Webkinz: Boom, Bust or Both?Ganz P.O.s Specialty Retailers
NO TOYS FOR SPECIALTY STORES
Only one of the nine specialty retailers who “carried” Webkinz actually had them in their stores — and most didn’t have them for Easter, either.
“We have hundreds on order,” sighed Ginger Milligan, buyer for Fantasy Island Toys in Fairhope, Ala. “Little girls and boys are calling and coming by the store every day.”
“We had them three weeks ago; they lasted two days,” noted a southwestern toy-store owner.
RUMORS FUEL THE FIRE
Ganz’s tightlipped approach to the problem isn’t helping, retailers vented to TDmonthly: They’ve gotten no clear answers — nor have their reps — about why their orders were trickling in just a few toys at a time.
“We've heard a list of rumors: shipping strikes, not enough containers from China, etc. … I think they're holding them all back and then they’ll raise the price,” speculated one shop owner. Apparently, they already have, with one retailer reporting a price hike of $1 on new orders.
Retailers who’ve been selling the toy since it debuted feel betrayed.
“Ganz is now selling to a large department store in Canada,” specialty toy-store owner “Retail Bug” angrily posted on TDmonthly Forums (READ POST). TDmonthly confirmed that Webkinz is being carried by Hallmark, although some of those stores are out of stock, too.
NO WEBKINZ FOR WALMART
One retailer even posted on TDmonthly Forums that Wal-Mart was ready to pick up the online plush pet. When contacted, Wal-Mart was equivocal, and would neither confirm nor deny the rumor. "That is not to say we will or will not have it," explained Melissa O'Brien from Wal-Mart's corporate communications division. "New toy plans are proprietary among retailers."
Ganz, however, was firm in its denial: "We are NOT selling to Walmart," Susan McVeigh, director of communications for Ganz, emailed to TDmonthly.
When TDmonthly had previously queried her about retailers’ other frustrations, however, McVeigh's reponse was more guarded: “I don’t want to comment on any of that,” she'd said.
Even worse, continued toy-store owners, they’ve had to buy hundreds and even thousands of dollars’ worth of Ganz’s Everyday line to receive the Webkinz … that they’re not receiving. And the Everyday products are delayed, too.
One retailer called TDmonthly’s publisher, upset about a visit from an aggressive Ganz district manager who tried to strong-arm her into buying products that hang from a car’s rear-view mirror — just after she’d purchased a number of other Ganz lines she didn’t actually want, but was forced to buy in order to get Webkinz.
“I’ve lost respect for Ganz,” she said, vowing to drop the company once the Webkinz boom subsides.
Bobbi Dickinson of Next Generation in Stoughton, Wis., who first alerted TDmonthly to the Webkinz craze, said her rep recommended ordering Webkinz online with Ganz to avoid co-ordering requirements; but it's still a three-month wait.
CHANGES SHOULD BE MADE
Buddy Wood, owner of Le Jouet in Metairie, La., since 1968, took a philosophical approach to the crisis: “Maybe [Ganz is] in a chaotic moment. … But if we got overwhelmed with customers, we’d have to change something.”
Wood noted that Ty was “extraordinarily good” at keeping their toys flowing, even during the height of the Beanie Babies’ popularity.
“No one liked it at the time, but they’d give you 36 of each style per month. That’s it,” he remembered. “They might only last three days, but you’d get them regularly.”
FEARS OF A GLUT
But the major difference between the Webkinz and Beanie Babies crazes has some retailers worried:
“The problem [with Webkinz] is it's a kid-driven fad and kids are only going to be willing to wait for so long,” stressed Milligan. “Beanie Babies was adult-generated.”
Retailers on the Forums fear that by the time their Webkinz finally arrive, kids will have moved onto other toys.
SHINING STARS JOIN THE CROWD
Trish Garlock, owner of Treasured Child in La Grange, Ky., said they already had, and so had she: “I didn't have any Webkinz at Easter because I was all sold out, but what I did have — and it's amazing — Russ Shining Stars.”
These new plush toys also have a virtual life, plus a code that children can use to name a star online via the International Star Registry. Garlock has also ordered Ty’s new online plush dolls, Ty Girlz.
Does that mean Webkinz is over?
Wood advises retailers who are queasy to go ahead and drop out, but he won’t: “We have several orders in amounting to a lot of money, but we’re not canceling them when 80 percent of our calls are for Webkinz.”
Garlock’s holding fast, too. Webkinz may have company, she said, but there's plenty of room to share. And her experience with the $15 Shining Stars can even soothe worries about the Webkinz price hike: the higher cost didn’t deter her customers at all, she said.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: For an update on Webkinz and to find out what 10Vox's Kookeys have in store for them, read Webkinz Attacked by T Rex in the October 2007 TDmonthly.)
Here are some of the latest online plush pets, but be warned: even the new Shining Stars may be in short supply; they’ve already been reported as “sold out” on at least one Internet site:
Writer's Bio: ALISON MAREK is an award-winning writer, director and cartoonist whose work has been published by Fairchild Publications and DC Comics (Piranha Press), broadcast on Showtime and other cable networks, and viewed worldwide in film festivals. See her short films and print work on www.alisonmarek.com. Watch her nefarious villains in the web series www.MuggsMovers.com. Get inspired by her cartoons "Daily ARFFirmations to Unleash Your Inner Fido" at www.ARFFirmations.com. Phew! And then ... Read more articles by this author