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Retailers Weigh In On Plush
By Adam Us
November 1, 2002

Gund® Lion Plush

In the minds of many retailers, plush lives in two groups. There are the licensed collections of Disney® characters and Sesame Street® creations. And then there are brands like Gund® and Manhattan®, known for making stuffed creatures with huggable bodies, soulful faces, and fur so soft it is worthy of a monarch's touch.

Gund® Cow Plush

Finding the proper mixture of cute, pleasingly tactile, and unique is what Sonya Kalajian of the Learning Express feels is key to success. But since the first Teddy Bear came on the scene in 1902, stuffed animals have suffered all variety of indignities, from pink fur to funny costumes. While some retailers see appeal in bold colors, many feel that fewer gimmicks make it easier to move the product.

Gund® Duck Plush

"Facial expression is a big deal," says SmilesAllAround.com owner Christina Durboraw, adding that earth tone colors and more plumpness and huggability make for better sellers. Durboraw also recognizes that plush purchases are very much of a hands-on impulse buy, and therefore tough to market via the Internet.

To facilitate sales, most retailers keep prices in an accessible range from $20 to $75. But, says Durboraw, parents will never scrimp on gifts for the kids. And sometimes that can lead to stupendous purchases.

Aardvarks to Zebras is Sarah Rassmussen's shop in Cleveland Ohio. Rasmussen has found a niche specializing in life-like stuffed animals of the exotic sort, and she says during the holidays a $300 order of stuffed Emus and plush Vultures is not unusual. Big giraffes go for $2000, and when one sold last year Rasmussen was understandably "thrilled."

Economic blips do affect plush retailers, and many are already feeling the pressure of the oncoming Holiday season. Of course the smaller shops must fight to be noticed by manufacturers, but the recent dock lockout on the West Coast has also created an unusual, bittersweet effect. Lack of incoming product has left merchants with sudden shortages, but that in turn has launched an early buying spree.

Beanie Babies

The plush industry at large - responsible for almost 10 percent of all toy sales - has seen a 40 percent decline in sales in the past two years (unitymarketing.com). Much of the decline is thought to have coincided with the waning of the Beanie Babies craze, however, and the sales now seem to be leveling off to more conventional numbers.

(To read about a hot new market in plush, click here)

Gund Images ©Gund, Inc. Gund®, babyGund® and Gotta Getta Gund® are trademarks of Gund, Inc.


What the Experts Say: Plush Toys Enhance Child Development
Product Summary: Plush That's Good Enough to Eat
Past Present: A Century of Plush
Side Bar: Where Bears Are Born

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