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SOI 2018: Product of the Year in the Promo Industry

No matter how you spin it, this was the item that had everyone talking and buying in 2017.

Last year, reinventing the wheel led to the fidget spinner becoming a highly profitable viral sensation. First it was a hit on YouTube, where kids filmed themselves doing tricks with this new toy. The videos were shared on social media, and then fidget spinners quickly entered the classroom. Marketed as a comforting aide for those with ADHD and anxiety, the mesmerizing spinning widget, made in a variety of shapes and designs, captured the imagination of children and the wallets of their parents.

State of the Industry 2018 Index Page

“I know my kids wanted one or multiple ones because everyone else had them,” says Jennifer Jacobson, creative services manager at Top 40 supplier Evans Manufacturing (asi/52840). “They were the ‘it’ thing and nobody could keep them in stock.”

During the spring and summer of 2017, 18 of the top 20 best-selling toys and games on Amazon were fidget spinners. According to data management and analysis firm 1010data, the amount of online sales generated by fidget spinners in April 2017 was 55 times greater than the product’s total sales at the beginning of the year. Between January and February, the search volume for “fidget spinner” across major retailers like Amazon and Walmart quadrupled. By the end of April, “fidget spinner” had more than 25 million searches.

In the promo products industry, suppliers and distributors hustled to meet the enormous demand. “Professional sports teams and their sponsors used spinners both as a giveaway to boost attendance and as a retail item for their gift shops,” says David Fiderer, senior director of marketing at supplier Prime Line (asi/79530). “Summer camps gave them away at reunions and fairs, and event planners included spinners in swag bags.”

“Nobody could keep them in stock.” Jennifer Jacobson, Evans Manufacturing

From February to May, there was exponential growth (4,064%) in ESP keyword searches for the words “fidget” or “spinner.” There were 226 searches in February for “fidget cube,” a desk toy consisting of buttons, dials and switches, which was the result of a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $6.4 million. Searches increased 762% to 2,153 in March, and jumped up 337% to 9,411 in April.

“We were air-shipping hundreds of thousands of them on a weekly basis, especially for retail clients,” says Chris Faris, president and CEO of Boost Promotions (asi/142942). “It was a very good six months for us with the fidget spinners.”

With the incredible demand and the sheer number of spinners flooding the marketplace, there were bound to be a few safety issues. At retail, there were reports of kids swallowing parts and ball bearings breaking, prompting promo suppliers to make some tweaks. “We created a more safety-oriented version with the bearings molded into the product so they wouldn’t come out,” Jacobson says. “This product has been a good seller for us, and we continue to get sales from it.”

One Wild Ride

The fidget spinner’s rise in popularity started early in 2017 when online retail searches for the product quadrupled. In the promo space, the item took off in April, when it broke into the top 10 most-searched terms on ESP. By May, it topped the ESP search chart before dropping off in the fall – although not as quickly as it did at retail.