First kids went crazy over the Cabbage Patch Doll. Then came Beanie Babies, Webkinz, and Jibbitz. The latest fad to catch kids’ attention and allowances are colorful animal-shaped rubber band bracelets—and stores in Westfield, Cranford, Watchung, and Clark can’t keep these high fashion collectibles in stock.
Just what are these hot, hot must-haves? Believe it or not, the most popular accessories of the season are simple rubber bands. However, these are not your ordinary garden variety pink or beige bag closures. The ones kids, tweens, and teens are clamoring for are brightly colored silicone rubber bands molded into different fun shapes: pets, sea creatures, dinosaurs, zoo animals, and even dog bones, stars, suns, and hearts. Kids wear them, trade them, and collect them. When worn as a bracelet, the rubber bands are stretched out of their shapes but snap back to their original states when they are taken off.
There are several different companies manufacturing the animal rubber bands, including Brainchild Products whose Silly Bandz are being sold—and more likely sold out of—toy and greeting card stores all over the local area. When they actually have stock, most stores are retailing packs of 24 animal rubber bands at $4.99, although some stores also carry a 12-pack option. Prices fluctuate from store to store.
Most retailers started getting wind of the trend over the summer, and the craze has gained serious momentum since school started. One independent toy store reported that demand is now through the roof, and their last shipment sold out within an hour. They are fielding hundreds of phone calls from frantic kids and parents who are eagerly seeking them.
According to a greeting card store manager who lives in northern New Jersey, the fad appears to be localized to Union and Middlesex counties and a few states across the country. He stated, “It’s not country-wide, city-wide, or state-wide—not at all. Alabama is huge, from what the Silly Bandz company told me. Will it take off all over? No one knows, especially since a few schools have already banned them because some kids were shooting them off in class. No one knows how long it will be popular either, but right now, it’s all the kids are coming in for.”
Irma’s Hallmark in Fanwood has been trying to jump on the animal rubber band bandwagon since the middle of September.
“We never carried Silly Bandz before,” said store manager Alex Lawrence. “This is our first time ordering them. We decided to carry them because of the high amount of phone calls we received and the number of people coming into the store who asked for them. People started asking for them in August. We first started hearing about it then, and the demand grew. It’s taken them a while to come in, but we’re expecting them any day.”
The popular store in downtown Fanwood recently put in its order for the bracelets, but as of Sunday they had not yet arrived.
The animal rubber bands first started getting media play in New York Magazine’s “Best Bets” column in 2002. The slow-building trend was picked up by the New York Times “Style” section in 2005, and was more recently featured in family-friendly Cookie Magazine’s “Stocking Stuffer Round-up” in November 2008.
Why did these little pieces of silicone get so red hot? And how long will the craze last? There’s one thing retailers and weary parents in search of the coveted accessories will agree on: time (and maybe a Magic 8 Ball) will only tell.