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Fall 2010 Plush with Success

The owners of BuddyTops are convinced their line of plush hats will have profits covered.

Luis Kain and Nacer Hamai believe their products are a perfect marriage of fun and function. Their company, BuddyTops, with sales offices in New York City, sells children’s hats that look like plush animals.

Plush appeal

“The aesthetics of our plush animals brings great appeal to kids of all ages. It’s such an impulse item that once a child sees it on a stand or on another child, they bug their parents for it,” Kain says. He adds that the comfortable hats are appealing to parents for one big reason: Their children keep the hats on. “The quality of fabric and manufacturing makes our hats practical for everyday wear and to give warmth and comfort,” Kain says.

Even better, since BuddyTops is the manufacturer, they are able to get them made at the lowest possible prices. “This allows our merchants to have higher markup potentials,” Kain adds.

Kain knows there are other plush-oriented products in the specialty retail market, but believes BuddyTops has found a niche. “Our concept is hats and headgear and that’s what we’re sticking to,” he says. “Others have plush animal pillows, gloves, shoes, backpacks, and that’s their cup of tea so we’re not going to [encroach] on their business.”

For all its success, BuddyTops has seen its fair share of challenges. “The hardest part was to get the product right before going to mass production,” Kain says. “We’ve also had to work with various materials so it fits on the child’s head comfortably while at the same time being 100% CPSC-compliant.” CPSC, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, is a federal agency that sets safety standards for consumer goods.

Retailing for $20-$25, BuddyTops are available in small, medium, and large sizes. Extra-large sizes are coming soon. “We’ve been very selective in the past about who receives our line and [in which] associated region,” Kain says. “This has kept us exclusive enough and made our line very appealing in the boutique world.”

Adding to lineups

Visual merchandising is a strong driver in this product category and since BuddyTops are seasonal items, the hats are meant to be add-ons to existing product mixes. Kain says they do not encourage operators to have a cart just for BuddyTops.

“The advantage of such a business model means that our products can reach more merchants because they don’t have to pay for outrageous startup costs,” Kain says. “If they are interested in carrying our merchandise, just place an order, we send them hat racks and products, and they’re good to go.” Hamai adds that BuddyTops take up very little shelf space, a highly appealing aspect to operators who already have a fully loaded kiosk.

Future growth

Hamai believes the future for BuddyTops is rosy. The company is planning on offering a variety of sizes, models, and variations on the hats. A scarf and mitten combo that is attached to the headgear is also in the cards, as are earmuffs.

“We’re focusing domestically to solidify our foothold in the specialty retail markets and to strengthen the brand,” Hamai says. Kain and Hamai also recognize the value of a good social network media campaign to their business and plan to spread their message by reaching out to bloggers. Mainstream media is valuable as well. “We have had great placement in media (such as MTV’s The Real World: Washington DC) meaning that our concept has been introduced to and is ready to be adopted by mainstream media and pop culture.”

“It opens the door for [BuddyTops] to be the next trend,” Hamai adds.

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Terah Shelton

Terah Shelton is a freelance writer based in Alabama. Her work has appeared in Women's Health, Every Day with Rachael, and more.

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