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Hannah merchandise sales heat up
By Kim Mikus | Daily Herald Staff

Teagan Jones of Lake Zurich received many Hannah Montana toys for her recent birthday party, which took on a Hannah "Best of Both Worlds" theme.

 

Gilber R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

Hanna Montana items fill several store shelves at Toys 'R' Us in Schaumburg.

 

Gilber R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

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Published: 12/9/2007 12:19 AM

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Seven-year-old Teagan Jones and her little sister, Avery, hold Hannah Montana dance parties in the foyer of their Lake Zurich home while"Best of Both Worlds" blasts from the stereo.

"The girls dance to Hannah Montana songs over and over," said their mom, Lisa, who is often asked to watch the girls perform.

Pop princess Hannah Montana has made her way to the top of music charts and Christmas gift lists.

"Hannah Montana merchandise is very, very popular," said Bob Friedland of Toys 'R' Us, which named the Hannah Montana doll from Play Along one of its hot toy picks.

Montana mania reaches a wide market, starting at 5-year-olds and reaching to the tween area, he added. Hannah merchandise ranks No. 6 on the National Retail Federation's top toys for girls list.

The allure stems from the family-friendly Disney TV sitcom "Hannah Montana," set in California and featuring Miley Cyrus, daughter of country music singer Billy Ray Cyrus, who's known for "Achy Breaky Heart."

The young Cyrus plays high school student Miley Stewart, who lives a secret double life as teen music icon Hannah Montana. The show reaches more than 5 million viewers a week.

Then came the Hannah Montana CDs, followed by her first U.S. tour that included Saturday's stop at Rosemont's Allstate Arena, where interest in tickets was fierce.

Montana mania grew quickly. Some in the retail industry say they weren't prepared for the quick fame and following.

"It caught us a little off guard," said Rick Derr, owner of Learning Express toy stores in Lake Zurich and Barrington. He was expecting licensed merchandise from "High School Musical 2" to dominate the season. Instead, Hannah is huge.

"Hannah has outsold High School Musical 2 by a large margin," he said.

Derr, wishing he had more of the Montana merchandise, is having a tough time keeping the Hannah Montana DVD game, released in late October, on the shelves. "We just didn't know how big she'd be," he said.

Other dolls, including Barbie, have had to make room for the new girl on the block.

After all, Hannah has become a way of life. Fans sleep in Hannah Montana pajamas, brush their teeth with the Hannah musical toothbrush and head to school sporting shirts and purses with the 15-year-old icon.

There are posters, calendars, DVDs. A 3-D movie of her concert tour is due in theaters in February.

Area girls are basing their birthday parties around the Montana theme complete from the cake to goody bags.

Kate McPike said her fifth-grade daughter, Maggie, dressed as Hannah for Halloween, along with many young girls across the nation.

"My daughter really likes the show. From a parent's standpoint, I think it's a good one. It's harmless," said Kate McPike of Northbrook.

Lisa Jones agrees, adding she enjoys watching it with her kids. "It's an adorable little show," she said.

Meanwhile, parents are picking from an array of toys with the Montana theme to prepare for the holidays. Joan Krueger of Hawthorn Woods is looking for the coveted merchandise for her 6-year-old daughter, Rachel. She found the dance mat and microphone, but is still looking for the wig. She found the doll at Costco.

Seven-year-old Jamie Wahout, who was also Hannah for Halloween, received a Montana T-shirt on the first day of Hanukkah. "Jamie was screaming and jumping up and down when she saw it," said her mom, Corrie Wahout of Arlington Heights. Older 9-year-old sister, Brina, now wants a shirt as well and may receive one for Christmas, as the family celebrates both holidays.

Colleen Cusick, 11, of Mount Prospect and Sarah Ouimet, a third-grader in Mundelein, are asking for Montana's latest CD.

"I really like her music," Ouimet said.

Holy Hannah

Here are a few of the Hannah Montana items you can find at the store and approximately what you can expect to pay.

Hannah Montana Doll Tour Bus, $80

DVD game, $20

Miley doll, $16

Singing doll collection, $20

Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus/TV soundtrack, $23

Wii video game: Hannah Montana Spotlight World Tour, $50

Playset Surf Shop Hangout, $30

Source: Local retailers