The cuddly stuffed animals, which are in exceedingly high demand among the elementary school set, have also gained notice among Internet executives for their ability to bridge the online and offline worlds. And although no one expects others to replicate the breakaway success of Webkinz in, say, the automotive industry, analysts said there are many lessons to be learned from these plush toys.
Ganz, which introduced Webkinz in April 2005, stopped publicly commenting on sales last year as the toys approached the 1 million mark. Since then, their popularity has spiked, with stores across the nation struggling to maintain inventory and eBay sellers demanding a steep premium for certain animals, like Sherbet the rabbit, which sold last week for about $40. Some discontinued Webkinz have been sold on eBay for well over $100, and an eBay auction for a dog and cat set that closed yesterday attracted a winning bid of $1,525.