Ay Chihuahua! Sales of Mighty Beanz, the updated take on the Mexican jumping bean toy, are hotter than a fresh jalapeno pepper. The low-tech collectibles are at the top of the kid-list this Christmas. And in the somewhat sluggish traditional-toy market, Beanz’s 10-year-old Australian creator Moose Enterprise has the industry sitting up and taking notice.
SpinMaster Toys, the Beanz’s North American distributor, says sales are on target to move 6.5 million units at an average of US$5 a pop at retail by the time Santa Claus comes to town. After-market trading on e-bay is brisk, too. Limited-edition ‘Moose’ beans regularly fetch upwards of US$400 at auction as kids and adults clamor to collect the complete first set of 60.
For Moose Enterprise chairman, Manny Stul, the Beanz frenzy isn’t a surprise. He’s seen it before. When the company put Mighty Beanz on the Australian market in late 2002, kids quickly glommed on to them. Promoting both their game-play and collectable aspects to Australian kids via TVspots, Moose sold between US$3.6 million and US$4.3 worth of Mighty Beanz that year at retail. They’re available in 40 countries right now.
Stul, who took over leadership of the privately held company two years ago with fellow investor and now director Jacqui Tobias, says Moose is a small company that focuses on developing unusual products for
kids by either inventing new toys or putting a new twist on an old favorite. Moose had previous Australian success with line of collectible plush called Smelly Bellys, Tricky Putty and various interpretations of the hula hoop, yo-yos and skipping ropes before the Beanz biz started hopping.
Stul says all Moose toys are designed with global export in mind, as the Australian market alone is just too small to support the company’s creative and marketing costs. Along with SpinMaster in North America, Moose has international distributors in the U.K., Italy and Asia.
As for what’s bubbling in the Moose R&D lab right now, Stul won’t tell. ‘Everyone and their dog is going to try to knock off what we do from now on,’ he says. But he did divulge that the new toy will be unveiled at Toy Fair in February.
Until then, North Americans will have to be content with new licensed Beanz (including Marvel and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and Reflecta Sketch. Stul says the lap-top sized toy containing a reflective piece of plastic that lets kids duplicate drawn images will be on North American shelves in early 2004.