Thursday, March 1, 2007

Plush pet gets a life: Webkinz craze unites physical, online worlds

Webkinz toys sell for around $10, and smaller versions, called Lil' Kinz, retail for around $7.50, Ms. McVeigh said. Each Webkinz comes with a free one-year membership to the Web site, which can only be extended by buying another toy.

Industry insiders are taking note. Webkinz won the Toy of the Year Award in the Specialty Toy category at the annual Toy Industry Toy of the Year Awards earlier this month.

"Webkinz are creating a new phenomenon in the toy industry that crosses over gender boundaries and retail outlets," said Reyne Rice, toy trends specialist for the Toy Industry Association, the trade organization for North American toy manufacturers.

It's also part of a trend toward developing safe online portals for kids to satisfy concerned parents who want their kids to be tech-savvy but safe, she said.

Ganz won't say how many Webkinz units are made or sold, but Ms. McVeigh said the Web site has more than 1 million members.

Kids like Mrs. Martin's 9-year-old son, William Beebe, keep those figures going up. At last count, he had 17 and rising.

"My friend has 45," he said.

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