ToyDirectory
October 23, 2017

TDmonthly Magazine

March 2010 | Vol. IX - No. 3


Zoobies Unfold With New Themes and Licenses

Functional Plush Thrive on Customer-Driven Success

By Claudia Newcorn
March 2010

“We … allow our retailers to participate in our product development process. We have a ‘retailer board’ that consists of some of our biggest customers.” Ryan Treft, VP of Marketing, Zoobies
Ryan Treft, vice president of marketing for Zoobies, is straightforward about his learning experiences in bringing products to market: “I’ve found that nothing can take the place of a face-to-face meeting, (and) I’ve learned it’s better to engage your targeted customers in the design process than to come out with a product and hope people buy it,” he told TDmonthly Magazine.

This customer-driven business approach, combined with multi-purpose plush toys that appeal to the cuddly-play factor children love, have fueled a success story that began with Zoobies’ founders (and brothers) Reid and JC Smoot’s desire to invent something for kids that was fun, innovative and functional.

DIVING RIGHT IN

Zoobies made a big splash when it entered the toy business in 2007.

“We launched the company without any previous experience in the toy/gift industries,” Treft told TDmonthly. “In a way, this has been a huge advantage. We are always seeking insight from customers and retailers without assuming we know what they want.”

This research methodology has resulted in Zoobies channeling most of its marketing dollars into trade shows.

“It also allows us to interact with our retailers, potential retailers, and other exhibitors — all of whom have a lot to offer,” Treft explained. “We are not afraid to ask questions and even allow our retailers to participate in our product development process. We have a ‘retailer board’ that consists of some of our biggest customers. They are always willing to provide great ideas.”

Although Zoobies was successful at its first Toy Fair, in 2007, and received feedback on elements of the line that could quickly be changed, Treft advocates “taking product samples to the buyers for the ideal sales channel and modifying the product according to the feedback. … Do everything you can to line up interest in your product before you officially launch.”

Today, Zoobies are in nearly 2,500 specialty stores in the United States, with distribution in 60 countries. (See a report on Zoobies’ growth from September 2008.)

OFFERING VALUE WITH FUNCTION AND LICENSES


With dozens of awards to the company’s credit, Treft described Zoobies as plush with a purpose.

“Plush is a huge category with a lot of competitors, but there isn’t a lot of functional plush out there. Function and value allows us to stand out in a crowded market,” he said.

Current collections include Safari, Wildlife, Bugs, Zoo, Baby and Jumbo Zoobies. A Barnyard Collection is in the works.

The company’s willingness to adapt and seek new opportunities has fueled successful new directions.

“One of the best moves we’ve made is doing the Very Hungry Caterpillar Zoobie/book combo,” Treft told TDmonthly. “Like many of our ideas, making book characters came from listening to feedback from consumers. We received several emails from parents who tell us they wrap their child up in the Zoobie blanket as they sit on their lap during story time. … We have recently signed licensing agreements with more classic books, such as Peter Rabbit, Olivia, and Spot the Dog.”

“The Zoobies company has been great to work with, and they are continually looking at new designs to keep their line fresh,” said Retha Davis, co-owner of Kid’s Center in Tucson, Ariz. “Combining (the Zoobies) with classic book characters has been a great way for the line to reach new audiences, with the Eric Carle Very Hungry Caterpillar leading the way. For us, as a children's book and toy store, it has been a great seller and we are looking forward to their new book character designs.”

TEAMING UP WITH RETAILERS

Treft and his team work closely with retailers to ensure the product’s functionality is communicated to consumers. Demonstration is crucial when promoting Zoobies, he said, but the company also provides helpful visuals.

“The last thing we want is for a Zoobie to sit on a shelf with nothing to indicate that they are more than a stuffed animal. We are offering several POP materials and displays with great graphics that show Zoobies in all three phases,” Treft told TDmonthly. Such displays, he said, have significantly boosted sell through.

Read Zoobie Pets Invade 1,100 Stores in Under 2 Years


See fresh Zoobies, as well as some older designs, below:

Zoobies Very Hungry Caterpillar Toy, Blanket & Book Combo by ZOOBIES

Zoobies Very Hungry Caterpillar Toy, Blanket & Book Combo by ZOOBIESZoobies teamed up with the World of Eric Carle to launch the Zoobies Very Hungry Caterpillar Toy, Blanket & Book Combo. This plush character folds into a pillow with a butterfly print blanket zipped inside. The package also includes the classic “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” board book.
Awards:  2010 NAPPA Gold Award.
Launch date: February 2010. 2/23/2010 (MSRP: $32.00; Age: All Ages)


Patch the Pinto™ by ZOOBIES

Patch the Pinto™ by ZOOBIESZoobies 3-in-1 Patch the Pinto plush toy pony, super-soft blanket & comfy pillow is ideal for road excursions or just cuddling in bed. Patch also makes a great baby shower gift. 2/15/2010 (MSRP: $34.00; Age: All Ages)


Furbie the Feline™ by ZOOBIES

Furbie the Feline™ by ZOOBIESZoobies 3-in-1 Furbie the Feline plush toy, super-soft blanket & comfy pillow is ideal for road excursions or just cuddling in bed. Furbie also makes a great baby shower gift. Launch date: February 14, 2010. 2/15/2010 (MSRP: $34.00; Age: All Ages)


Poco the Pup by ZOOBIES

Poco the Pup by ZOOBIESZoobies 3-in-1 Poco the Pup plush toy, super-soft blanket & comfy pillow is ideal for road excursions or just cuddling in bed. Poco also makes a great baby shower gift. Launch date: February 14, 2010. 2/15/2010 (MSRP: $34.00; Age: All Ages)


Saba the Snail by ZOOBIES

Saba the Snail by ZOOBIES Saba is not only an adorable snail, but also a comfy pillow and super-soft blanket all in one. Perfect for road excursions or just cuddling in bed. Suishy Saba also makes a perfect baby shower gift. Launch date: 2009. (Watch the Saba the Snail Video Watch Video) 8/25/2009 (MSRP: $34.00; Age: All Ages)


Lilly the Ladybug by ZOOBIES

Lilly the Ladybug by ZOOBIESBound to become a child's best friend, Lilly is not only an adorable ladybug, but also a comfy pillow and super-soft blanket all in one. She's perfect for road excursions or just cuddling in bed. Lilly also makes a a great baby shower gift. Launch date: 2009. (Watch the Lilly the Ladybug Video Watch Video) 8/25/2009 (MSRP: $34.00; Age: All Ages)


Jumbo Kojo the Croc by ZOOBIES

Jumbo Kojo the Croc by ZOOBIESComing to you from Africa's wild Okavango Delta, this jumbo cuddly croc's toothy grin is sure to warm a child's heart. Kojo is not only an adorable crocodile, but also a comfy pillow and super-soft queen sized blanket all in one. Perfect for lounging on or just cuddling in bed. Features include: Microbead stuffed head for ultimate squishibility; Large, super-soft coral fleece blanket inside: 90"x59"; Bumpy Green Plush Body Material; 100% polyester. Blanket detaches for easy washing. Launch date: 2008. 5/5/2009 (Age: 3 and Up)


Zoobie™ Pets - Bubba the Black Bear by ZOOBIES

Zoobie™ Pets - Bubba the Black Bear by ZOOBIESThis cuddly Zoobie is designed to be ideal for road excursions or just cuddling in bed. In addition to a teddy bear, it also serves as a comfy pillow and soft blanket — all in one. "We are the only company that turns a plush animal into a pillow and a blanket," CEO JC Smoot of Zoobies told TDmonthly. Bubba received a 2009 Top Fun award from Tillywig and a 2009 Best Vacation Children's Products award from Dr. Toy. Launch date: February 15, 2009. (Watch the Zoobie™ Pets - Bubba the Black Bear Video Watch Video) 4/27/2009 (MSRP: $31.99; Age: All Ages)


Baby Zoobies - Mashaka the Monkey by ZOOBIES

Baby Zoobies - Mashaka the Monkey by ZOOBIESNow even the tinest Baby can have a Zoobie. The Baby Mashaka plush toy  un-Velcroes to become a comfy pillow, then unzips to transform into an infant-sized blanket. The blanket even features fuzzy "comfort corners" to stimulate Baby's interest in textures. Release date: 2008. (Watch the Baby Zoobies - Mashaka the Monkey Video Watch Video) 9/18/2008






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