Dolphins, Dragons and Bears, Oh My! A Look at the Popularity of Plush

By Brad Bedwell
December 16, 2016
Guy holding plush toys on Black Friday

If you’re like me, as a kid you probably had a stuffed animal that eventually became your most precious toy – a teddy bear, or maybe even a huge collection of Beanie Babies that you loved showing off to your friends.

There’s something about having your own soft, trusty sidekick to carry around and snuggle at bedtime. These fluffy friends become a part of our home and make us feel safe and secure.

Today’s kids are still making these kinds of memories. Little ones haven’t given up on cuddling with their plush favorites, whether it’s a familiar classic like Elmo or Mickey Mouse, or a new line of exciting new characters. It might surprise some people to know that even next to all the latest gadgets and flashy toys, tried-and-true basics like stuffed animals are still just as exciting for kids as they used to be.

As senior buyer of preschool toys, it’s my job to bring this excitement to Walmart’s aisles – and honestly, it’s just as much fun for me to see the latest items as it is for the kids. I’m always impressed with the creative ways I see a well-loved classic recreated into something novel and entertaining.

Although plush has always been a kid favorite, we’ve found that as-seen-on-TV items, like Pillow Pets, have become a big hit. One of this year’s hottest toys is the Flip-a-Zoo, a phenomenon that’s flying off shelves and into little arms. Turn these animals inside out, and they flip between two different characters for double the fun –a cat becomes a mouse or a panda transforms into a dragon. This year, we’re proud to be the only retailer offering Flip-a-Zoo animals in stores.

Something that I think is great about plush toys is how kids of all ages fall in love with them. From preschoolers who carry a special favorite wherever they go, to the tween girl with a collection of emoji pillows arranged front and center on her bed, we’ve made sure there’s something here for everyone, even grownups.

For Valentine’s Day, one of the most prized gifts year after year is our giant, 55-in. stuffed teddy bear. We noticed how beloved this big guy was, and decided that this holiday season, we would offer the big bear and other larger-than-life animals at an unexpectedly low price – and our customers bought every single one!

Over time, a favorite plush friend becomes more than just a toy – it’s a memory. It’s exciting to watch people get excited about trends that, really, are more of a tradition. It warms my heart to know that even though the world around us keeps changing, there are some things that will always be the same.