Spring 2011
Cute and Creepy

A plush series of baby vampires just might have customers dying for more.

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Just as Gayle Middleton approached entrepreneur Jay Kamhi with the idea of a whole series of baby vampire plush dolls, Americans seemed to have firmly cemented their love affair with vampires.

The HBO series, True Blood and the popular Twilight series are manifestations of just how much vampires appeal to Americans, Kamhi says. And while True Blood is popular among adults and Twilight holds its own among teens and young adults, nobody had yet delivered the concept for younger kids and preteens, Kamhi noticed. So it was that the idea for “Vamplets,” a series of plush baby vampires, was born. The company is headquartered in Clearwater, FL.

Middleton had impressive credentials to bring to the table—she is the designer for the wide-eyed collection of toy pets, Littlest Pet Shop.

The Vamplets have that same “anime” look—with the huge eyes and slightly disproportionate heads. Kahmi, who incidentally goes by the name Jaryl Mort in the Vamplets world says the look is just a “little bit off what we perceive as cute.” This “new brand of cuteness, with a perfect blend of cute and creepy,” he says, attracts kids across a wider age spectrum. Even 40-year-olds love Vamplets, Kamhi has noticed.

Bleedin’ love

There are a series of baby Vamplets available with names like Lily Rose Shadowlyn (she’s the chief spokesperson), Evilyn Nocturna, Midnight Mori and more. Each Vamplet comes packaged in its own “coffin” and much like children, each has its own individual personality, Kahmi says. He adds that a decision was made to specially focus on the specialty retail market instead of bringing the line to big toy stores. “We know that specialty retailers can really make these shine, create a whole associated world and take care of every detail,” Kamhi says.

That detailed world—elements of Gloomvania—includes elaborate Victorian and Gothic scenery. Kahmi says that once a specialty retailer is interested and qualified to carry the Vamplets line, their design team will work with specific cart measurements and create a mockup world for the retailer to approve. Members from the design team will then travel to the specialty retailer and help set up the intricately detailed Gloomvania world on the specific cart or kiosk. The Gloomvania look applies not just to the cart and merchandise but also to staff manning the cart. Vamplets requires that men wear Victorian style outfits including top hats and ascots while women wear long black Victorian dresses.

It typically costs between $5,000-$6,000 to merchandise a cart with the Vamplets. The line includes bottles of blood (which disappear just like the “milk” in baby milk bottles) and even T-shirts and onesies. The recommended retail price for a Vamplet is $19.95—retailers get keystone pricing. Kahmi says retailers can encourage add-on sales with the blood—”it’s dangerous to be without a food supply for vampires”—and by offering discounts on multiple purchases.

Stayin’ alive online

Online marketing is a key component of the Vamplets experience. The Vamplets have their own Facebook page and fans have asked for games they can play on the site. Each Vamplet has a special handwritten code imprinted on its diaper. This code can be used online at vamplets.com and further enhance the Vamplets experience, Kahmi says. For example, customers can visit the “Town Hall” online and print the Vamplet’s death certificate. Options to customize tombstones are also available online. “People can go and be part of the world, we want this to be a lifestyle brand,” Kahmi says.

Kahmi predicts that the vampire craze is here to stay for a very long time. “The whole perception of vampires is romanticized—they’re not just evil creatures but we transfer human emotions to them. They’re almost spiritual to some degree,” Kamhi says. With Vamplets, he adds, the public has a whole new way of exploring this “timeless and immortal” world.

For more information about Vamplets, please visit www.vamplets.com.

Poornima Apte

Poornima Apte is a Boston-area freelance writer and editor specializing in retail and the book publishing industry. Learn more at wordcumulus.wordpress.com.
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