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Smart Buying

Shoppers: Stock Up on Toys for Next Year

A rash of recalls is likely to boost prices by up to 10% in 2008.

If toys are on your shopping list this holiday season, do yourself a favor: Pick up some extras to stash away for birthday presents next year. That's because you'll likely pay 5% to 10% more for toys in 2008 as manufacturers and retailers pass on the costs of more-demanding safety checks in the wake of last summer's massive recalls involving millions of toys, most made in China.

Price hikes might not be obvious. Instead, toymakers and retailers may curtail the relentless discounting that has characterized the industry in recent years. One sign: As usual, Wal-Mart slashed toy prices this past October to kick-start holiday shopping, but the cuts were on far fewer items than last year.

This certainly isn't the year to hold out for last-minute bargains, says Jim Silver, editor of Toy Wishes magazine. "The entire restocking system is slowed because of safety tests. If you wait until December 15, you'll be disappointed."

Experts say parents have little to fear from Chinese-made toys on shelves now. Still, toymakers whose wares are made in the U.S. and Europe are ballyhooing that fact this holiday season. Retailer FAO Schwarz is highlighting toys made of natural materials, and those hailing from the U.S. and Europe. U.S.-made toys include such classic board games as Monopoly and Battleship, some Radio Flyer wagons, Louisville Slugger baseball bats and the Slinky.