Zhu Zhu Pets, Barbie Give Hope To Toy Industry

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Two prominent toy manufacturers are planning to expand successful brand franchises this year.

Zhu Zhu pets – which became the breakout toy success of 2009 – will grow from a line of 4 to more than 40 by the summer. The electronic hamsters, which retail for $10 each, noisily scurry around like the real thing and play in their own hamster tubes (available separately, of course). Zhu Zhu pets have produced about $70 million in worldwide sales for manufacturer Cepia Inc., according to CNNMoney. They’re already in over 7 million US homes.

Get ready for a whole new gang of Zhu Zhus, including four “Rockstars” and a “Kung Zhu” fighters line. Cepia will also launch a new “Wild Bunch” collection that goes beyond hamsters and includes a skunk and raccoon.[more]

Meanwhile, the fifty-year-old Barbie, still the most popular fashion doll in the world, is getting two new careers, courtesy of consumers. This is the first time the public picked Barbie’s careers; there have already been 124 of them, including ballerina, princess, astronaut, and US president.

The careers chosen for 2010 were Computer Engineer Barbie and News Anchor Barbie, both of which will appear late this year. The president of the Society of Women Engineers, Nora Lin, was clearly delighted: “As a computer engineer, Barbie will show girls that women can design products that have an important and positive impact on people’s everyday lives.”

The industry is hoping a recovering economy will keep consumers interested in buying toys, whether it’s mechanical hamsters or dolls.

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