From toys to accessories to small appliances and electronics, you'll have to shop early to snare some of the "hottest" holiday gifts for 2009. Here's what industry insiders think will top the season's popularity list:
*"CLUE: Secrets & Spies." Hasbro's classic game of murderous mayhem gets an innovative twist with a new optional text-messaging feature, which transmits game-shaping intelligence to "CLUE's" iconic characters embarked on a globe-trotting adventure to foil the plans of the Criminal League for Ultimate Espionage. True identities of the agents are kept secret as players work independently to complete missions by using clues from the game and real-time tips sent via optional cell phone text messages. Standard text-messaging rates apply for players who use the feature. The agent who completes the most missions before being discovered wins the game. Hasbro is committed to maintaining text messaging support through Dec. 31, 2011. At $24.95, this newest edition of the game is designed for two to five players, ages 9 and older.
*Rubik's TouchCube: The must-have electronic toy of the season, Rubik's 2009 TouchCube has been the talk of gadget lovers and Rubik's fans alike, even before it made its debut earlier this year at the American International Toy Fair -- and despite its hefty $149.99 manufacturer's retail price. The TouchCube features touch sensor technology on all six sides, a motion-detecting accelerometer and colored lights in every square. It even mimics the movements of the original; swipe a finger across three squares and the lights will follow, "turning" a side of the cube. The motion-detecting accelerometer recognizes which side is facing up and active. It also includes a built-in solver and a memory that allows players to save their current puzzles and resume play later. TouchCube also stands alone as a desk accessory; the colors slide and change while it recharges in its display stand.
*Crock-Pot Duo Cook & Serve Slow Cooker: Crock-Pot, which introduced the slow electric stoneware cooker in 1971 -- and by doing so created a new appliance category -- is expected to have a hit on its hands with the just-introduced cooker main dish and side item all-in-one that eliminates the need for multiple pots and pans. The unit, with three individual temperature controls (low, high and warm settings), includes two serving spoons and individual spoon notches and carries a manufacturer's list price of $69.99.
*Mr. Coffee Cafe Frappe: Strong demand is anticipated for this specialty-coffee lover's dream, billed as the first home appliance that can automatically brew and blend coffeehouse-style frappes at the press of a button. With a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $79.99, it hit mass retailer shelves in September.
*Vizit: Being high-tech with a comparatively low price is expected to give this nifty new Wi-Fi digital picture frame a place on the "hot" list. The Vizit uses a wireless network to instantly capture and send pictures to its frames from anywhere in the world. The frame has other cool features, including the ability to forward, reply to and print images directly from the frame. Vizit also can interact with third-party content, such as Facebook and Twitter. The manufacturer's suggested retail price is $249. It can be ordered online at http://www.vizitme.com.
*Calvin Klein's USB memory frame sunglasses: Combining high tech with high fashion, these are sure to be a hot holiday item, thinks Karen Giberson, a seasoned observer of the accessories industry. Giberson heads the Accessories Council, an association representing more than 160 of the biggest brands in the fashion industry. What makes these UV-absorbing shades unique? Built into the right temple is a four-gigabyte USB port! Available in two sizes and designed for both men and women, you'll have to ante up $199 to give or own 'em.
*Clipa: Also headed for the "hot" gifts list, this novel bag hook clips to the handbag, backpack, umbrella or diaper bag strap, securing it to a table edge, door, sink, rail or cart. It keeps the bag off the floor and in plain sight, whether you're dining, shopping or doing some other activity. Made of high-strength zinc alloy and priced at $24.95, it is available in several finishes and can hold up to 45 pounds. It's available direct from the manufacturer, at http://www.clipa.us.