Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Demand for Webkinz not fading

“They merge a couple of popular play patterns into one product,” says
Adrienne Citrin, a spokeswoman for the Toy Industry Association. “Kids
love to nurture, they love pets and they love anything virtual and
interacting online.”

As Canadian toy maker Ganz continues to release new animals and
accessories and add more features to the site, kids are becoming
entangled in what may be the biggest toy blitz since Beanie Babies,
causing Webkinz shortages at specialty retailers.

“I’ve been in
business for five years and I haven’t seen anything like it,” says Jan
Ranard, owner of Pizazz Studio Inc. in Loveland, which sold every
Webkinz it had to a long line of customers one Saturday morning last
month. The store has restocked.

Maddie Hothem and her 12-year-old
sister, Chelsea, are two of Ranard’s best customers: They have more
than 100 Webkinz between them, most of which they’ve bought with their
own allowance money.

“I’ve always liked animals and the games are
fun,” says Chelsea, who also collects Breyer model horses. “And my
friends are all on it.”

Webkinz first appeared in stores about two years ago, after Ganz
president Howard Ganz dreamed up a way to make plush toys – long Ganz’s
trademark – appealing to a wired generation of kids, says Ganz
spokeswoman Susan McVeigh.

Webkinz weren’t the first virtual pets –
Tamagotchi and Neopets also are big hits with kids – but they were
among the first to offer a real-life plush pet to go along with it.

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