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Harry Potter toys hot for holidays

Among the Harry Potter toys available: an electronic organizer and "Fluffy" the three-headed dog  

By CNN's Sonia Sequeira

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Ask any toy retailer what would top their Christmas list, and the most likely answer would be a crystal ball.

Predicting the most popular Christmas toys has become quite an art form, and it can prove lucrative if you get it right.

This season, there's no doubt that Harry Potter is hot, with children who are spellbound by the movie making a beeline for the merchandise.

"Everyone expected it to be popular," says Simon Burke, CEO of the London toy store Hamleys. "But you can't really tell which particular items people are going to fall in love with.

"And the toy industry works on long lead times. It takes up to three months for stock to come through from manufacturers. So it's very difficult to keep up with demand when it builds up in October and November."

But just stocking up on the top traditional toys is no longer enough.

Younger customers are getting more demanding, and the toy market increasingly has to compete with more fashionable items such as mobile phones, clothes and music.

The answer: finding products with similar street credibility.

The computer games industry is one that successfully spans the child-adult market. And the big names fighting it out this year are Microsoft's X-Box, Sony's PlayStation 2 and GameBoy Advance.

"Games have come of age, the technology has improved, new platforms have come onto the market and those platforms are starting to be furnished with fantastic games that people don't mind spending 40 ($58) on and spending hours playing," says Kristan Reed of Computer Trade Weekly.

Another big hope for toy retailers are big-ticket items targetting adults.

Sony's latest version of the AIBO robotic dog will set you back around $1,500. Retailers don't expect products at this price to be flying off the shelves. But there's a lot of interest, and Sony claims you do get what you pay for.

"This is a computer, it has a 64-bit processor, it has 32-megabite RAM, a digital camera, so would you say a computer at 1,200 is expensive? Probably not. That's why I don't believe this one is priced high," says Nicholas Babin of Sony Entertainment.

"There's a lot of technology behind it, and that technology costs money."

The toy industry does around 60 percent of its business in the last three months of the year and has high hopes of cashing in on the seasonal spending spree. And with good reason: Look around any major toy store and it's clear that it's not just the kids being tempted in.

Plenty of older customers are now equally enthralled by what's on offer this Christmas.


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