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WANTED: ADDITIONAL REINDEER TO PULL TOY INDUSTRY SLEIGH IN '92; EXPERTS PREDICT TOY SALES BOOST ACCORDING TO DURACELL TOY FORECAST

 WANTED: ADDITIONAL REINDEER TO PULL TOY INDUSTRY SLEIGH IN '92;
 EXPERTS PREDICT TOY SALES BOOST ACCORDING TO DURACELL TOY FORECAST
 BETHEL, Conn., Sept. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Toy industry analysts and experts are predicting a rebound in toy sales for 1992, driving annualized industry sales over the $14 billion mark for the first time in history, according to a forecast released by Duracell U.S.A., the leading consumer battery manufacturer.
 Classic, educational, and high-tech toys, as well as video games, are expected to pump sales during the fourth quarter -- when approximately two-thirds of all toy industry sales and 40 percent of all battery sales occur. In fact, 20 percent of all Duracell batteries sold are used to power toys.
 "Duracell has become the leading consumer battery brand worldwide because we understand and respond to consumer needs and preferences," says Jim Donahue, Duracell's director of corporate communications. "A large number of our customers are people who buy toys. It's natural for us to want to provide them with the expert information in the forecast, as well as the results of our annual Kids' Choice National Toy Survey(SM), to help them select toys with long-lasting play appeal and value."
 Delayed Families and New Consumer Spending Attitudes
 "A 10 percent increase in toy sales is realistic," predicts Bill Pearse, associate editor of Playthings Magazine, a toy industry publication. "The toy industry never has a terrible year because people will cut other things to buy toys." Pearse adds that the recent jump in first-births will help fuel the toy-buying spree. "Typically, parents spend significantly more money on their first-born children," he says.
 Experts also predict that changes in consumer spending attitudes will influence sales this year. General merchandise sales were up 6.6 percent for the first half of the year. Ed Johnson, director of Johnson Redbook market report on retail trade, a division of Lynch, Jones & Ryan, expects the 1992 Christmas shopping season to be up at least 6 percent over last year.
 This outlook is expected to carry over to toy purchases. Carolyn Shapiro, senior editor of Toy & Hobby World International, agrees that people will feel differently this Christmas. "Consumers are sick of saying no. They've been careful, and are ready to buy luxury items like toys," she says.
 And toy manufacturers are responding by offering a large number of toys in the $20-and-under category as noted at this year's American International Toy Fair. Hasbro Inc., the world's largest toy manufacturer, is reportedly offering a large percentage of its line in this price range.
 "Contrary to popular belief, children do not automatically gravitate toward the most expensive toys," says Ruth Roufberg, independent toy consultant to the Duracell Kids' Choice National Toy Survey. Last year's survey results revealed three of the top ten toys tested by more than 600 children in 30 cities retailed for $20 or less.
 Growth Expected Across the Board
 Toy industry experts expect across-the-board sales increases for toy companies of all sizes, including the giants such as Hasbro, Mattel, Tyco and Fisher-Price, along with smaller manufacturers.
 John Taylor, toy industry analyst with L.H. Alton & Co., an institutional research and brokerage firm, predicts sales for Hasbro, which includes Kenner, Milton Bradley, Parker Brothers and Playskool, will grow 12 percent this year to $2.4 billion in worldwide sales. Mattel Toys is expected to finish the year with $1.8 billion in sales, Tyco Toys, Inc. to be $750 million, and $700 million for Fisher-Price, according to Taylor.
 And smaller toy companies are also expecting 1992 to be a profitable year. "We expect our sales to increase 300 percent this year," says Kathy-Lloyd Williams, chairman and president of xoxo international, inc., an innovative toy developer and manufacturer. She predicts that much of this increase will be due to expanded distribution of the company's note-card kits, and a strong interest from parents and grandparents in "simple, traditional toys with an educational or creative focus."
 Classics and Back-to-the-Basics: The Reprise
 While classic toys and back-to-basics have been touted as a new trend in the toy industry, experts point out that these toys are mainstays and never go out of style.
 "The toy industry is never not into basics, it's a protective factor of the industry," explains Shapiro. She believes that the industry readjusted to a longer recession and brought out more tried-and-true items they could count on.
 "In economically stronger years, consumers may go for the inflated- priced items," explains Pearse. "But when money is tight, parents don't want their kids to play with a toy for a short time. Licensed or fad toys won't last like Erector, Tinkertoys, Monopoly, and Barbie, which have sustained play-value," he adds.
 The general consensus at Toy Manufacturers of America (TMA), the trade association for U.S. producers and importers of toys, is that having the hottest, must-have toy is no longer standard. Staying power is the business buzz.
 Lights! Sound! Action! and Toys That Teach
 "If the past four years of the Duracell toy survey give us any indication, action games will continue to be more popular than sedentary games with children," predicts Roufberg. Toys which incorporate lights, sound and action have consistently ranked higher among the nearly 2,000 children who have tested approximately 100 toys in the last four years of Duracell's survey.
 Roufberg also applauds toys that teach. "If there is enough unusual appeal, children will even enjoy playing with an educational toy, such as GeoSafari, Jr., which ranked fifth in the 1991 Duracell Survey," she adds. Geosafari and its Junior version, made by Educational Insights, combine a learning experience with flashing lights and sounds.
 Experts agree that educational toys are one of the fastest growing segments of the toy business, and will be gaining more attention from consumers and retailers. Roufberg says to watch for increasing interest in spelling, drawing, do-it-yourself, creative and craft-type toys.
 A "Bit" Better for Video Games in '92
 Toy industry sources are predicting that this year will be better than last for video games. In part, they blame the 1991 slump -- overall video game shipments dropped 12 percent from the year before -- on consumers reinvesting in the high-priced 16-bit systems which did well at retail. "Sega and Nintendo have cut their 16-bit systems to popular prices: $99 versus $149 last year, and will do very well this year," says Taylor.
 Retail Registers Ring
 Experts are optimistic for toy retailers this holiday season. Large toy chains' registers are expected to ring, while discount retailers will continue to fare well by focusing on competitive pricing for popular toys. Thirty-five percent of toy sales are realized in discount stores, and 33 percent are generated in toy chains, according to the Toy Market Index by NPD Group.
 Kids' Work Is Play
 While toy industry analysts and experts have their own approaches for making predictions, Duracell believes the answer is as simple as "child's play." So, this fall, for the fifth consecutive year, Duracell's annual toy survey will challenge more than 600 kids in 30 cities to evaluate 30 new toys and vote for their favorites. Duracell will provide the 1992 "Kids' Choice" results to help toy buyers select toys that stimulate creativity and have long-lasting play appeal.
 -0- 9/17/92
 /CONTACT: Lisa Dimino of Ogilvy Adams & Rinehart, 212-951-5467, or after Sept. 25, 212-880-5350, for Duracell; or Jim Donahue of Duracell, 203-796-4654/
 (DUR) CO: Duracell U.S.A. ST: Connecticut IN: HOU SU: ECO


GK-LR -- NY074 -- 0833 09/17/92 16:31 EDT
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