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Electronics top wish lists

COVINGTON -- Toys and electronics are at the top of wish lists this holiday shopping season.

"In electronics, anything is hot there this year," said Covington K-Mart manager Don Buckner. "People are buying TVs, and netbooks are really popular, too."

Kids also may get what's on their Christmas lists this year.

"In general, toys are popular," Buckner said. "We're selling tons and tons of toys. It seems like it's going to be a good year for them."

This year, the International Council of Shopping Centers Inc. is reporting that the hottest items this holiday season include toys like Crayon Town, Star Wars items and Zhu Zhu pets; electronics like the Amazon Kindle, the DJ Hero video game, the Playstation 3 game console and iPhones; and clothing and accessories like cozy sweaters, leather jackets, leggings, boots and fluffy robes.

The council also forecasts that 2009 holiday sales will increase by about 1 to 2 percent from last shopping season.

This might be good news for children -- who have many items on their Christmas lists this year.

Although many children are asking for gaming systems like the Nintendo Wii and the Xbox 360, they also are asking for lower-priced items like traditional Barbie and Transformer figures and newcomers like Bakugan and Zhu Zhu pets, according to the National Retail Federation's 2009 Top Toys survey.

And parents might want to start looking now before they run out of time to find their children's favorite items.

"Since retailers place holiday orders long before the hot toys emerge, some new additions to the list this year are already hard to find," said Tracy Mullin, president and CEO of NRF. "With companies offering great prices on toys this year, shoppers may want to act fast if they have one of these items on their shopping list."

Other top toys include Disney's Hannah Montana, Disney Princess and American Girl dolls for girls and video games, LEGOs and a Nintendo DS for boys, according to the survey.

To save time and money, many shoppers may turn to cybershopping or using layaway at select shopping centers, but the Better Business Bureau is warning customers to pay attention to important aspects of those types of shopping techniques.

The BBB warns cybershoppers to pay attention to security, determine refund and return policies, be cautious about supplying personal information and determine shipping times. It also warns consumers to be especially cautious when buying electronics online -- they should make sure they know what they are getting.

"Despite the economy, consumer electronics are still expected to be on many holiday shopping lists," said Fred T. Elsberry Jr., president and CEO of the BBB serving metro Atlanta, Athens and Northeast Georgia. "Everyone will be looking for the best deals this year and scammers know that they can take advantage of that by using low prices to lure in victims."

For shoppers using layaway, the BBB advises shoppers to realize a down payment may be required and the customer typically has a certain amount of time to pay for the items before they can claim them.

"It is a sign of our rough economic times that consumers are turning to layaway to purchase the basics, rather than just luxury items," Elsberry said. "For many families this holiday season, it's not just gifts and decorations that will be purchased on layaway, but also the basic items needed to get by in everyday life."