Squishmallows go from TikTok sensation to top Christmas toy – The Guardian

Sales of huggable pillow with a face, made popular by famous devotees such as Lady Gaga, up by 300%
Times are tough and budgets are squeezed, so it is perhaps no surprise that the runaway success story in Toyland this Christmas is Squishmallows, the squidgy, huggable pillows-with-a-face that became a viral sensation on TikTok.
The £8 toys are flying off retailers’ shelves with UK sales up 300% this year and stores on track to sell 4m. This pattern is being repeated around the world as total Squishmallows sales doubled in less than a year to surpass 200m this summer – a success story that Frédérique Tutt, toy expert at market researchers NPD, said reflected the staggering “power of social media”.
For the uninitiated, Squishmallows are a line of whimsical, stuffed creatures. They can be fruit, vegetable or animal or, in keeping with this quirky world, a hybrid – think pug dressed as watermelon or penguin in a pineapple costume.
They rose to prominence on social media as fans – the toys are particularly popular with teenage girls – shared their collections online, resulting in more than 9bn video views on TikTok alone. This was aided by famous devotees such as Kim Kardashian, Lady Gaga and the US social media star Charli D’Amelio posting about the toys to their huge numbers of followers.
Tutt said Squishmallows united several big consumer trends including wellness and collecting. “It is a bit of ‘cuddles’,” she said of the sensory appeal of the supersoft, cushionlike toys. “People are also collecting more than ever, we see that in our data with things like Pokémon and Panini stickers. Pull those things together and add the power of social media, and Squishmallows became a viral sensation.”
Launched in 2017, there are now 3,000 Squishmallow designs, each with a unique name and biography, a facet that stokes their appeal for collectors who seek out characters they relate to. For example Cam the Cat, one the US brand’s first characters, likes skateboarding, the beach and cat naps.
Gerhard Runken, the senior vice-president of brand and marketing at Jazwares, which owns Squishmallows, said the low-priced toys struck a chord during the Covid era when people were spending more time at home and needed a “little hug or something soft to play with”. The toys are popular with children and adults who relate to them in different ways, he said.
“Squishmallows are fun to have around the house, you can collect them, they’re fun to sleep with, lay on, and share,” said Runken of the toys, which range in size from 18cm to 50cm, with the largest ones selling for £50 to £60. “While we don’t say in our brand statement that we are a mental health pillow, we embrace how they help people.”
One of the most appealing things about the toys is how they feel, he said. They are covered in a special stretchy fabric while the filling, which utilises recycled plastic bottles, feels like a marshmallow. “We process it more than other people’s fillings and it really gives us that cloud-type feel,” explained Runken.
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Even the legendary investor Warren Buffett is a collector, in a sense. His Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate recently bought the investment company that owns Jazwares. The Squishmallows brand has big plans for the future as it moves beyond toys into new product areas such as clothing, bedding and stationery.
The Entertainer toy chain said it would sell 1m of the toys this year. “Squishmallows has been phenomenal,” said its founder, Gary Grant. “You see people touching, pulling and stretching them. It is not just any soft toy, it is very cuddly and tactile.
“The other thing that we’ve noticed is the age group appeal is much wider than children. Where we’ve got shops in university towns and cities, we’ve had university students buying them. It’s bonkers but that’s what is happening.”


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