busFile photo of Betty James wife of Slinky creator Richard James displays a 50th anniversary gold commemorative edition of the Slinky toy in New York Thomson
By Jilian Mincer
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Striding confidently through Matty's Toy Stop in Manhasset, New York, Catie Tepedino, 7, is the sort of consumer who may hold the fate of the U.S. toy business in her own little fists.
Finding that her top toy choice, Shopkins - tiny grocery store characters made by Australia's privately-held Moose Enterprise - was sold out,
Catie went directly to the Barbie row and picked out one of Mattel Inc.'s iconic dolls. Next stop: the arts and crafts section, where she selected an Alex Brands jewelry-making set.
"I know the aisles here," the petite brunette confided as she navigated the store along with her mother, Victoria. And knows what she wants as well: the Tepedinos spent perhaps five minutes shopping, not counting the time spent answering a reporter's questions.
Catie's preferences are a good indication of the state of the toy business. Though Mattel, Hasbro and Lego control about 40 percent of the U.S. toy market, there's a growing niche for smaller companies such as Alex Brands that sell educational or environmentally friendly toys to delay the seemingly inevitable demand for electronic devices.