• U.S.

RETAIL TRADE: Babes in Toyland

3 minute read

As full of bounce as a jack-in-the-box, the booming U.S. toy industry this week was working around the clock to fill the biggest Christmas stocking in history. With 24 million new customers born since 1940, and plentiful materials for the first time since war’s end, the toymakers expect to ring up record 1948 retail sales of $300 to $400 million, at least 20% above 1947.

Shopper’s Guide. For the bright 1948 market the trade had turned up scads of new toys and, better yet, was peddling them at low prices. (Toymakers have doubled production in cheap lines.) There are such ingenious gadgets as: 1 “Juggle-head” ($1.98), a magnetic head which can be given different faces by sticking on various types of noses, hair, ears, etc.; 2) a mechanical monkey ($1.98) that harvests coconuts from a palm tree; 3) a toy “electric” shaver (69¢).

Electric trains, scarce in some cities last year, are back in abundance everywhere with such refinements as Gilbert’s talking station (it announces arrivals & departures) and Lionel’s scale models of Santa Fe and New York Central diesel trains. Trains will get lively competition from a new type of toy—the remote-controlled gadgets. They include a windup auto controlled by a long wire ($2.29), an electric truck operated by a 35-ft. cord ($39.50) and Erector’s new $50 set to build a mechanical man that actually walks. Most complex of all is a plastic canal with hand-operated locks and boats which are propelled by electrified bars along the side ($69).

The problem of buying for all ages is simplified by the Toy Guidance Council Inc., financed by 175 manufacturers and retailers. This year it is distributing 1,500,000 Toy Yearbooks describing 200 toys which help children to learn to count and spell. Examples: Play and Count book (price: $1.25), magnetized “Pick-up-Stix” (69¢), the “Playskool Counting House” scale, which balances only when weighted numbers on both sides add up to the same figure ($10).

Realist’s Delight. Another new item this year is a plastic dollhouse, some of whose walls are conveniently missing, and whose rooms are outfitted with tiny plastic furniture ($8.95), complete with television set (see cut).

Toyland’s atomic age is booming; chemistry sets contain samples of uranium ore, guaranteed to be all but inert, and incapable of making Junior radioactive. An atom gun with a hidden battery flashes and buzzes, and a “rocket” car is driven along on compressed air.

The trend toward realism in toys may amaze some parents. For boys, there is a service station whose lubricating-hoist, air-hose and gasoline pump really work. For girls, there is an electric vacuum sweeper that sweeps, and scores of stuffed animals and dolls that demonstrate one or another fact of life. There are hens that lay and pregnant dogs and rabbits whose offspring tumble out of zippered stomachs. There are dolls that coo when patted and cry when spanked and eat crackers (removable from a hole in the neck). There is even one which blows bubbles and, if “burped” like a baby, promptly burps.

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