My prediction on the 2009 hot toy of the year…

October 9, 2009

ChannelAdvisor ChannelAdvisor By ChannelAdvisor

It’s a Friday night and I thought it would be fun to do a lighter post.  This one came to me when evaluating some eBay auction data.  Auctions are generally very very down y/y, but I noticed an interesting blip -a product that has a crazy amount of bid action on one product in particular.  I dug into it and am going to go out on a limb and call the ‘hot item of 09’ early.  Hold on to your seats readers and remember you read it on eBay Strategies first.

Drum roll….. (hint: they are so fun, but without the mess!)

I’m predicting that the HOT toy of 2009 will be Zhu Zhu pets.  What, you ask, is a Zhu Zhu pet.  Well a YouTube is worth a zillion words so here goes:

There are four main Zhu Zhu pets:

  • Mr Squiggles – A light brown hamster
  • Num Nums – A grey hamster
  • Pip Squeek – A yellow hamster
  • Chunk – A white hamster

The above retail for $8 and are going for $20-30 already on eBay. On top of the animals, the genius is they have a huge assortment of add-ons – you can buy a maze of habitrails, a little car, a ball – pretty much all the stuff a real hamster would need, but more expensive, is available for your Zhu Zhu.  The accessories range from $10 to $20+ and there are a mind boggling large number of them: (click to enlarge)

Zhuzhu_playsets

This isn’t a simple wind up toy…

Many people seem to dismiss Zhu Zhu’s  as a simple wind-up style toy.  They are actually a complex robotic simulation that has three modes of operation and a proprietary ‘pet code reader’.  Check out this PDF of the instructions on this robotic pet.   All that’s great, but what I think is really amazing about this toy is the range of age groups attracted to it.  I’ve seen a 3yr old and an 11yr old (boys and girls) freak out about it and immediately want to try to collect all 4 (they ‘talk’ to each other).  We live in a period where toys are becoming more and more fragmented along age lines – for example, Barbie’s only appeal to a very small age window now (5-7 maybe?), where they used to appeal to a 5-15yr.

Conclusion

The Zhu Zhu is a cool new product that has a lot of buzz.  It appeals to a wide swath of the kid population, has a reasonable price tag, and appears to be already be in crazy short supply.  As of this writing (10/0/09) there are a fair number of Zhu Zhu’s in some Wal-mart’s.  I’m hearing they are not easily found in Targets or TRUs, yet they say they are coming.  My advice to you is if you have a kid in the 3-10yr range, go ahead and start trying to find a Zhu Zhu or you’ll be behind the eight ball and buying them for $100 on eBay (from a seller that read this and gobbled up a bunch of supply 😉  Reminder – walmart.com has a local search, so if you go to a Zhu Zhu item and do a ‘find in store’, you should see a list of stores near you that have the little robo-critters in supply.

Now it’s entirely possible that several boat loads of these come in and the supply catches up to demand, but based on what we’re seeing – there is a LOT of demand, so I think that’s unlikely.

For all you Wall St’ers out there, unfortunately Zhu Zhu is made by a private company – Cepia out of of St. Louis of all places so you’ll have to play this with the offline/online retailers.

Seeking Alpha disclosure – I am long Google and Amazon.  eBay is an investor in ChannelAdvisor where I am CEO.  And yes, I have already grabbed a mini stockpile of Zhu Zhu’s, so I guess I am long robotic hamsters 😉  Wal-mart is a ChannelAdvisor customer.