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Shoppers scour malls for this year's hot toys

By Billy Corriher

Their sassy expression and languid eyes are expected to be under many Christmas trees this year right next to Tonka trucks and water yo-yo's.

Bratz dolls are becoming the "must have" toy of the holiday season.

"So much trouble for this little doll," said Riverdale resident Trina Stephens as she stuffed her shopping bags in her trunk.

Stephens, 35, said she had been on a quest to get a Bratz doll for her 5-year-old daughter, Morgan, since the day after Thanksgiving. The doll has been one of the most popular toys this holiday shopping season.

Stephens said she had tried to find the doll in stores on two other occasions, but found it was sold out.

"My daughter told me she just had to have one," she said.

At Kay Bee Toys in Southlake Mall in Morrow, the Bratz dolls have been "flying off the shelves," Manager Erin Bauman said. "We can't keep (Bratz products) in stock."

Bauman said her store has also had trouble keeping up with demand for the Hokey Pokey Elmo, a popular gift for young children this year.

For boys, Bauman said many parents are looking for Beyblade toys and the Speedeez Hummer, a racecar play set.

At Kmart in Jonesboro, Tyco remote control cars and Game Boy video games are the most popular toys for boys, Manager Jim Tarrer said.

The Bratz dolls are also flying off the shelf, Tarrer said.

"But it's still hard to beat the traditional board games."

According to young toy experts Chloe Helton, 4, her sister Hannah, 8, and their cousin, Will Gibby, 3, Bratz, Hulk Hands, Care Bears and accessories and two games called Truth or Dare and Fib Finder are "the" things to request this year.

"Those are the things that everyone is talking about," Hannah Helton said.

Bikes are still on children's lists. Chloe has requested one with a Barbie theme. Radio-controlled cars and trucks are tops on Will's list.

"I like the way Bratz look," Chloe explained about the popular girl toy this year. "They look cool."

Educational toys are also popular this year with the LeapFrog sets topping the list.

Morrow resident Kathleen Wells, 54, bought a LeapFrog for her 3-year-old grandson.

"I try to get him educational toys whenever I can, especially whenever he asks for them," Wells said.

Wells said she also bought her grandson some clothes and toy cars.

The National Retail Federation conducted a consumer survey in November that indicated older toys like Hot Wheels cars, Barbie dolls and Care Bears will be popular this year, NRF spokesman Paul Krugman said.

Most retailers are expecting more sales this year than previous years, and parents plan to spend more money this year, he said.

In addition to the traditional toys, there are many popular toys this year, particularly for boys, who will also expect Lego blocks and video games under the Christmas tree, Krugman said.

Bauman, a two-year employee of Kay Bee Toys, said there has not been one "must have" item, such as the "Tickle Me Elmo" of a few years ago.

"I think people are developing broader tastes and kids are wanting different things," she said.

And while several toys have been popular, the Bratz doll is the hardest to keep in stock, Bauman said.

Even though Stephens had a hard time finding the Bratz doll her daughter wanted, she said it would be worth it on Christmas morning.

"I can't wait to see her face," she said. "If she really enjoys it, it's all worth it."