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EDITIONS
 Friday, 20 December, 2002, 20:11 GMT
Searching for Hot Wheels Cyborg City
Beyblade
Beyblades are the latest craze for kids
Nicola McGann

Parents are being driven to distraction by them and kids just have to have them.

What are they? This year's "must have" Christmas toys.

It is not unknown for parents to queue for hours outside toy stores in the freezing cold, some even camping out overnight, in an attempt to ensure that on Christmas morning, their children have that year's "must have" toy.

But with just four shopping days to go until Christmas, I decided to brave the crowds in Birmingham to find out how easy was to get this year's favourites.

Christmas shopping

Beyblades and Fur-Real Friends, both from Hasbro, and Hot Wheels Cyborg City, from Mattel, are all topping this year's list according to retailers in the city.

But what are they? In short, Beyblades at 5.99 are modern-day spinning tops.

We haven't sold out yet because people don't really know we have got another delivery in so we still have quite a few left

Christina Karam, Toys R Us
The 29.99 Fur-Real Friend is a toy cat which purrs and moves as you stroke it.

And at 34.99, Hot Wheels Cyborg City is a futuristic-looking car play set.

All I had to do was find them.

'Emptying shelves'

Sounds simple - in theory. Actually trying to track them down was a different story.

Toy shop
Toy shops sell out "within minutes"
I visited every major department and toy store in Birmingham and was unlucky in most.

My first stop was Toys R Us in the city centre.

They had received delivery of 300 Beyblades on Friday morning and were not yet sold out.

Christina Karam, general store manager, said: "We haven't sold out yet because people don't really know we have got another delivery in so we still have quite a few left.

"But the shelves are emptying very quickly and we are expecting to sell out once people know we have them."

Toy shipment

Unfortunately though the store had sold out of Fur-Real Friends and Hotwheels Cyborg City and were not sure if they would get more before Christmas.

Buzz Lightyear
Buzz Lightyear: a favourite of a Christmas past
I didn't have much more luck at Beatties on Corporation Street.

The department store has never stocked Hotwheels Cyborg City or Fur-Real Friends.

Jonathan Forsythe, from Beatties toy department said: "We have had customers coming in asking for Cyborg City and they can't get it anywhere - not even on the internet."

But Beatties is expecting a shipment of Beyblades, which they hope will arrive in time for Christmas.

'End of it'

Mr Forsythe added: "We'll just have to wait and see how much we get in. Hasbro can't guarantee figures.

We've had quite a few frantic parents in the store looking for the toys

Craig Hands, Woolworths
"When they're sold out, that will be the end of it."

Surely it couldn't be that difficult, I thought. Apparently it can.

An assistant in Rackhams toy department told me they had never had any of the three toys but had had lots of customers asking for them.

No confirmation

It was more or less the same at Woolworths in The Pallisades shopping centre.

Assistant Craig Hands told me: "We did have Cyborg City and Beyblades but they sold out within minutes."

He added: "Around 450,000 Beyblades were shipped to Woolworths stores all over the country so we could get more in but can't confirm it.

"We've had quite a few frantic parents in the store looking for the toys."

'Long queues'

Changing tacks and casting the net a bit further afield, I tried the Entertainer toy shop in Solihull.

They had received a shipment of Beyblades on Friday morning but by the afternoon, had almost sold out.

The shop opened at 0830 GMT to a queue of anxious parents.

Vicky Thornton, the shop's assistant manager, said: "Beyblades are the number one toy which is a big shock because they are basically just spinning tops.

"We have already sold out of one shipment so we were expecting long queues."

'Start early'

Still, I suppose having one out of the three top toys under the Christmas tree isn't too bad.

And you can always console yourself with the fact that there's always some worse off than you.

Gaynor Young, a mother from Coleshill, said: "I have learned the hard way from previous years' experience that you have to get toys for children early.

"I once queued for hours to buy a Teletubby a few years ago, and when I finally got to the top of the queue, they had run out."

So the lesson learned from this exercise? Next year I'm starting my Christmas shopping in May.


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25 Sep 02 | Business
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