HE is the envy of thousands of children across the country as the furry, goggley-eyed creature rests playfully on his head: he has exactly what they want – a Furby Boom
Three-year-old Daniel Plain, from West Pilton, is oblivious, though, as he runs his hands across this year’s must-have Christmas toy – the £59.99 Furby – the one so many festive-fuelled youngsters are hoping Santa will have dropped down their chimney come Christmas morning.
He is only little, the concept of Christmas is relatively new to him, but for the older children who are exploring the toy department of John Lewis with him, what is top of their Christmas list is serious stuff.
“I’d love a Furby Boom,” says eight-year-old Niamh McLennan Cooke, from Easter Drylaw. “I’d also love a tablet, a Little Mix CD, the One Direction perfume, some Lego and an iPod.”
The Furby Boom is just one toy the children are getting a chance to test out in the department store ahead of Christmas Day, an opportunity to see whether the hype surrounding it – and the other top items on the nation’s wish list – is justified.
And it certainly seems to be, their eyes lighting up as they get to grips with the funny looking, hairy hamster-resembling attraction, a robotic toy which can speak and comes with its own iOS app to allow users to hatch Furby eggs and raise a city of virtual Furby “Furblings”. The Furby Boom is in huge demand this year – taking the top slot in the John Lewis top five toys for Christmas 2013 – but is proving hard for many shoppers to get their hands on as stocks sell out immediately after each delivery.
“Our advice to customers is to check our website every single day if they are wanting to get their hands on this,” says Janis Myles, who has worked in the John Lewis toy department for 13 years. “There is still hope!”
It is not all about speaking robotic animals this year however, as among the company’s “top five” is also a Lego winter village (£89.99); mini toy kitchen (£50); spy watch and pen set (£15); and the Doc McStuffins doctor’s bag set (£19.99), inspired by the popular cartoon character.
The price tags are surely enough to make some shoppers weep – if not bring even a small tear to Santa’s cash-conscious eye.
“In the 13 years I have been here, I have seen a big change,” says Janis. “People spend a lot more – and more – and their children just seem to expect that.
“They see adverts on the TV and they have catalogues, so they know exactly what they want.”
If it is not the Furby Boom that is getting children excited this Christmas, there is the ever growing trend for gadgets, including Kurio children’s tablets (£120), the VTech Inno Tab 3 (£69.99) and the VTech Kidizoom camera (£39.99).
“I’ve got a tablet on my Christmas list,” says eight-year-old Grace Robertson, from Easter Drylaw, as she gets a handle on the Kurio, her eyes focused intently. “I’d love one. And I’d like a remote control car, an iPod cover and a teddy bear.”
There is no denying the shift in recent years towards computer-related Christmas gifts; the days of children simply yearning for train sets and dolls are long gone. But the move is not without its concerns for many parents.
“Computers – it is what they all want, isn’t it?” says Emma McLennan, Niamh’s mum, as she watches her daughter and her friend familiarise themselves with the array of gadgets they would love to take home.
“It does worry me a bit though. I have an older son who spends a lot of time on games and I would like him to do something else. I suppose it is about finding a balance.”
If demand this year in the Edinburgh branch of John Lewis is anything to go by, it certainly seems that the city’s youngsters have not altogether thrown out tradition from their Christmas lists, with not only a Lego kit and a toy kitchen appearing in the top five sellers, but a mini-micro scooter (£54.99) and the Baby Annabell doll (£47.99) among the big hitters, along with a classic dolls house.
“We still have a lot of traditional customers,” says Janis. “Just last week I had a gentleman in who asked for help as he was choosing something for his 11-year-old and eight-year-old sons – but he wanted to get away from computers.
“He opted for Lego and some science sets. He said he knew he could not control what they played with all the time, but wanted to help with something different.”
As Niamh and Grace have fun testing out such traditional toys, exploring all a dolls house has to offer – with apparent enthusiasm – conversations turn to the financial aspect of the festive period.
“We set a budget and we stick to it,” says Melaine Plain, Daniel’s mum. “It is very easy to go crazy though.
“I think when children get older they ask for more, but at Daniel’s age it’s different and I feel it’s about keeping an eye on what he is interested in.
“This year Christmas is very exciting for him, he has his advent calendar and he’s written his letter to Santa. For him, aged three, he’s into Lego and books, and he’d also like an action figure. Oh, and a pair of red socks!”
But for parents of older children, the festive period can easily spiral into a stressful situation – even with the best intentions.
“It can be hard when they change their minds over what they would like,” says Emma. “But we too try to keep to a budget – and try to be organised.”
As they kids wrap up their morning of fun, putting away the toys they have been given an enviable chance to try out, their faces light up when they talk about their love of Christmas – as do their parents.
“It’s still magic for me too, even after all these years working here,” says Janis. “It still brings a smile to my face.”