Every Christmas there is a toy that causes holiday mayhem – a must that it seems almost impossible for the desperate parents to get their hands on. But what goes into making a global best-seller?
The stakes will be high for parents whose children have Fry on their holiday wish-list as you head towards the last weekend before Christmas.
The miniature chirping animatronic monkeys, inspired by the world’s smallest primate – the marmoset, pygmy – are one of this season’s runaway hits, and can be difficult to find.
WowWee, Hong Kong, the Canadian company behind the robot toy, says Fry were the result of a brand manager Sydney Wiseman, who has seen the smaller primate online on a viral post on social media and recognized it as a toy.
WowWee chief technical officer Davin Sufer says that he did not know he had a stroke of the hand, with the us launch of the interactive toy in the month of August, after it was released in the UNITED kingdom and Canada, in the spring.
“Because of the launch in the UNITED kingdom, and the buzz on the social, there was almost pent-up demand is in the US,” she says. “So, when you hit the shelves there was this huge blast of sales. And continued to go.”
Science Photo Library
The fry are now part of the foibles of Christmas; from 1983 Doll Cabbage Patch frenzy, the 1996 Tickle Me Elmo fever, last year Hatchimals mania.
“At a certain point we realized that was going to be a great success, but we have not understood the flow,” he says. “Every week, we touched on a new record.”
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The decision to start the toy at the beginning of the year, have allowed the company to measure the response before the holiday season has begun in earnest. Also sent young Youtube “influencers” banana pinatas filled with Fry inside to create a buzz online.
“We wanted to create an unusual, unboxing experience and have influencers ‘unbash’ the Fry from the pinatas,” says Mr. Sufer.
The little robot monkeys – there is also a sloth, and a unicorn version – also earned spots on the hot toy lists at major retailers like Amazon, Walmart, and Toys R Us, and the influential of the UK Toy retailers Association top 12 list this year.
Richard Gottlieb, a toy industry commentator with the Global Toy Expert, says to get a product on these lists, is a “self-fulfilling prophecy” for a successful year.
But he compares a real toy of Christmas-mania “an act of nature”.
“It is just the right product at the right time. Something about it just hits people at the right time,” he says.
“If you are looking for a toy that a frenzy toy and one that is not is, it’s just magic.”
Michelle Liem, toy industry analyst at market research company the NPD Group Canada, says a couple of elements that go to make a top toy to have a product that is new and innovative to set the right price.
A product with “shareable ” moments” can also help to make a success of social media.
Three of the products making waves this Christmas – Fry, LOL Surprise and Hatchimals again, have some of these components.
Davin Sufer credits the Fry for “the perfect combination of gameplay, aesthetics, functionality and price.”
“Once you break the look and got the mechanism inside of it, and it has hit us all right in this little body, we knew we had something special,” he says.
Richard Gottlieb calls Fry “really is a great combination of high-tech and high touch”.
“It’s cute, and it is accessible and you can put in your pocket, take to school. That was always fresh, the children had the toy in his pocket.”
Each Fingerling retails for $14.99 to Â£14.99 – a price that makes it accessible for many to give as a gift.
But the popularity comes with problems.
First there were the fake Fry; in the month of November, WowWee has been granted a temporary restraining order against 165 counterfeiters.
In addition, the company has had to increase the scale of production to keep up with the demand, and the use of more expensive air freight to get the product to stores in time.
Ms Liem says that a production crunch, it can be difficult for the shipping companies.
The orders are calculated on predictions made long before the Christmas rush for them to be shipped to stores in time. Being overly ambitious can mean being stuck with too much expensive stock.
“The vortex builds and builds and builds, so that the vortex is so great, you know you have a hit on his hands, all the decisions have already been made,” he says.
Davin Sufer, he also says the Fry of success means that there is pressure to recreate the success of the next year.
Says that you will not be able to build the “chargeability” of the toy and expand the cast of characters and creatures.
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Mr. Gottlieb says dealing with success can be dangerous for businesses, and that the trends often vanish in about eight months.
He indicates Hatchimals, from Toronto toy manufacturer Spin Master, as an “exception to the rule” that remains a top seller, despite grappling with inventory challenges in 2016.
“I ran into some problems with defective units, probably because there was a real hurry to get the product out the door and there was new technology involved with it,” he says.
“But they have done a really good job to sustain the interest in the [product].”
Both WowWee and Spin Master have a track record of producing successful products, he says, and a toy mania always starts with a good product.
“But with all your hopes and dreams, you can’t make that happen. The people to talk to.”