman Harry J. Pearce stated at the news conference that consumers are willing to part with their hard-earned dollars for toys, but they want high-quality, reasonably priced toys that offer educational value. Kids' votes in last year's Duracell toy survey showed they want the same: fun is always number one, but children want toys that challenge them physically and mentally.
 Toy Trends
 According to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal, this year manufacturers are launching "gender benders," i.e., trolls aimed at boys and action figures for girls. If kids, the real toy experts, are any indication, the results of the 1992 Duracell Toy Survey showed girls were "toy-trend gender benders," as action toys were the magnet that pulled girls across the traditional bridge which divides boys and girls in their toy preferences. Contrary to popular assumptions, girls do like cars and racing sets, generally associated as toys for boys. TrendSights' analysis of the Duracell survey results indicated a possible shift from a "blue" and "pink" society to a "purple" world.
 What's to Come in 1993?
 As the industry convenes this week and next for its annual convention, toy industry experts' outlooks for 1993 seem positive, with most expecting a year of continuing growth in the toy business. Value consciousness will still be a driving theme this year, they say, in tune with the themes of the new administration in Washington and a recovering economy.
 The industry is expecting a 5 to 7 percent increase in toy sales in 1993, with experts predicting tried-and-true toys will remain strong in 1993, and action figures and licensing will help to pump sales. "In 1993, we're also looking at toys linked to properties that are brand new," says Carolyn Shapiro, senior editor of Toy & Hobby World, a toy industry publication. Recent large licensing deals include Hasbro for the popular purple dinosaur Barney, and Tyco for Warner Bros.' Looney Tunes.
 Sources in Duracell's Toy Forecast correctly predicted a boost in video games last year, after a slump in 1991. Discounted prices and a fast-growing 16-bit segment helped push sales up 46.7 percent to $4 billion in 1992. Lower year-round Average Selling Prices (vs. discounting which began last August) and new technology and software have experts guessing 1993 could be equally fortuitous with double-digit growth at retail.
 What is The Duracell Toy Forecast?
 The annual Duracell Toy Forecast compiles toy and retail industry information, experts' opinions, and detailed analyst reports to help predict toy sales and trends for the upcoming toy-buying season.
 Duracell is currently scouting American International Toy Fair to consider newly introduced toys for its Sixth Annual Kids' Choice National Toy Survey in which more than 600 children in 30 cities across the nation will put the year's best new toys to the "play test" this fall.
 -0- 2/9/93
 /NOTE TO EDITORS:
 TAP INTO DURACELL'S TOY INFO BANK
 WHAT:
 -- Duracell, the leading consumer battery manufacturer, has established the Duracell Toy Information Bank to assist the news media in compiling stories about toys, kids and play
 -- A vast array of information is immediately available for your use including:
 Visuals: Black & white/color photography, B-Roll/video footage of children "play testing" toys and games.
 Expert Interviews: Interviews/advice from leading industry experts regarding new toys, toy trends, how to buy the right toy for children, and toy assembly. Experts include toy industry expert Ruth Roufberg, toy assembly handywoman Beverly DeJulio, and educational psychologist Istar Schwager, Ph.D.
 Toy Trends/Industry Research and Info:
 --Five years of research/ results from the Duracell Kids' Choice National Toy Survey(SM)
 --Access to TrendSights, a leading consumer research evaluation firm
 --Toy industry forecasts/analysts and experts' outlook of industry
 WHY:
 -- To give media access to a central resource of independent toy research.
 -- For the past five years Duracell has tracked toy trends through its annual toy survey in which children play-test and vote for their favorite new toys of the year. Since 1988, Duracell's Toy Survey has produced newsworthy statistics, trends information and feedback from more than 2,000 children across the country who have tested approximately 100 toys.
 Duracell Toy Team representatives, including independent toy consultant Ruth Roufberg, will be on site at the 1993 American International Toy Fair scouting for new toys to consider for participation in Duracell's Sixth Annual Toy Survey. If you would like to arrange for an appointment, or would like information on the toy industry or Duracell's annual toy survey, please call Lisa Dimino or Victoria Sackser below./
 /CONTACT: Jim Donahue of Duracell, 203-796-4654; or Lisa Dimino, 212-880-5350, or Victoria Sackser, 212-880-5352, both of Ogilvy Adams & Rinehart, for Duracell/


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GK-LR -- NY057 -- 4726 02/09/93 13:49 EST
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