The hit toy that spun out of nowhere

Kids and adults are on the prowl for the pop­u­lar fid­get spin­ners

The Province - - LIVE IT! - JOSEPH PISANI

NEW YORK — Stores can’t keep them in stock. Par­ents are scram­bling to find them. And some schools have banned them.

The ma­nia for fid­get spin­ners — the tiny twirling gad­gets tak­ing over class­rooms and cu­bi­cles — is un­like many other toy crazes. They’re not made by a ma­jor com­pany, timed for the hol­i­day sea­son or pro­moted in TV com­mer­cials. They’re more eas­ily found at gas sta­tions or 7-Elevens than at big toy chains.

“It just took off,” said Richard Got­tlieb, a con­sul­tant at Global Toy Ex­perts in New York.

Fid­get spin­ners have been around for years, mostly used by kids with autism or at­ten­tion dis­or­ders to help them con­cen­trate. But they ex­ploded in pop­u­lar­ity this spring.

Shan­nan Row­ell, a sixth-grade spe­cial education teacher, said that af­ter a week­long break in late April more than half of her 25 stu­dents sud­denly had one.

“They seem to be tak­ing over class­rooms,” said Row­ell, who lives in North Grafton, Mass.

He­len Holden heard about fid­get spin­ners last month when her seven-year-old twins de­manded she stop at a 7-Eleven to buy them. “I thought it was a drink,” said the bank vice-pres­i­dent and blog­ger from Los Angeles.

That store was sold out, and so were sev­eral other 7-Eleven lo­ca­tions that she called. The chain said spin­ners have “been fly­ing off the shelves” since they went on sale in March.

At Funky Mon­key Toys, owner Tom Jones said he got a phone call about the fid­get spin­ners in April. About 30 min­utes later, an­other per­son called. “I said, ‘What­ever they are, I need to get them.’ ”

Now, the phone has been ring­ing 20 to 30 times per day with peo­ple check­ing if they’re in stock, and his Michi­gan shop sells up to 150 per day. On Ama­zon.com, 18 of the top 20 best­selling toys and games were fid­get spin­ners, rang­ing from ones that cost just a few dol­lars to $12 ver­sions tout­ing stain­less steel bear­ings.

Five Be­low, which sells items for $5 or less, said on its web­site that cus­tomers can only buy two fid­get spin­ners at time.

Toys R Us flew fid­get spin­ners in this month from China, rather than wait for ship trans­port. It said Ru­bik’s Cubes, yo-yos and other toys to oc­cupy rest­less hands have been hot sell­ers since the be­gin­ning of the year. It started sell­ing $12.99 fid­get cubes — the items that made up the rest of the Ama­zon best­sellers — which fit in the palm of a hand and have click­ers, wheels and switches on the sides.

Un­like hot toys at the hol­i­day sea­son, which are of­ten made by one com­pany, man­u­fac­tur­ers — mostly in China — are mak­ing the fid­get spin­ners as fast as they can. Jim Sil­ver, the CEO and edi­tor-in-chief of toy re­view web­site TTPM, ex­pects the fad to last into the sum­mer and then fade as more of them flood into the mar­ket.

“De­mand starts to wa­ver,” he said.

En­gi­neer Catherine Het­tinger said she came up with a toy that was sim­i­lar but not ex­actly the same in the early 1990s, but a patent ex­pired more than a decade ago af­ter she stopped pay­ing the main­te­nance fees. Het­tinger, who lives in the Or­lando sub­urb of Win­ter Park, Fla., said she is not mak­ing any money from the craze.

“No one has con­tacted me. No­body has sent me a cheque,” she said. “But once a patent ex­pires, it’s pub­lic, so I wouldn’t ex­pect any­thing at this point.”

De­spite be­ing mar­keted as a con­cen­tra­tion aid, some teach­ers say fid­get spin­ners have be­come a dis­trac­tion.

Some schools have banned them as a re­sult.

It’s not just kids spin­ning them. Got­tlieb thinks adults are reach­ing for spin­ners be­cause they are more stressed out. “Peo­ple don’t smoke as much, so they have to fig­ure out a way to work out their stress,” he said.

Kim Juszczak, a lawyer from New York, whirls her red-and-black spin­ner on the sub­way or while she’s think­ing up le­gal ar­gu­ments for a case.

“I’m nat­u­rally kind of fid­gety,” said Juszczak.

She first saw a spin­ner on In­sta­gram, and got hers for about $6 on Ama­zon. Then she bought six more for friends and rel­a­tives.

“They’re ad­dic­tive,” she said.

“Peo­ple don’t smoke as much, so they have to fig­ure out a way to work out their stress.” — Richard Got­tlieb

— PHO­TOS: THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A se­lec­tion of fid­get spin­ners at the Funky Mon­key Toys store in Ox­ford, Mich., where the toy has been fly­ing off of the shelves. Owner Tom Jones says he sells up to 150 per day.

Stores can’t keep the fid­get spin­ner toys in stock and par­ents are go­ing crazy try­ing to find them for their kids.

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