Every few years, lightning strikes and parents chase after a Christmas toy so hot even Santa himself might struggle to keep up with the demand. Fighting erupts in toy store aisles as retailers rake in hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars for the essential Christmas toys children can’t live without.
Take a look back at some of the toys that have set the standard for the holiday season over the past few years:
1996: Tickle Me Elmo
It seems like Elmo has been around forever, but it wasn’t until 1996 that the lovable red ball of fur took the holiday season by storm. In fact, the Tickle Me Elmo hysteria got so bad that a Canadian seller was reportedly trampled as eager buyers rushed to get their hands on the toy.
Buoyed by a string of endorsements and TV show placements — Rosie O’Donnell called Elmo a “cute little monster” on her daytime talk show — the stuffed animal, which sold for less than $30, suddenly fetched hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a then nascent internet resale market. Manufacturer Tyco said it sold a million Tickle Me Elmos in just one holiday shopping season.
Two years later, a new furry toy exploded onto the scene: Furby. Produced by the now-defunct Tiger Electronics, the fuzzy-talking robot was both adorably cute and at times slightly frightening, and a cross between an owl and a rodent. The toy cost around $35 and, like its furry red predecessor, commanded top prices online. In 1998 alone, Tiger sold 1.8 million Furbies.
Furbies came in a variety of “outfits,” and they all spoke Furbish, a simple dialect that slowly morphed into English as the creature got older. The Furbish didn’t always catch on though – many Furbys had their batteries ripped out in the middle of the night if they didn’t stop talking.
1999: Anything and everything Pokemon
The Pokemon craze reached full force just before the turn of the century, made even more popular with the introduction of the Game Boy Color games, the physical trading card game, a hit animated television series, and films, which hit the shores of North America within a year of each other . Kids begged for Game Boy connection cables to battle their friends while adding trading cards to their list in search of an elusive holographic Charizard.
2000: Razor Roller
As the new millennium rolled around, kids across the country traded in their iconic ’90s skateboards for a new way of getting around: the Razor Scooter. With 5 million sold in just six months, the Razor scooter even helped the unbalanced shred the sidewalk after school.
With a reinterpretation of a classic spinning top, Takara Tomy whirled his way to holiday fame in 2002 with Beyblades inspired by a 1998 Japanese manga series. The premise was simple: kids would battle their friends to see whose Beyblade would spin the longest, and the first player to seven points would win the match.
The tops came with interchangeable parts to customize the combat experience, with different weights, rings and discs determining how the toy would perform in the arena. Ultimate fans also added accessories like stadiums and launchers to their collection. The company sold more than 150 million units.
2009: Zhu Zhu Pets
By the end of the decade, toy trends shifted from the flashy, action-packed spinning tops and video game creatures to the more cuddly Zhu Zhu Pets, little plush robotic hamsters that were becoming a phenomenon in their own right. The toys, which retailed for just $8, gained notoriety largely thanks to a growing community of mommy bloggers who praised the toy and even contributed to its development.
They made it so popular that it was almost impossible to find at times.
“It’s easier to get a swine flu shot than Zhu Zhu Pets,” one shopper joked.
At its peak, the company behind Zhu Zhu Pets moved $250 million worth of products annually.
2014: Everything “frozen”
The Disney film Frozen was released in time for the 2013 holiday shopping season, but the merchandise business really took off in 2014, when there was a mad rush for anything and everything Frozen. According to an industry estimate, shipments of movie-related goods increased nearly 500% in time for the 2014 holiday season, and the rush paid off.
By one estimate, Frozen merchandise topped Barbie as the most popular doll of the year, grossing more than $530 million.
Furry, loveable creatures took center stage once again in 2016 with the introduction of Hatchimals, tiny plush toys that literally hatched from a plastic egg. The Spin Master toy was a hot commodity in early November as retailers across the country struggled to keep up with soaring demand and parents queued around the block to snag their very own Hatchimal
Of course, the toy was not without controversy. Some parents claimed the toys cursed in their sleep, while others complained their Hatchimal never actually hatched.
While Spin Master declined to release exact sales figures, industry analysts estimate that millions of the little creatures found their way into homes in 2016.
This story was originally published in November 2017.
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https://6abc.com/toys-holiday-shopping-christmas/2704009/ Furby, Tickle Me Elmo and Hatchimals: Looking back at must-have holiday toys of yesteryear ahead of Black Friday