Every year, there’s some toy that—often inexplicably—leaps off the shelves long before Christmas. This year, it’s the Squinkies. Toymaker Bill Nichols developed the tiny, squishy rubber characters (which come packaged vending-machine-style, in plastic bubbles) last year, figuring they would sell well in a struggling economy. And they did: The toys, which cost $10 for a pack of 16, are sold out at Wal-Mart and other stores, and Nichols is having a hard time meeting demand.
Nichols’ Blip Toys is nowhere near a toy giant—it has just 16 employees and is eight years old—but he saw an opening for “innovation” in the small-doll aisle, he tells the New York Times. By creating hundreds of characters, he made the toys collectible, and then sent samples to more than 300 “mommy bloggers” to drum up interest. Everyone loved them—and now Nichols is trying hard to capitalize on his success, realizing that his window of opportunity is limited: “Kids move on very quickly,” he says.