TECH THE HALLS
FROM SLEEK SCOOTERS TO ROBOT PUPS, GADGET GIFTS WILL SLAKE THE GEEK IN ALL OF US.
Byline: Jill Newman
High tech gadgets — including those disguised as “practical” electronic implements — are giving many a retailer goose bumps over the anticipated boost they’ll give to holiday sales.
Thanks to the pervasiveness of technology, the market is flooded with stuff that will help save time, kill time, provide convenience or just make one feel cutting-edge. And the more digital and compact, the better.
From toys to kitchen appliances to home entertainment, retailers are zeroing in on high technology, according to the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, which represents some 23,000 retailers including Kmart, Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot and Circuit City.
Input from retailers nationwide indicates that personal digital assistants (PDAs), Web phones, mobile video, remote starters, portable DVD players and wireless headphones will be hugely popular.
“Traditional gifts will not have the same growth rate as fun electronic items,” said Michael Gould, chairman and chief executive officer of Bloomingdale’s. He said high technology or well-priced gadgets will be bestsellers. These include PDA accessories such as GoType, a portable-size keyboard, and handy software such as Zagat restaurant guides.
Amazon.com has pinpointed DVD players, digital cameras and handheld organizers as the three hottest areas in electronics for the holiday season, said Richard Chin, group product manager for consumer electronics.
Projected bestsellers include the Olympus D360L digital camera for $299.99 and the Handspring Visor Deluxe, a handheld organizer in a range of colors that can incorporate a variety of modules for $249.
Additionally, Chin cited two emerging gizmos: the CEIVA Internet Enabled Photo Frame, which looks like a picture frame but receives digital pictures through a phone line, and a personal programmable video recorder that digitally tapes TV shows. Consumers can program the device to tape shows according to subject matter, topics or even their favorite director at any time and on any channel.
And watch out for the urban scooter, already a familiar site on the streets of New York; it is forecasted to be a holiday bestseller for the Sharper Image, according to Tony Farrell, senior vice president, creative services for the San Francisco-based retail chain with 90 stores in the United States.
“It’s a hot seller in a few cities, and we expect the scooter to reach the rest of the country by the fourth quarter,” he said, adding it’s not just for children. Bloomingdale’s and eToys.com also are hot on the scooter trend this season.
Farrell also predicts “stuff that talks,” from little robots to a yammering alarm clock, will sell big. He likes the Wee.bot robot. The retailer is also banking on smaller CD stereo systems in the $200 to $300 price range.
High technology also is prevalent in children’s toys, according to Jane Saltzman, vice president of merchandising at eToys. She predicts that Tekno the Robot Puppy — it walks, talks, plays music and even does card tricks for $39.99 — and the $29.99 Poo-Chi Interactive Pet will be scooped up.
“Toys are becoming increasingly sophisticated and imaginative. These days, Barbie has a working elevator in her dream house,” Saltzman said.