8 May 2019
Slime, Squishy Corgis and Construction Toys Top US Impulse-Buy List
Even amid the plethora of merchandise on show at this year's more extensive than ever Las Vegas-set ASD Market Week, certain items – noisy putty and pooch-motifed headrests – managed to achieve a surprising degree of standout.
In preparation for the busy summer season, ASD Market Week – a Las Vegas-hosted trade event with a focus on high-margin consumer merchandise – welcomed retailers with a strong line-up across a wide range of categories, including gift, home, fashion, accessories, souvenirs and general store inventory. While some came in search of an ever-ubiquitous unicorn, others were more open to the array of emerging trends on show. Such as corgis.
In addition to exploring this diverse inventory, attendees also had the opportunity to duck into one – or more – of the many educational sessions being held across the showfloor. This year, the options on offer included a chance to master the finer points of online retailing, learn how to target specific demographics or to be taken through the various dos and don'ts of finding success in the lucrative Latin American e-retail market. Suitably enlightened, they could then adjourn to the ever-popular Twilight Market where, cocktail in hand, they could shop well past the event's usual closing time courtesy of the late-opening Cash & Carry Zone.
Discounted Private Labels
As has been increasingly the case in recent years, a high percentage of the 2019 ASD attendees were aspiring and existing private-label Amazon vendors, a development that has seen ever more of the event's acreage and educational sessions given over to this particular market segment. Typically, the majority of such attendees had come in search of suitable entry opportunities or new lines to add to their existing online portfolios.
On hand to steer any debutante digital dealers through the required process was Brandon Andrews, Editor-in-Chief of The Private Label Insider, a Texas-based portal and training provider for aspirant online entrepreneurs. Providing a potted version of his advice to newbie vendors, he said: "Houseware, kitchen lines, affordable fashion, sports and outdoor products are all great places to start. When you start venturing into ingestibles or baby-related items it's a little more tricky, as there's a greater liability risk and the barrier to entry tends to be higher.
"If you're thinking of focusing on something like outdoor products, though, it's far better to niche down into a subcategory and offer specific-use products. You won't get very far if you just sell, say, generic tents."
Singling out one sector he saw as having considerable potential, he highlighted the growing demand for private-label apparel, affordable fashion created with online shoppers very much in mind. Noting the growing appetite for deals in this particular sector, he said: "Private-label apparel purchasers are very value-minded, which means that online vendors need to provide round-the-clock access to the inexpensive fashions that such buyers crave."
Mainstream Cannabis Products
This year, it was difficult to dodge the whiff of marijuana – only recently legalised in the state of Nevada – that hovered over ASD's Culture+ sub-show. Originally devoted to vaping and pot paraphernalia, it's an area that has continued to grow in terms of both square footage and scope. Legislatory changes, though, have seen its focus shift to CBD – cannabidiol – a naturally-occurring compound found in cannabis. This supposedly non-intoxicating extract is being credited with a variety of health benefits and has led to vast marketing opportunities opening up in those states where the medicinal use of marijuana has been legalised.
A keen champion of this change was Craig Binkley, Founder of PROHBTD, an online cannabis lifestyle store. Seeing the move of CBD into the mainstream market as something of a game changer, he said: "If you think about its move from the black market to the supermarket, it will be the point of the spear for us. We believe the legalisation of CBD moves the dialogue on from the difference between hemp and the broader cannabis family and focuses it more on the beneficial attributes of that particular molecule.
"It's a key part of changing the narrative on cannabis from recreational use to its wellness benefits, while helping consumer perceptions shift from the flower and towards any products they might now be benefitting from – such as CBD-infused chocolate, which doesn't have a strong cannabis taste and can function as an effective sleep aid."
Not Just Child's Play
Switching from one supposedly toxic material to another, Slime – a stretchy putty compound – first gained widespread market popularity in 2016 and, three years later, there are few signs that that the appeal of squeezing and squishing is going to recede any time soon. Indeed, at Virginia's recent Slime Expo DC, for instance, children as young as nine presented their own takes on this popular do-it-yourself subject, with the slimes on offer ranging from "pink unicorns" to "chocolate milk". Instagram and YouTube, meanwhile, both have dedicated slimer communities complete with niche celebrities and specialist vendors.
At ASD, its popularity could literally be measured by the bucket load. Singling out buckets of slime as his company's bestseller, one exhibitor on the stand of Ja Ru Inc, a Florida-based manufacturer of impulse toys, said: "Everything compound and slime is doing well for us. As a result, we're introducing new colours and bigger sizes. They're great spur-of-the-moment buys."
Across the aisle, North Carolina-based Nowstalgic Toys was doing brisk business with Flarp, a neon-coloured compound that unleashes moderately rude sounds when squished. Commenting on the product's enduring appeal, Exhibitor Carl Zealer said: "It's one novelty that adults seem to love almost as much as kids. As a result, it's one of our top sellers."
For Utah-based Del Sol, it was more the look than the sound of its products that was driving sales, with many attendees stocking up on its wide selection of items that change colour and reveal previously hidden designs when exposed to UV light. Originally a hit with cruise lines, the company's product portfolio now includes apparel, accessories and even nail polish, with many of its items now available in brick-and-mortar stores.
Commenting on that particular development, National Account Executive Bryce Stevens said: "When it comes to our products, people want to create a store within a store. They want to offer a 'wow' experience while presenting a wide range of products."
In the case of New Jersey's Wacky Links, it was gift and museum stores that were placing many of the orders for its colourful tubes and connecting charms construction kits that are said to let children build just about anything they can imagine. Outlining the company's philosophy, Brand Manager Paige Langlands said: "We're all about free, open-ended play. With his own Wacky Links kit, for instance, my son has made everything from belts to an obstacle course for his paper airplanes to fly through."
An award-winning toy, the Wacky Links taps right into the STEM (science, math, engineering and technology) trend that is now particularly popular with many US parents. Among the product's most in-demand optional extras are sharks, unicorns and connectible planets.
Such educational diversions aside, the inner child of many attendees saw them unable to resist the allure of the many plush corgis on show – especially their notoriously squishy derrieres. With the craze for corgis that threatened to overrun the US earlier this year yet to run its course, Nayo the Corgi, a California-based online store, was among the many looking to capitalise on the sustained demand, with its stand offering everything from jewellery to phone cases, mugs and nail stickers – all with a pronounced pooch motif.
Maintaining she was inspired by her own two corgis, company Founder Angel Shen said: "One of our top-selling items is a headrest pillow – you put it in your car to let everyone know you have a corgi. Our squishy corgi mousepads and doggy-style USB chargers are also doing well for us."
Sadly, the corgi-posteriored leggings that kicked off the trend were not part of her product portfolio. Clearly, though, this is one market where the bottom is most unlikely to fall out.
ASD Market Week 2019 took place from 17-20 March at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Anna Huddleston, Special Correspondent, Las Vegas