Marketplace Scratch Pad

Can Mr. Squiggles save the economy?

Scott Jagow Sep 24, 2009

I can’t believe Christmas is three months from tomorrow. But it is, and the pressure’s on retailers to figure out how to avoid a second straight awful holiday shopping season. Apparently, a fake hamster might come to the rescue.

Today, Toys R US released its list of hot holiday toys, and this year’s Cabbage Patch/Beanie Baby looks to be Mr. Squiggles. He’s one of several toy hamsters in the Zhu Zhu pet line:

Amazon is selling Mr. Squiggles for $25.95, but you can get him at Wal-Mart for $8. Theoretically. Buyers on Amazon say they already can’t find him in stores. Here’s what Mr. Squiggles brings to the table:

With more than 40 different sound effects and artificial intelligence, these pets will dart around the house, play in hamster tubes, run on wheels and more. Zhu Zhu Pets also make fun sound effects, such as toilet-flushing, teeth-brushing sounds and sleeping noises.

Good luck with that, parents.

Value (inexpensive?) seems to be the key word this year. From the Columbia Dispatch:

Parents remain cautious spenders and unemployment continues to rise. Gone from the list are last year’s $300 animatronic stuffed animals…

Toy makers and retailers alike are trying to avoid last year’s dismal season, when retailers were forced to slash prices to move expensive toys amid the consumer spending downturn. Overall toy sales fell 5 percent during the holiday quarter, according to market research firm NPD Group Inc.

This year might be even worse. Needham & Co. analyst Sean McGowan predicts toy sales will be flat to down 2 percent during the season.

I saw this headline on a British news website: “Shop Direct cautious about growth but hamster toys doing well.”

… the site has attracted over four million visitors since July and the hamster toys being sold on the website are flying out of the door.

Mr. Squiggles, we’re counting on you. The hamster wheel economy is getting old.

As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.

Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.

Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.