Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011 | 2 a.m.
It looks like Santa’s elves are becoming increasingly tech-savvy in the North Pole.
The Apple iPad tops wish lists this year for children ages 6 through 12 desiring consumer electronics, according to Nielsen research. Forty-four percent of kids surveyed expressed interest in the iPad, up from 31 percent last year when the product launched.
It’s not just kids, however, hoping to find a shiny, new tablet under the Christmas tree. The Consumer Electronics Association projects it to be the hottest item this holiday season.
“Tablets, tablets, tablets and some more tablets on the side,” said Shawn DuBravac, director of research for CEA. “Far and away, that will be the most popular item.”
About 80 percent of U.S. adults buy a technology product each year, often in the fourth quarter during the holiday scramble, DuBravac said. As a result, he said it’s difficult to predict which tablet devices will outshine others given the large, demographically diverse swath of the population.
“There’s going to be multiple tablets that will probably do well because there’s a large variation of consumers out there,” he said. “They all want different things.”
Despite the tablet craze, not all popular gifts require power cords and apps, industry experts said.
Take Xia-Xia Pets, for example. They’re battery-operated, plastic hermit crabs designed to dance and play in an imaginative village setting.
Richard Gottlieb, CEO of the consultant group Global Toy Experts, said he expects Xia-Xia Pets — from the makers of last year’s popular line, ZhuZhu Pets — to be a hit among 4- to 8-year-olds this season.
“When something really takes off without a lot of promotion, it means it has magic,” he said. “No one can design that.”
At Kettlemuck’s Toy Shoppe on Eastern Avenue in Henderson, owner Dave Stefaniak said non-electronic, family game sales have been up 42 percent compared to this time last year — a trend he expects to see continue through the holidays.
“I’d like to believe that’s maybe the resurgence of family time coming back around,” said Stefaniak, whose store only sells toys without batteries. “They’re so well-designed and thought out. When you can play with your 3- or 4-year-old and you’re having fun — that’s a cool thing for families.”
The National Retail Federation said as many as 152 million people nationwide will venture out Black Friday weekend — defined as Friday, Saturday and Sunday — to snag deals on the hot holiday items and everything in between. That’s an increase from 138 million shoppers last year.
And they can do so even earlier this year.
Old Navy at the Boulevard Mall and Forever 21 at Fashion Show will be open for limited hours Thanksgiving Day, along with The Shoppes at Palazzo and the Grand Canal Shoppes.
Several big-box retailers, including Target, Best Buy and Macy’s, announced inaugural midnight Black Friday store openings, said Anjala Krishen, assistant professor of marketing at UNLV.
The extra hours are part of “Black Friday Creep” — a push to sell more holiday gifts before the traditional Black Friday sales, Krishen said.
Some critics and workers have panned the midnight openings, starting social media protests and calling them an invasion of family time, Krishen said.
“They’re working during the day,” she said, referring to employees preparing for Black Friday. “Then they have to come back at midnight.”
Another trend hitting the Black Friday scene this year will be a variety of mobile device apps designed to help consumers shop smarter and compare deals, Krishen said.
“People are going to be getting on their smart devices and comparing prices on the fly,” she said.