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Monday, February 2, 1998 Published at 12:41 GMT


Teletubbies top toy sales
image: [ The furry four phenomena were an unexpected Christmas favourite ]
The furry four phenomena were an unexpected Christmas favourite

Teletubby dolls which became the most sought-after toys in Britain over Christmas have been named Toy of the Year.

The popular television characters were given the top award in recognition for becoming the top-selling toys over Christmas.

However, as with all supergroups, it seems that some of its members are more popular than others: Po, was overall the best-selling soft toy of last year, Laa-Laa came in at number three, followed by Tinky Winky at five and Dipsy at eight.

David Fogel, chairman of the British Association of Toy Retailers, presented the award to the makers of the Teletubby toys, British firm Golden Bear.

He said their phenomenal success was good news for British toymakers. "In an industry dominated by powerful multi-national companies, I am delighted that our award has been won by a family-run British toy company, Golden Bear in Telford, with toys based on a British television programme," said Mr Fogel.

The Japanese company Bandai, which launched Tamagotchi virtual pets on to the world, won an award for Most Innovative Toy of the Year. Toy Options, the company behind Buzz Lightyear and the Spice Girls dolls, won Toy Company of the Year.

[ image: The ever popular Po]
The ever popular Po
Such is the fierce competition of the toy industry that even the Teletubbies are not resting on their laurels.

New talking versions which emit famous catchphrases when their rotund tummies are squeezed are soon expected to go on shop shelves. A new Home Hill play set based on the Teletubbies television series is also being launched.

Buyers from Britain's major toyshops are now at the British International Toy and Hobby Fair in London looking at exhibitors and placing their orders for 1998.

Success is hard to predict

But trying to predict the next craze is hit and miss, according to the toy industry.

When the Teletubbies were launched at last year's fair they failed to generate much excitement. It was only after the television programme hit the screens last summer that demand soared.

By then it was too late for manufacturers Golden Bear to produce enough toys to meet demand.

Teletubby dolls proved so popular that most often than not they were snapped up as soon as they reached the shelves. Some shops rationed the toys to one per customer.

Around 150,000 Teletubbies were ordered by shops, but the makers estimated that they could have sold three million.

Tamagotchis, the virtual cyberpets which were the other huge success story of 1997, also failed to generate much excitement at the fair last year.

"We knew they were popular in Japan but we didn't think British children would be turned on by a plastic computer pet," said one industry insider.

Ian Scott, President of the British Toy and Hobby Association, said "Toys go in and out of fashion and it is very hard to predict what will be a success."


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