A KidiZoom Creator Cam by VTech is displayed at the Toy Fair, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in New York. The digital camera comes with a green screen and animated backgrounds allowing kids to go to outer space, get chased by T-Rex, or make things disappear. The camera comes with a tabletop tripod, which can also be used as a selfie stick. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Holiday trends to watch: Adult Play-Doh; stores that ship

Holiday trends to watch: Adult Play-Doh; stores that ship

NEW YORK — The pandemic is turning this into a holiday shopping season like no other.

Toy companies are targeting stuck-at-home grown-ups with latte-smelling Play-Doh and Legos that turn into Warhols. Those who added a puppy to their family during the pandemic will see tons of gift options for their new furry friend. And with more people shopping online, stores are doing double duty as shipping centres to try to get gifts to doorsteps as fast as possible.

Here’s what to expect:

___

TOYS FOR ADULTS

Kids aren’t the only ones who need some fun. Toy companies are targeting bored adults stuck at home during the pandemic. Need something to fidget during your next Zoom meeting? Hasbro has new mouldable Play-Doh varieties that smell like stuff grown-ups would recognize: lattes, fresh cut grass and smoked meats.

Lego, meanwhile, wants adults to put on their headphones and “forget about the rest of the world” while turning the plastic pieces in their new kits into hangable art, like Andy Warhol’s famous Marilyn Monroe portraits.

Marissa DiBartolo, editor in chief of toy review site The Toy Insider, says she’s seen more coloring books and challenging puzzles being designed with adults in mind.

___

FROM YOUTUBE TO THE TOY STORE

The canines on “Paw Patrol” better watch their tails. YouTube stars with millions of viewers are heading to the toy aisle, a place where TV cartoon characters used to rule.

It’s all because kids are spending so much time watching YouTube instead of cable TV, says DiBartolo. That’s made stars of the video-streaming site just as recognizable as those on Nickelodeon.

Figurines of Blippi, a man who wears orange suspenders and hosts educational kid videos on YouTube, are being sold at Target and Amazon. At Walmart, toys featuring Ryan Kaji, a kid who reviews toys on his Ryan’s World YouTube channel, have been hot sellers. Toy company VTech is playing into the trend in another way, selling a KidiZoom Creator camera that comes with a green screen so kids can add special effects and pretend to be YouTube influencers themselves.

And if you need another sign of just how big YouTube stars have become, a 42-foot-tall (13-meter-tall) balloon based on Kaji from Ryan’s World appeared Thursday in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, floating next to TV icons like SpongeBob and, yes, Chase from “Paw Patrol.”

___

STORES AS SHIPPING HUBS

Retailers including Walmart and Best Buy that were already using their locations as hubs to ship e-commerce orders are now coming up with new strategies to get even faster. The moves come as they face a holiday crunch expected to tax shipping networks and likely result in delivery delays.

Walmart this week launched a special program for the holidays. It has some of its online orders being fulfilled directly from stores using delivery services like Postmates and DoorDash instead of carriers like FedEx or UPS. The aim is to ensure customers will be able to get their orders quickly, even on the same day.

Meanwhile, Best Buy says that 340 of its stores are being specially designated to handle a higher volume of online orders, though all its stores ship e-commerce packages. Its goal: to have the 340 stores ship more than 70% of its ship-from-store units during the holiday quarter.

And then there are many small-to-medium sized businesses increasingly turning to operators of micro-warehouses — mini-shipping hubs that are located in urban areas — to help pack and delivery goods. Ben Jones is the CEO and founder of Ohi, which operates five micro-warehouses for various brands like sparkling tonic Olipop, or provides software for third parties at 115 locations for e-commerce fulfilment across the U.S. He says he’s seen more brands using his software because many aren’t able to guarantee delivery by Christmas via standard shipping if items are ordered after the first week of December.

___

GIFTS FOR THE POOCH

More people adopted puppies and kittens during the pandemic, and stores are pouncing to cash in. Petco is selling matching pyjamas for dogs and their humans with snow flakes and Christmas trees. And Chewy, the online pet store, is getting more personal, inscribing pets names into bandanas, bowls or beds.

Consulting firm Deloitte expects half of shoppers to spend some of their money on pet treats and other supplies this holiday season.

___

FORGET ABOUT IMPULSE SHOPPING

It’s not just frenzied crowds that will be absent this holiday season. So will impulse shopping — the practice of throwing in extra items like toys or bath balms as shoppers go in and out of the aisles.

Typically, 25% of holiday shopping is based on impulse, according to Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisor at NPD Group, a market research firm. This year, Cohen said he expects that figure to drop to about 10% as shoppers dramatically shift their buying online to avoid physical stores. And when they do go to stores, customers will be buying with a purpose, picking up things they need as they try to minimize exposure to COVID-19

“Impulse shopping is the icing on the cake,“ Cohen said. “It is the difference between a successful profitable holiday and a ho hum holiday.” ___

This story has been updated to correct that Petco is offering matching pyjamas for owners and dogs, not matching sweaters.

Joseph Pisani And Anne D’Innocenzio, The Associated Press

Holidays

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

NDP MP Heather McPherson pictured in Edmonton on Friday, March 6, 2020. Alberta’s legislature may have been silenced but its partisan warfare has relocated to the House of Commons as MPs hold an emergency debate tonight on the province’s soaring COVID-19 cases. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Kenney under fire during Commons emergency debate on Alberta’s COVID-19 crisis

Edmonton New Democrat MP says Kenney ignored the evidence of science

A General Motors sign in Oshawa, Ont., is photographed on Wednesday, June 20, 2018. General Motors Canada says it will start truck production at its assembly plant in Oshawa, Ont., ahead of schedule. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
Oshawa assembly plant restart ahead of schedule, GM Canada says

Closure of plant in 2019 was huge blow to Canada’s manufacturing sector

FILE - In this Jan. 24, 2019, file photo, a woman walks by the Australian Embassy in Beijing. China on Thursday, May 6, 2021 suspended an economic dialogue with Australia, stepping up a pressure campaign that began over Australian support for a probe into the origins of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
China suspends economic dialogue with Australia

China’s relations with Australia, India and some other neighbours are increasingly strained

An electric car is seen getting charged at parking lot in Tsawwassen, near Vancouver, Friday, April, 6, 2018. Should Canada introduce a national mandate requiring the auto industry make or sell more zero-emission vehicles is a question facing the Liberal government as it’s not on the road to meet its own sales targets. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Should Canada mandate sales targets for electric vehicles? Report says ‘yes’

Parliamentary committee studied how to incentivize the purchase and production of electric vehicles

LtE bug
Letter: Restrictions are a crime against humanity

I was distressed to note the seemingly superficial understanding of the holocaust… Continue reading

LtE bug
Letter: Follow restrictions so pandemic can be behind us

From one who feels that COVID could have been overcome long ago… Continue reading

LtE bug
Letter: Westerner needs help now

I have spent the last few days sifting through many pieces of… Continue reading

Jets beat Flames 4-0 to snap seven-game losing streak and clinch playoff spot

Jets beat Flames 4-0 to snap seven-game losing streak and clinch playoff spot

Most Read