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Hot holiday toys: No breakout hits, but a handful of "wow" gifts

The toy industry hasn't had a very jolly year, with last year's collapse of Toys R Us feeding into a 9% dip in toy sales through July, according to the NPD Group. Now, retailers and manufacturers are hoping that this year's batch of new toys can bring some holiday cheer.

For now, 2019 hasn't had a hit toy like Tickle Me Elmo or the Cabbage Patch Kids of years past, according to toy experts. Even so, a handful of toys are emerging from the pack to land on children's wish-lists this year, said James Zahn, senior editor of Toy Insider, a trade publication that tracks the industry.

"This year and last year, there has not been one gigantic standout toy," Zahn said. "But we are seeing more of a selection of smaller 'wow' gifts that work together that kids like."

The toy industry should turn a corner by year-end as new toy sales begin compensating for Toys R Us' liquidation sales more than a year ago, according to NPD. It noted that regions with a lot of Toys R Us locations, such as the Northeast, were particularly hard-hit by the chain's closure. 

Toy Insider

"Frozen 2" toys

The fourth quarter, Zahn added, should get a boost from a number of franchises, including merchandise and toys tied to the "Frozen 2" movie, which was released last weekend. There are a number of toys that are likely to be hot properties this holiday season, including some throwbacks to toys of years past, such as a $60 full-color tamagotchi, a hit toy of the 1990s. 

In addition to the challenge of Toys R Us' closure, the holiday shopping season is six days shorter than last year due to Thanksgiving falling later in the month, Zahn said. But retailers will likely recover by offering earlier sales — such as pre-Black Friday discounts — and as consumer shift their toy purchases to retailers such as and Walmart. 

"Last year we saw Toys R Us shutter its doors and there was concern about, 'What does that do to impact toys?'," said Vivek Pandya, lead analyst for Adobe Digital Insights. "What we found is that there are a lot of different players out there that are offering toys and discounted toys, and they will continue to drum up demand."

This year's hot toys

The rumor of toys' demise due to iPads and iPhones are overblown, Zahn said. Many parents are turning to traditional toys because they want their kids to have unplugged playtime, he added. 

Moose Toys's "Kindi Kids" are one of the hot toys this holiday season, according to Adobe Digital Insights. Toy Insider

Tactile play is among those unplugged trends, coming out of the "slime" trend from two years agoMüshMeez, a moldable, squishable stuffed animal, is one of those tactile toys that's gaining in popularity, according to Toy Insider. Fluffy Cloudz, a scented version of slime, is another toy that's on many kids' wishlists, it adds.

Other hot toys this year, according to an analysis from Adobe Digital Insights:

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