NEW YORK -- Shoppers prefer blue or white, but for the last two days egg-shaped Tamagotchi cyber-pet toys in any of six colors have been flying off the shelves of selected toy stores across the country.
In fact, if the first two days of sales are any guide, the Tamagotchi craze that swept Japan may have been successfully transplanted in the United States. FAO Schwarz's flagship store on 5th Avenue was wiped out of its initial 10,000 unit order before noon Friday, scarcely 24 hours after the Bandai Co. toy went on sale. Meanwhile, its San Francisco store, which also began selling the virtual pets on Thursday, had sold all of the 3,000 it had by 3 p.m. that afternoon.
Would-be pet owners were lined up outside of Schwarz Friday afternoon, awaiting a new order, which arrived about 1:30 p.m.
At Herald Square, there were no lines outside the Toys "R" Us store at Herald Square. But inside, shoppers, including many Japanese women, were scooping up as many as 10 Tamagotchi packages, priced at $14.99 each, before heading for the cash register.
"It's a very good souvenir," said Ms. Hirai, a Japanese tourist who wouldn't give her first name, as she and several friends grabbed an armful of the toys.
The ladies said they planned to send the toys back to friends and relatives in Japan, where the toys have been a fad for months.
"They are more expensive in Japan, and very hard to find," she said.
Nearby, Heidi and Ken Dilmore, in for the weekend from their home near Rochester, said they had wandered down to Toys "R" Us after discovering that Schwarz had sold out of the toys.
"Schwarz said they would have them back by 1 and they didn't," Mrs. Dilmore said.
Armed with at least half a dozen of the toys -- at least two of which were for their son Kaleb -- the Dilmores seemed content.
"This is to appease the guilt for not bringing him with us," Mrs. Dilmore said.
While business was brisk at the Tamagotchi bins, Toys "R" Us shoppers seemed less interested in Giga Pets, a virtual knockoff made by Tiger Electronics Inc. selling for $9.99.
Marc Rosenberg, a Tiger spokesman, did not seem worried.
"We had a great first day," on Thursday, he said. "We have close to 1,500 toys at the Herald Square store, and we will be sold out by the weekend."
Schwarz ran through its initial order of Tamagotchis despite a limit of two per customer, said Kelly Disque, a Schwarz spokeswoman.
Toys "R" Us tried to impose similar discipline, but failed.
"It got to be a bit of a nightmare to orchestrate," said John Sullivan, a vice president and divisional merchandise manager for Toys "R" Us USA. "People were going through the line multiple times."
Michael Goldstein, chief executive and vice chairman at Toys "R" Us, declined to say precisely how many of the toys his company had sold.
"It's in the thousands," he said, "and we probably will be sold out by Sunday."
Both Toys "R" Us and Schwarz said they expected that all of their stores across the country would be stocked with Tamagotchis by the middle of next week at the latest.
Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Macy's and Federated Department Stores should have shipments of the toys by the middle of May, according to Mary Woodruff, a Bandai spokeswoman.
Just how strong a seller Tamagotchi will be is unclear. "We're going to know a lot in the next few weeks, when all the stores in the country get it," said Goldstein of Toys "R" Us. "With these toys and the knockoffs, we are going to have a whole menagerie of virtual pets by Christmas."
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