LITTLE HUMMER BOY
By ALY SUJO
December 3, 2003 -- Pipsqueaks, start your engines! The children's version of the popular H2 Hummer - a scale-size replica of the road-hogging SUV - is the hottest toy of the Christmas season, Wal-Mart said yesterday.
The retail giant said the $99 radio-controlled mini-Hummers are flying off the shelves. The toys are modeled on the behemoths derived from Army vehicles and popularized by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Based on buying trends of holiday shoppers over the post-Thanksgiving three-day season, Wal-Mart said it could predict the five best-selling toys of 2003. Following the Hummer, top sellers are likely to include My First LeapPad, an electronic learning tool for pre-teens; the Plush Care Bear; the Lite Brite Cube, an electric picture box; and the Blue Jeep Ride On.
Wal-Mart's annual holiday war with Toys "R" Us began in earnest last week, with the two largest toy sellers in the United States cutting prices and deploying brigades of Barbie and Elmo dolls as they joust for market share.
In a move that took Toys "R" Us and the rest of the industry by surprise, Wal-Mart cut prices on more than a dozen hot toys in mid-October, a month earlier than normal. By selling some items below cost, the discounter is using toys as a loss leader to woo shoppers to other aisles elsewhere in the store, analysts said.
Wal-Mart has already slashed nearly $20 from the best-selling Mattel's Hot Wheels T-Wrecks Playset.
Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, supplanted Toys "R" Us as the biggest U.S. toy seller in 1998.
The retail giant was rolling in dough the day after Thanksgiving, with Wal-Mart sales on "Black Friday" setting a single-day record of just over $1.5 billion.
That's about $100 million more than it rang up last year on the traditional kickoff of the Christmas shopping season. With Post Wire Services