Welcome to Curious Business
Every Friday, I post a small insight into running Curio City and/or Blue Hills Editorial Services. My most recent posts are directly below. You can also start with the first post, or use the subject labels to the right to home in on particular topics. Feel free to comment on anything that interests you.
Friday, April 14, 2017
A few weeks ago my nephew asked if Curio City had thought about selling fidget toys. It was the first I'd heard of them. Apparently they're the current rage among brainier Millennials and their children, the Marshmallows. Some people claim that they are therapeutic for some autistic types, and there might be something to that. Last Saturday they even garnered a Boston Globe story -- the kind of mainstream media attention that usually means that a trend is peaking or on its way out.
Some of my best-selling products over the years were recommended by people I know, so I always take their suggestions seriously. Googling "fidget toys" turns up a huge range of sizes, shapes, and materials selling for $5 up to $40 or more. These odd assemblages of gears, buttons, ball bearings, and switches that don't do anything are being sold everywhere right now. I don't know how to tell a "good" fidget from a "bad" fidget; wholesalers' descriptions generally provide little to no detail. One of my existing vendors is hawking some cheap ones, so it would be easy enough to test demand. If I had any cash on hand I'd place a few small orders with a few different vendors to figure out what my customers do and don't like (or if indeed I have any customers for these). Then I'd buy bigtime for Christmas when I think I've nailed the market. Since the fad is either cresting or still rising right now, selling the test orders is a reasonably safe bet.
Fidget spinners and cubes violate most of the guidelines that define a Curio City product. They aren't useful, leaving aside the dubious claims about their therapeutic value. As a ubiquitous trend, they aren't unusual; I'd be competing with Walmart, Amazon, and eBay, among others. If you buy one, you're unlikely to "need" another, so they'd generate little to no repeat business. The cheap ones look breakable and, well, cheap. At a $10 retail, they wouldn't bring in much money. The target demographic (Millennials and below) skews lower than my usual customer base (Gen-Xers and above). There aren't any batteries to expire, but fads are time-limited by nature, and this is the greatest unknown -- is this a six-month fad or a three-year fad? These are all warning bells.
Mostly, though, instead of cash on hand I have a mountain of debt. So I really can't afford to experiment. Sorry, Aaron. You did motivate me to look for my old 1970s-vintage worry stone, though. I know I still have that somewhere.