This Year's Toy Mantra: 'Soft Sells'

Demand for stuffed animals is up 4% in an otherwise 'soft' toy sales season
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 9, 2023 5:20 PM CST
This Year's Toy Mantra: 'Soft Sells'
   (Getty / inga)

The buzz word in the stuffed animal world these days is "soft," with toymakers scrambling to make their offerings to stand out as the plushest stuffies in the biz. And despite toy sales being soft as well (down by 8%), the Wall Street Journal reports that stuffed animals are bucking the trend with 4% growth. "We've never had a category overshadow all the rest like this before," says Tucson toy store owner Autumn Ruhe. The Journal heard similar musings from the CEOs of stuffed animal manufacturers, who all want to take home the title for softest stuffy. "Soft sells," says Ty Warner, founder and head of Ty (known for Beanie Babies). "The more cuddly, the better."

The Journal digs into the world of plush with surprising detail. Warner, for example, says the tactile experience is what attracts kids to stuffed animals—"the sense of touch and feel makes kids feel safe and secure." David Socha of Beverly Hills Teddy Bear says his company thinks about softness in terms of sheet thread count, using 1,000+ threads per inch to achieve a "buttery, silky, cloud-soft" feel. Squishmallows, a squishy toy that resembles the shape and buoyancy of a marshmallow, won the actual Plush Toy of the Year prize at a ceremony hosted by The Toy Foundation (other big winners were Barbie, LEOG, and the Ninja Turtles). The brand's CEO says they are set to sell 30 million Squishmallows during 2023's last quarter.

Both the Strategist and CNET list the season's hottest toys, and stuffies that make it onto the roundups include a new Harry Potter Gryffindor Lion Squishmallow, an interactive Furby plush, and a moveable Elmo that harkens to the days shoppers rushed to stores for the 1996 Tickle-Me version. Other top sellers on the lists range from $15 to nearly $400, with the most expensive choice a battery-powered go-kart. Dollhouses of favorite characters like Bluey, STEM toys, and remote-control vehicles also made the cut, along with robotic and interactive dolls. (Five throwbacks finally made it into the Toy Hall of Fame.)

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