By SUE LEEMAN Associated Press Writer
LONDON (AP) - It's a tight fight: the hairy, interactive, big-eyed creature versus a small yellow beast with pointed brown ears and an endearing grin.
This year, the annual battle for the star spot under British Christmas trees pits Furby Babies - babbling offspring of the hirsute little figure that so many children adored last year - against Pikachu and his pals, Jigglypuffs, Blastoise, Bulbasaur, Eevee, Charizards and many (so many) more.
``I'm not under pressure from my children, but I'm definitely under pressure from other mothers,'' said Londoner Jacquie Tyrer as she examined Pokemon merchandise at Hamley's toy store.
Pokemons top the popularity list compiled by the British Association of Toy Retailers, based on sales to the end of November, with Furby Babies at No. 2.
But the junior Furbies headed a popularity table put together in October by an international market research company, NPD Inc., based in Port Washington, N.Y. Pokemon merchandise was in fourth and fifth place - and climbing.
David Fogel, buying director of Hamley's, is betting on Pokemon. But British Association of Toy Retailers is more cautious.
``Pokemon is looking good, but the scenario changes everyday, so I'm making no predictions,'' said spokesman Gerry Masters.
In the competitive cauldron that is the toy industry, sales figures for individual toys are hard to come by.
British stores will only say they are doing brisk sales in Pokemon figures that cost $11 apiece, trading cards priced at $16 and Pokemon video games, at around $40.
Tokyo stores can't keep up with demand for cuddly Pikachu figures, despite their $56 price tag. Stores from Johannesburg and Geneva to Mexico City report strong sales of Furby Babies at around $35 apiece.
In many countries, younger children also covet figurines based on the World Wrestling Federation's TV programs and ``alien eggs,'' fetus-like jelly figures.
Star Wars merchandise, including battery-powered Phantom Menace figures, are zapping out of the shops at the speed of pod racers.
Older children are going high-tech.
In a survey of 200 youngsters aged 10-15, the British retailers found 50 percent coveted cell phones, while 32 percent wanted color TVs and 19 percent were hoping for electronic games like Playstation and Sega's new Dreamcast.
Also popular with adolescents are brand name sportswear and computer games.
Many adult gifts are influenced by the millennium, according to Mary Brittain, editor of the British retail magazine Gift International.
Bottle openers, penknives and alarm clocks in chrome or silver - ``the metals of the millennium'' - are in demand for men, she said, while women want shiny leathers, scented candles and textured wool items.
Tokyo's Matsuya department store says hot items are white gold or platinum women's jewelry, and shawls made of pashmina, a scarce cashmere.
At Harrods in London, Prada bags, wallets and sports trousers, and shiny Gucci cufflinks are going well for men, and there's a waiting list of 600 for the Fendi baguette, a rectangular clasped shoulder bag for women in ponyskin, sequins or fake fur.
Many British stores have sold out of ``Who Wants to be a Millionaire,'' a $36 board game based on the British TV quiz show that was the model for the wildly popular American version on ABC. The makers, Upstarts, say 250,000 games have been sold so far and they hope to produce 300,000 before Christmas.
Swedes have other ideas.
The Swedish Research Institute of Trade says books are the top Christmas gift of 1999 - and the Bible is proving attractive.
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Article is quoted from Yahoo News and is not edited in any way.
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