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Summer 2010 Inflatable Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

A patented plush toy can be deflated for easy storage—and pumped up for easy sales.

As most consumers know, stuffed animals have a way of “breeding.” After several birthdays and holidays, they tend to multiply and take up increasing amounts of space in a child’s room.

Bubby My Buddy provides a solution to the problem. It is a line of plush toys that, despite sometimes standing as tall as 6½ feet, can be deflated to fit neatly into a large shoebox. “These animals are easy to pack up and take with you if you’re going to visit Grandma, and you don’t need dedicated closet space for them,” says Ruth Rotem, chief operating officer for the company. An added benefit is that these plush toys can go in the washing machine. The product was introduced last year.

Plush product line

Bubby My Buddy features more than 15 animals in up to four sizes, ranging from two to more than six feet in height. The patented product feels like a traditional stuffed animal on the outside but features a PVC liner that makes it easy to inflate—either with or without a pump. The liners have to be removed before the plush can be thrown in the wash. The plush toys are often sold with a gift/storage box and a pump.

Giraffes, pandas, bulldogs, teddy bears and zebras are among the best-selling models, according to Rotem. Seasonal models include Santa Claus and Rudolph. According to owner Yaron Mergui, the company is looking to add several new “Buddies,” including licensed products, to its existing lineup.

Additionally, similar to the Build-A-Bear concept, Bubby My Buddy expects to add a line of clothing and accessories to allow children to personalize their animals.

Past products marketed by Mergui’s company include Nature Spirit Moving Pictures & Gifts, a line of decorative nature pictures in which elements of the picture, such as a waterfall or ocean waves, are in motion.

Fit for specialty retail

According to Mergui, Bubby My Buddy now has about 300 retail customers, which include a handful of mall kiosks and carts. Specialty retail is an important channel to the company because of its demonstration capabilities. “Bubby My Buddy is new to the market, and a lot of people don’t know what it is,” Rotem says. When they first encounter Bubby My Buddy, some people think it’s an inflatable pool toy, while others think it’s a regular stuffed animal, she adds.

According to Mergui, kiosk and cart operators can demonstrate the product’s selling point (its inflatability) by showing a video as well as by physically inflating and deflating one of them on the floor. “It works really well with the large giraffe,” he says. “Customers will come over to see what you’re doing.” Mergui adds that the company is developing a display in which a plush toy will inflate and deflate automatically.

Retail prices, depending on size, can vary from $29.99 to $200. The pumps range from $5 to $15. Markup, depending on the volume purchased by retailers, is 300 to 500 percent.

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Bernadette Starzee

Starzee, a Long Island, NY writer who covers business, sports and lifestyle topics, is a senior writer for SRR. She can be reached at .

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