Interactive toys with an innovative twist, including some YouTube discoveries, will be hot this holiday season, says Lisa Harnisch, vice president and general merchandise manager of core toy and seasonal for Toys R Us, which unveiled its hot holiday toy list late Monday.
The list reflects the culmination of nearly a year's work. In January, Toys R Us met with key toy manufacturers in Hong Kong, inventors, as well as its local buying teams in the country to decipher emerging toy trends.
"We came back with thousands of products and concepts," Harnisch tells DailyFinance.
The retailer then took in the trends at toy fairs in Germany and New York, and during the first and second quarters of the year. Then, it was time to consult the experts: Kids.
"We hold focus groups with kids who test the products and give their input to determine which [toys] have appeal," she says.
After that, Toys R Us whittles the list down to items it believes will most thrill kids.
The overarching theme this year is "innovation -- we already know that kids want newness...and taking that to the next level," Harnisch says.
%Gallery-134323%YouTube turned out to be a source for some fresh finds for Toys R Us' buyers, who found My Keepon, for example, on the site.
This robot with yellow, textured skin, a Toys R Us exclusive, reacts to touch, can listen to music, decipher a beat and dance in rhythm. "It's very interactive," she says.
Air Swimmers eXtreme is another YouTube discovery. With these battery operated, fish-shaped metallic balloons that "swim" through the air via radio control, kids can make believe their home is an indoor aquarium.
The list also includes products that mirror what's trending in movies and TV, such as the Monster High Fearleading 3-Pack from Mattel, which builds on the ghoulish success of shows like Twilight and True Blood, Harnisch says.
These three fashion dolls, Draculaura, Cleo De Nile and Ghoulia, which attend "Monster High," are the teenage students of legendary monsters.
Some toys are already in stores, while others will start to trickle on to the retailers' shelves later this month.
Despite the tepid economy, Toys R Us expects a robust business this holiday season, having generated comp-store sales gains during the last two fourth quarters, she says.
Still, Toys R Us' holiday assortment marks a nod to shoppers in bargain mode, with items priced from $5 to $279, Harnisch says. "We know that hot toys will always sell, and that people can find something within their budgets."