The rise and fall of the fidget spinner craze

TomE-Commerce News2 Comments

Last week I drove down to Florida with my wife and kids to celebrate Thanksgiving with our family and friends.

Along the way, we ended up hitting one of those outlet malls you typically see along the side of the highway.

While I was browsing through one of the shops, this particular display caught my eye:

You see, not that long ago, I can remember fidget spinners were nearly impossible for my daughter to find.

And here we are only six months later and there are literally hundreds of fidget spinners sitting in a bin, on the floor no less, for only $1 each.

How did an item that was so highly sought after end up sitting on the floor with a nearly worthless price in such a short span of time?

In today’s post, I’d like to discuss the rise and fall of the fidget spinner. This will include:

  • What made the fidget spinner so successful?
  • Why did the popularity of fidget spinners fizzle out so quickly?
  • Was there anything that could have prevented the fall of the fidget spinner craze?

What made the fidget spinner so successful?

I first heard about fidget spinners when my daughter came home from school asking for them. Apparently “everyone” at school had one or wanted one so we just had to get one.

But where did this demand for the fidget spinner originate?

Christine Osborne, owner of Wonder Works toys in South Carolina, was featured in a New York Times article about The Rise of the Fidget Spinner and the Fall of the Well-Managed Fad.

According to the article:

But [fidget spinners] were never particularly popular. That changed last year, after a rash of videos appeared on YouTube featuring teenagers performing fidget-spinner tricks.

Why did the popularity of fidget spinners fizzle out so quickly?

The popularity of fidget spinners was off the charts. You literally couldn’t find one in a several mile radius of my house for a period of time.

So how did we go from there to now where fidget spinners are everywhere and nearly worthless?

One of the main issues I believe that lead to the downfall was fidget spinners were vastly over produced.

Chinese factories are now able to spin up production at a moments notice to go after popular items and crazes.

Also according to the New York Times article:

That [fidget spinner popularity] caught the attention of Chinese factories, many of which have begun to employ squadrons of workers to monitor social media and Google Trends, allowing them to jump on the next big consumer-product craze as soon as it starts materializing.

Once the market was flooded with fidget spinners, they essentially became a commodity.

Perhaps another part of the allure of fidget spinners was they were hard to get, which gave them a higher perceived value.

Now that fidget spinners are everywhere and priced so cheap, the general perception is that fidget spinners nobody wants them.

Was there anything that could have prevented the fall of the fidget spinner craze?

The fidget spinner craze rose and fell pretty quickly. But was there anything that could have slowed or prevented this downfall?

One answer that comes to mind would be to better match the supply of the fidget spinners to the demand.

When fidget spinners were scarce, they were more sought after and therefore had a higher perceived value with consumers.

Another thing that I think prevented the fidget spinner craze from standing the test of time is the fact there was no officially branded fidget spinner. In other words, there was not a Fidget Spinner name brand.

As a result, the market was quickly flooded with knock offs by anyone that could manufacture one.

The New York Times article also went on to mention how Ty has managed to keep the Beanie Babies craze alive and well for many years.

How did they do this?

Ty fiercely controlled retailers’ inventory of Beanies based on a complicated formula that was updated with each day’s sales and trends. If a store degraded the Beanie brand by discounting the toy or employing unfriendly salespeople, Ty would cut them off.

By controlling their brand and keeping a finger on the pulse of supply and demand, Ty has managed to keep the Beanie Babies craze alive and well.

‘‘Now, in less than half a year, spinners are done,’’ Osborne says. ‘‘I’m moving on to squishies’’ — squishable toys that are also (questionably) marketed as attention aids. ‘‘I think they’ll last at least a few months.’’

My daughter has also been talking about Squishies lately. I think I’ll try to convince her to wait a bit longer before we jump in.

Summary

The fidget spinner craze was here and gone in the blink of an eye. If you weren’t paying attention, you may have even missed it.

One thing is for sure, just because something is popular now, it does not mean it will be popular forever.

If fidget spinners had better control of the brand and supply and demand, perhaps the craze would not have fizzled out so quickly.

If you happen to be selling whatever is trending now, make hay while the sun shines.

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2 Comments on “The rise and fall of the fidget spinner craze”

  1. Zed Sefi

    This is exactly what I experienced with Ivanka Trump’s perfume as a seller. For those who don’t know, I sell designer fragrances.

    Prior to the boycott of Ivanka’s products earlier on, this year, her only sole fragrance was there for years, and I never sold any. It was so cheap and widely available, but too inferior to the rest of the fragrances from other designers (in fact, it is that inferior, nothing special in it what so ever. Its usual retail price is between $10-$15, again, nothing special at all.

    But when the boycott started, I got hammered by an overwhelming amount of orders that I couldn’t cope with and ran out of stock in a matter of merely 12 hours. The fragrance suddenly disappeared from the market due to the high unexpected demand, and my suppliers struggled to get it back in stock. In fact, when they did (two times) I was unable to buy the stock because other merchants were jumping in and buying everything in stock, all in one go.

    The price of the fragrance became as high as $70 per unit, that if the fragrance can be found. I was getting too many questions from customers asking when this fragrance is going to be back to stock, and people asking to buy a large amount of this fragrance. The hype continued for about 3 weeks.

    I made a mistake by snapping a small amount of this fragrance from our supplier (about 15 bottles) within the first hour when I got notified that the fragrance is back to stock and I paid a premium price for them. The reason why this was a mistake is that after I bought the stuff, the interest died quickly and the fragrance became widely available in the market without any interest from people anymore, that was when the hype was over, and the fragrance went back to the regular position of being an inferior and not worthy. I had to send the items back to the supplier after a couple of months, for a full refund, as I did not manage to sell any of the units I got.

    This is my story that I could relate to.

    Best regards,
    Zed

    1. Tom

      Hey Zed,

      Thanks for sharing your Ivanka Trump perfume story. That’s very interesting.

      I think this sort of story plays out over and over again in e-commerce. Some of the crazes are much bigger, like the fidget spinners, so everyone hears about them.

      Glad to hear you didn’t end up holding too much of that perfume 🙂

      -Tom

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