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National Retail Foundation: Electronics, gift cards top Christmas lists

Aiden Walls, a 17-month-old from Newton County, was busy earlier this week checking out all the toys at the Walmart on Brown Bridge and Salem Roads for Santa to bring him next month. Walls was there with mom Kandace Walls and great grandmother Marie Durden. According to the National Retail Foundation, 45.1 percent of shoppers plan to buy toys this holiday season. Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

Aiden Walls, a 17-month-old from Newton County, was busy earlier this week checking out all the toys at the Walmart on Brown Bridge and Salem Roads for Santa to bring him next month. Walls was there with mom Kandace Walls and great grandmother Marie Durden. According to the National Retail Foundation, 45.1 percent of shoppers plan to buy toys this holiday season. Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

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Aiden Walls is like many other children, looking toward electronic items for his Christmas gifts. This year, both boys and girls are asking for Furby dolls, which were popular in the '90s and have now made a comeback with more electronic features.

COVINGTON -- If all you have on your shopping list this year are gift cards and iPads, you aren't the only one.

Local and national retailers are reporting that electronic items top many children's -- and adult's -- Christmas lists.

"They've gotten away from the traditional toys," said Ron Tillman, manager of the Walmart on Brown Bridge Road.

He said Apple products like iPads and iPods are popular, as are televisions.

A surprise item in this year's Top Toys survey conducted by BIGinsight for the National Retail Foundation is a Furby, which ranked third on girls' wish lists and ninth on boys' lists. Furby became a must-have item and child favorite in the late '90s but has since undergone a digital makeover complete with LCD eyes and compatible iPad apps.

"Just like their parents, many children can't wait to get their hands on the newest gadgets hitting stores," said Pam Goodfellow, BIGinsight Consumer Insights director. "However, plenty of children still ask for classic gifts like dolls, cars and clothes, making sure that Santa has plenty of options when it comes to selecting the perfect gift."

According to NRF's holiday survey, 45.1 percent of consumers plan to buy toys this holiday season. Requested items include classic toys like LEGOs, Hot Wheels and dolls.

Gift cards also are a popular choice this year, but shoppers tend to buy more of those closer to Christmas, Walmart reported.

According to NRF's survey, nearly 60 percent of those polled said they'd like to receive gift cards this year, up from 57.7 percent last year.

"Retailers are pulling out all the stops this year to make their gift cards personal, convenient and desirable," said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. "Savvy shoppers know they can purchase a much-appreciated gift card with ease either in store, online or through their mobile device, and give their loved ones the option to buy something they really want or need."

Consumers will spend an average of $43.75 on each card they buy, according to NRF. More than one in five gift givers say they'll buy gift cards because they are easier and faster than traditional gifts.

Most shoppers will buy gift cards for an online merchant and coffee shops; department, grocery and discount stores also are on gift card buyers' lists.

The Retail Foundation is forecasting that holiday sales will increase 4.1 percent to $586.1 billion this year.

"This is the most optimistic forecast NRF has released since the recession. In spite of the uncertainties that exist in our economy and among consumers, we believe we'll see solid holiday sales growth this year," Shay said. "Variables including ... confusion surrounding the 'fiscal cliff' and concern relating to future economic growth could all combine to affect consumers' spending plans, but overall we are optimistic that retailers' promotions will hit the right chord with holiday shoppers."

Locally, only time can tell if the economy is improving and more shoppers will come out.

"That still remains to be seen," Tillman said, adding that sales are good but he's unsure if this year will bring out more shoppers than last year.