Big stars, little cars drive holiday sales

November 25, 2002|by JULIE E. GREENE

Miniature remote-controlled cars, a new jazzy album and anything Spider-Man are among the hot sellers this holiday season for people of all ages, local retailers said.

Adults and children appeared mesmerized recently as they watched Billy Suchting demonstrate Mini Remote Cars at a Valley Mall kiosk. People buy the portable cars to play with their cats or to play at the office, Suchting said.

"It's making the Furby look like nothing. I'm having a hard time keeping them in stock," Suchting said.

The cars are about the size of two quarters and have a range of 20 feet, Suchting said. They cost $19.99 each.


Radio Shack has similar miniature remote-controlled cars called Zip Zaps that are about 1.5 inches long, said Gene Lively, senior sales associate at Radio Shack in the mall.

A Zip Zap starter kit costs $19.99 and includes the car with a body style, a controller charger and a collectible trading card, Radio Shack corporate spokesman Mike Braun said.

Customers can buy different body styles for the car, including car styles from the movie "The Fast and the Furious," Lively said.

"All the stores are in the same boat. As soon as we get them in, they're gone," Lively said. "People are asking when the truck is coming. They're gone within the first half-hour."

Flights of Fancy in Frederick, Md., has slightly larger remote-controlled cars that co-owner Tom Ketterman said have been selling well. They are about 6 inches long.

"They've always been popular, but (sales) have gone crazy this year," Ketterman said.

Best sellers

Toy cars aren't the only popular items this year.

It seems like everybody is buying Norah Jones' first album, "Come Away With Me," said Andy Wallace, manager of music and inventory for Borders Books Music & Cafe at the Centre at Hagerstown.

Jones has been "labeled rock and pop, but she's got more of a smooth jazz feel," Wallace said.

The singer and pianist's album features a song getting a lot of radio play, "Don't Know Why."

"It's a huge seller. ... We can hardly keep it in stock," Wallace said.

Other popular music is Santana's "Shaman," "Live in Paris" by singer and pianist Diana Krall and Eminem's "The Eminem Show," Wallace said.

On the reading front, NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw's newest book, "A Long Way from Home: Growing Up in the American Heartland" should be popular, Wallace said.

Rudolph Giuliani's "Leadership" and "Katharine Graham's Washington" also are expected to be big hits this holiday season, Wallace said. The book by Graham, the former Washington Post publisher who died in 2001, came out about a month ago.

Several items expected to be popular this year are carryovers from previous holiday seasons.

Those gifts include educational Leap Frog software, virtual lamps, Anime, and David McCullough's "John Adams," which is now out in paperback.

The trading cards game Yu-Gi-Oh hit the United States last year, but has picked up a lot of steam this year, said William Haberlein, owner of Atomic Comics in downtown Hagerstown.

The Japanese games trading cards are more sophisticated than Pokman and are popular with kids ages 8 and older, Haberlein said. The cards feature different characters with weaknesses and strengths.

"I have trouble keeping them in stock," Haberlein said.

DVD players hot

Another carryover from last Christmas are DVD players.

"DVD players will probably be the biggest gift" despite being a popular item last Christmas, Wal-Mart Store Manager James Hornsby said.

More people are switching from video players to DVD players and the players are more affordable now - in the $40 to $50 range, Hornsby said.

In the DVD software arena, the recently released "Spider-Man," "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones" and the four-disc special edition of "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" have been hot sellers, said Christy Miller, manager of Suncoast Motion Picture Co. at the mall.

Also expected to be popular are DVDs of "Ice Age," "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" and the "Back to the Future" series, Miller said. The latter two have not been available for years and are being re-released, she said.

The HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers" is already a big seller, Wallace said.

Virtual lamps are still "flying out" of Spencer Gifts in the mall, Assistant Manager Billi Jean Bikle said.

The cylindrical lamps have two pictures inside that rotate in opposite directions, such as the aquarium lamp with fish moving one way and the corral background moving the other way.

Flights of Fancy's Ketterman said natural-looking wood boxes and the Peggy Karr line of decorative plates and platters are selling well. The glass plates are actually two plates with the design sandwiched between them so it won't scratch or fade, he said.

For the third consecutive year, anything having to do with wine is big, Ketterman said. That includes wine charms with designs such as a cluster of grapes that go on a wine glass stem. The charms help people identify which glass is theirs, he said.

For children, a wooden dollhouse called Ryan's Room is "selling like crazy," Ketterman said. The house, constructed with solid wood, costs $110 and people can buy accessories for it, he said.

Other toys expected to be big sellers this year are snazzy looking spinning tops called Bay Blades, electronic Fur Real Friends, Spider-Man Web Blaster and Chicken Elmo, which is Elmo doing the Chicken Dance, toy store officials said.

The Fur Real Kitten purrs and responds to touch.

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