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Tiny helicopter hot new gift item

Remote-controlled Picco Z very popular and still available

Published: Friday, Dec. 15 2006 9:36 a.m. MST

OREM — A tiny, remote-controlled helicopter is topping holiday wish-lists of toy enthusiasts across the country, which is good news for an Orem-based Internet company with thousands to sell.

Those who run HobbyTron.com say it is one of the few places the Picco Z — a small motorized aircraft — can still be found this close to Christmas.

The tiny foam and plastic helicopter weighing less than 10 grams buzzes around a room like a hummingbird, responding to infrared signals from its remote-control base.

Company executives saw the toy at a national toy fair in New York City and said they knew it would be big. So they bought 50,000 for the holiday season and plan to sell out just before Christmas.

"This has been the hottest-selling item in the last six years," said Tim Gibson, who handles business development for HobbyTron.com.

"It's a stocking stuffer that will actually fit in a stocking for a change," said John Christiansen, who works with HobbyTron.com's marketing team.

The made-in-China helicopters run on a lithium polymer battery, which lasts seven to nine minutes and can be recharged through the control base, which uses six AA batteries.

The user controls lift with a mini joy stick. But managing the helicopter's flight pattern is not so easy, and the craft often just spins. Next year's Picco Z should allow a user to control three elements of the craft, not just two, Gibson said.

And after its seven-minute life, the helicopter ends up on the floor scurrying around like an erratic mosquito. But plug it back into to its handset and in 15 to 20 minutes it's ready for another round.

Started in 1999, the Orem online company also sells Airsoft guns — realistic-looking guns that shoot plastic pellets — as well as other electronic and robotic toys. Revenues last year were about $12 million.

The company, headquartered in a warehouse west of I-15 off Geneva Road, receives two semi-truck loads daily and spends about $2 million a year on shipping.

"We sell everything that everybody else doesn't," said president Jim Royer.

While other companies shy away from huge toys and massive mailing boxes, Royer said HobbyTron.com's largest market is its big toys — giant trucks, tanks and robots.

Genesis Scientific at 542 S. State in Orem is selling the Picco Z for local shoppers who don't want to pay shipping costs.

Owner Randy Campbell is a buyer for HobbyTron.com and has worked with the online retailer to provide a brick-and-mortar store for shoppers.

He usually sells scientific toys and products. But they've been selling hundreds of helicopters a day, luring shoppers from as far away as Ogden.

"We expect business to be brisk in January and to continue throughout the rest of the year," Campbell said. "We think the Picco Z will be hot all year."


E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com

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