August 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 8
This One Goes to the Dogs
Plush Fight for Precedence in Overstuffed Stores
Sixty-two specialty retailers recently gave TDmonthly Magazine the scoop on plush and puppets in their stores, where domesticated animals rule and where (sometimes) a plush sell is a hard sell. And although TDmonthly’s list of the Top-10 Most-Wanted Plush Toys tells a story of mice and men, new contenders are emerging amid the many cuddly product lines we already know and love.
Just launched at the ASTRA Marketplace tradeshow in June, Heidi’s Home Design struts a Zoocchini line of soft safari animals that sit on-shelf in transparent, decorative “plushbuckets.”
Other new stuffed toys are sporting European flair.
“[Pookies] launched in Europe before chocolate brown was cool,” U.S. Sales Director Gail Collins of Pooki & Co. said of the whimsical characters and one of the “grounded” colors that balances their bright palette.
Princess Soft Toys extends its infant offerings with the European-inspired Nouveau Nursery line, which features embroidery and pairs brown with baby pink and blue — also a color scheme seen with soon-to-launch teddy bears from First & Main.
There are also new plush friends — Jellybeanies from Tomorrow Inc. — that not only have a virtual component but also a long-lasting scent-release feature.
“The definition of what a kid is asking for as a gift is so much broader [now],” Chief Marketing Officer Jim Huntley of Tomorrow Inc. told TDmonthly.
Four specialty retailers said penguins are still heating up the ice, two store owners in the northwestern United States noted that they sell a lot of horses, and six retailers indicated that good ol’ man’s best friend just can’t be beat.
“Dogs have become really popular … overtaken any other animal,” noticed Jackie Keyes, buyer for Over the Moon in Hingham, Mass.
Along with more puppet sales, “we’ve been selling more of the domesticated animals like cats and dogs,” seconded Char Mcauley, manager of Toy Town in Casper, Wyo.
Some retailers, such as Mary Sisson of Kazoodles in Vancouver, Wash., are doing quite well with stuffed toys in general. Her store sold 894 plush and 609 puppets in a nine-month period, she reported.
But others are struggling. Despite new introductions and the sense that “boys are getting into plush more,” according to Joyce Matthews, owner of Just 4 Funn in St. Simons Island, Ga., a few retailers believe the plush category is taking a hit.
“My plush toys are in the back of the store because I'm not selling them very well,” Owner Scott Loveless of Toys That Teach in Bothell, Wash., told TDmonthly. “People will … say, ‘Oh, how cute, but I already have too many of these.’”
Tom England, owner of Dancing Bear Toys and Gifts in Frederick, Md., agreed: “This line has dropped dramatically over the past four years. … Customers indicate that their children have so many plush/puppets that they refuse to buy more,” he said.
Danny Givens, owner of Little Dickens in Lynchburg, Va., pointed out that snakes and even monkeys are showing some slowdown.
WHAT TO MAKE OF IT
Since some stores are seeing slowdowns, be choosy about how many stuffed toys — and which ones — you carry. And aside from keeping stock full of puppies, scope out some new properties that may pique buyers’ interest, even if their home already looks like a zoo.
View some of the new and popular plush below:
Cozy Animal Cushion: Nighttime Tooth Fairy Owl by ZID ZID KIDS
Other products from ZID ZID KIDS
This soft cushion is the safest place to tuck in a newly lost tooth for the Tooth Fairy to find. Soft brushed cotton flannel, high-quality embroidery and a clever one-of-a-kind pocket make this owl truly special. Julie Klear, co-founder and creative director of Zid Zid Kids, told TDmonthly her company’s product line is designed and crafted in Marrakech, Morocco, with local fabrics. “We blend our artist hand with the century-old craft traditions [of] Morocco. Our designs are seen as somewhat extraordinary in terms of design and craftsmanship,” she said. Launch date: Holiday 2006.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13890 (added 7/3/2007)
The big, curious, yellow eyes stand out on this loveable 14.5" plush kitty. His understuffed, extra-long body makes him incredibly poseable and huggable, too. He's made out of a silky, soft fabric that simply begs to be petted. Ziggy's friends in the Lanky Cat line include Iggy and Moe.
— "It's crazy. I don't know what it is. It's like an addiction," said Jude Larene, co-owner of Izilla Toys in Seattle, about the Lanky Cat craze that has hit his store.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13484 (added 6/14/2007)
Strawberry Bear is one of eight candy-colored plush animals with a patent-pending scent release feature. The fragrance is designed to last up to 24 months. Each character includes a unique story and a special alphanumeric code to access a customized online environment where children can interact with their toy and make new friends. “It’s a consumer promoted, advertised line that’s sold exclusively outside of Top 3 Mass Customers,” Chief Marketing Officer Jim Huntley of Tomorrow Incorporated told TDmonthly. He also said that scent “rose to the top” of the preferred list in a study of 10 features among 500 6- to 12-year-old girls. Launch date: July 1, 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13324 (added 6/8/2007)
A unique combination for lovers of dogs and plush, the Dog House contains five plush dogs in an equally plush house. Each dog has its own door to peak out of in the light brown and cream colored house that also comes with a handle. It's decorated with paw prints and dog bones. The five stuffed dogs include a Dalmatian, Poodle, Rottweiler, Cocker Spaniel and Labrador. The entire set measures 6" x 7" x 12" and weighs 2 lbs.
— "I'm also selling quite a lot from Unipak Designs. They have these barns and houses that generally have five stuffed animals sticking out. I sell a number of those. They have a dog house, a cat house, and so on," said Scott Loveless, owner of Toys That Teach in Bothell, Wash.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13481 (added 6/14/2007)
BabyPookies are soft and colorful plush items that come packaged in a little box that includes the story of the character’s birth. Mina, for example, came out of a glass sphere that looked like a giant space green pea. She measures 5” tall by 2.75” wide. This gift is ideal for both children and adults. The collectible line includes seven characters. This product offers “lots of detail work on the plush and a beautiful[ly] designed box,” Sales Director Gail Collins told TDmonthly. Launch date: Fall 2006 (first four characters); Spring 2007 (three new characters).
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 12371 (added 4/18/2007)
The full body Baby Puppet is a perfect pretend pal. The cute character is easily animated with a working mouth. It's fun to play with and sure to inspire the imagination of kids, adults and drama departments alike. All Melissa & Doug people puppets have removable clothing and include a hand-operating rod. The Baby is constructed with super-soft quality fleece, measures 4" x 8" x 18" and weighs 11.2 oz.
— "We sell quite a few puppets from Melissa & Doug," said Char Mcaulay, manager of Toy Town in Casper, Wyo., when she talked to TDmonthly about store sales in the spring of 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13479 (added 6/14/2007)
This 15" plush mutt will be a best buddy for kids and adults. It has soft fur, floppy ears and cool spots. Sophisticated, quirky and irresistibly soft, sweet meets hip with the unique and quirky designs of Jellycat. They're delightful to give and precious to hold for a long time. With more than 180 London designs to choose from, the Jellycat collection is a one-stop specialty gift and toy resource. The Bunglies Mutt is surface washable, too.
— "For plush, it's Jellycat," said Cindy Nelson, owner of Skylark Co. in Duluth, Minn., when asked by TDmonthly about hot sellers in the spring of 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13478 (added 6/14/2007)
This 10" sitting wolf is part of the growing collection of Douglas wildlife plush that also includes Hillary the Hedgehog, Night the Black Bear, Arthur the Armadillo and many more fascinating species with adorable names.
— "Wildlife toys by Douglas. We're close to the mountains here so people want to go home with something that looks like it's from the mountains," said Joel Hardy, owner of Magpie Toys in Red Lodge, Mont., about plush items customers are buying in his store.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13477 (added 6/14/2007)
Miss Marilyn Sak is dot darling in the sassiest shades of pink polka dots accenting a black background. The hot-pink quilted flap is trimmed with a white ruffle sprinkled with even more speckles. The double-handled bag holds Spec, the Dalmatian puppy. The Sassy Pet Sak collection continues to grow and suit the demands of today's style conscience fashionistas, as Miss Marilyn is joined in the line by such favorites as Margarita Lime and Denim Hobo. There are 11 styles to choose from. Launch date: Spring 2006.
— "We also sell the purses with the plush animals from Douglas — the Sassy Saks," said Mary Sisson, owner of Kazoodles in Vancouver, Wash., when asked about hot sellers in the spring of 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13476 (added 6/14/2007)
The Shining Stars Christmas collection includes this adorable penguin, a reindeer and a snowman. When kids purchase a Shining Stars friend, they can log onto the Shining Stars website and use the secret code inside the plush’s hangtag to register and name a star with the International Star Registry. Children can print a star certificate that gives the exact location of the star, and the site also offers fun games and activities. Launch date: October 15, 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13678 (added 6/25/2007)
This adorable bear stands 14” tall and is filled with soft polyester. The bear wears a striped T-shirt that is available in two varieties: red and black or blue and black. Wholesale purchases are available for as low as $1.60 per bear in a case of 30. Launch date: June 1, 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13609 (added 6/25/2007)
Co-edikit® 8" Plush ? "Don't Make Me Kick You" and "Here I Am! What Were Your Other 2 Wishes?" by FIESTA
Other products from FIESTA
These characters are two of eight 8” plush in a line created by artist and humorist Cheryl Caldwell. The characters serve as a personal guide on how to Live Out Loud™, and are great to play with or set on a computer or desk. They feature witty phrases and graphics that make light of everyday life, girl talk, romance and office chat. Launch date: mid-2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13466 (added 6/13/2007)
Children can ride on this plush horse, holding the handles and trampling the footplates. It can move forward and slightly turn left or right. Different sizes and designs are available.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13457 (added 6/13/2007)
The 8"-tall Roly Poly has a chime inside. Two skin tones are available, and the product is machine washable and dryable.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13746 (added 6/27/2007)
This adorable teddy bear is accented with polka-dot ribbons. It is available in pink and blue for baby girls and baby boys, respectively. Launch date: September 1, 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13716 (added 6/25/2007)
Annekatrin Melan Limited Edition Collection ? Anteater "Tamandua" by KÖSEN USA, Inc.
Other products from KÖSEN USA, Inc.
This anteater is handcrafted in Germany with special emphasis on naturalistic appearance and excellent quality. It is optimally designed with the utmost in children’s play requirements in mind. As a limited edition of 500 units, it also appeals as a collectible for all ages. It has a long flexible and extractable tongue, and its silky fur is made of golden yellow alpaca wool. This anteater is 15.4” long and comes with a wooden display box and a certificate. “The life-like appearance and top-quality craftsmanship,” set this plush product apart from others, Sales Manager Sybille Hartmann of Koesen USA told TDmonthly. Launch date: 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13665 (added 6/25/2007)
The Hopscotch Gang is a new collection of eight 10”-tall whimsical characters with soft, low-pile fabric and fresh, distinctive, sculpted features. The collection includes a frog, elephant, moose, hound, giraffe, turtle, horse and penguin. Launch date: May 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13620 (added 6/25/2007)
Chantilly Lane® Senior Moments™ Guys by PBC INTERNATIONAL INC.
Other products from PBC INTERNATIONAL INC.
These musical and animated gray chenille bears wear vests that "bear" sentiments of old age. Their heads sway and their mouths move while they sing "When I'm 64." The MSRP is between $19.99 and $24.99. Launch date: March 2004.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13614 (added 6/25/2007)
With the brand-new iBedoo line, sigikid has taken the traditional music box to the next level: Just put your iPod into the little pouch on the back of the iBedoo, and play your favorite lullabies, downloaded from sigikid's iBedoo website. The iBedoo music box is part of an entire collection of snugglies, squeakers and grasp toys, in fun colors and unique designs.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13538 (added 6/19/2007)
Ace Berriman isn't one to bluff. This 16" plush fur teddy bear with poly stuffing is a true-blue card playing kind of bear, with a poker face and all. This gold chenille fella wears his lucky poker outfit with a visor and red vest, and he's holding all the cards in this game. Think Ace has a full house? He's poseable, so you can have him holding any hand you want. Launch date: Spring 2007.
— "We have Boyds," said Debbie Hough, buyer for Hartville Collectibles in Hartville, Ohio, when asked by TDmonthly about the best-selling plush in her store.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13473 (added 6/14/2007)
This plush animal is handcrafted in Germany with special emphasis on naturalistic appearance and excellent quality. It fulfills the demands of collectors and enthusiasts who ask for plush toys to be produced with selected natural materials. It is optimally designed to give children an understanding of shy animals that are difficult to observe in the wild as they conceal themselves from humans. When these animals are in soft toy form, children can come to like them while including them in their play. The rat is made of mohair wool. It won a 2006 Preferred Choice Award from Creative Child Magazine. Launch date: 2006.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 12379 (added 4/18/2007)
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Writer's Bio: Julie L. Jones has written articles for both newspapers and magazines. Before joining the staff of TDmonthly Magazine, she worked as a communications writer and provided editorial support for a market research company. Read more articles by this author
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