When the Barbie Dreamhouse was released in 1962, it was a hot holiday seller, and still is, more than 50 years later.
But times have changed, and while the Malibu mansion is still a legend, children have shifted their attention to trilingual robot dogs named Zoomer and flying fairy dolls called “Flutterbyes” that dance through the air.
Those are the findings of a recent study done by Walmart that brought together 1,000 children ages 18 months to 10 years to test, play with and help select the Top 20 toys of the season.
The results of the company’s “Chosen by Kids” project features newcomers and classic favorites, including the debut of Sofia the First, a talking doll that has the ability to speak to animals, and the return of Furby, a furry, owl-like creature that interacts with children, for the second consecutive year.
“The Barbie Dreamhouse lasts forever, but not all toys do,” Lakita Brooks said as she admired a 10-foot-tall wall displaying four of this year’s Top 20 toys inside the Augusta Walmart on Deans Bridge Road.
Brooks, 30, has three children, from one month to 7 years old. She is in-between where old-school meets new age.
“I have had the Barbie Dreamhouse since I was 7 and I still play with the toy with my children,” Brooks said. “But children today want every new toy they see, which can be a lot to keep up with each year.”
Warren Wohlgemuth, the store manager of the Deans Bridge Walmart, said that though the company’s electronics always has the hot deals, toys are next in line in terms of popularity and one of the key departments in the supercenter’s Black Friday event.
In honor of the Chosen by Kids project, Wohlgemuth’s staff has four items on special display near the front of the store, including the $159 Barbie Dreamhouse and the ever-popular $79 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Secret Sewer Lair.
The display contains one toy from each age group researched in the study: 18 months to 2 years, 3 to 5 years, 6 to 7 years, and 8 to 10 years.
“This effort gave us a unique opportunity to take the guesswork out of customers’ holiday toy shopping by seeing firsthand what children are interested in today,” Wohlgemuth said.
The Augusta Chronicle toured the store and found four items on special display, with as many as 70 in stock. In the toys section, items were two to five to a shelf.
Toye Hudgins, the entertainment manager at the Deans Bridge Walmart, said employees on all three holiday shifts regularly replenish merchandise and back storage rooms are stocked with product lines that run 20 to 50 items deep.
Hudgins, who routinely hears children strolling through the store telling parents “That’s what I really want,” said in a sense it’s like her staff is an extension of Santa.
“Children have been talking about what they want for Christmas all year long, at least since the summer started, and with our Chosen by Kids feature, parents can come in with their young ones and see this year’s hot items on display, instead of having to dig through the department,” Hudgins said. “It’s a big help.”