“Even though the craze was coming before the pandemic, it certainly hit a fever pitch in the past year, and this craving for comfort is a big part of it,” Kelly Deen, senior vice president of marketing at Jazwares—the company that owns Kellytoy, the brand behind created Squishmallows—told The New York Times this March.
The phenomenon has gone worldwide. Jazwares reported earlier in June that customers in more than 40 countries have purchased nearly 80 million Squishmallow toys since 2017, according to the Missourian.
Who owns Kelly Toys Holdings?
Jazwares acquired a majority stake in Kelly Toys Holdings, LLC and Kelly Amusement Holdings, LLC—which are collectively known as Kellytoy—in April 2020, as Zacks Equity Research reported at the time. Jazwares is a subsidiary of Alleghany Capital Corporation, which is itself a subsidiary of Alleghany Corporation (NYSE:Y).
At the time, Kellytoy—a company founded in 1986—was the manufacturer of Squishmallows and also products featuring Strawberry Shortcake, Betty Boop, and the Care Bears characters.
In Zacks’ analysis, the acquisition meant that Jazwares had “the opportunity to grow into a leading toy industry a leading toy industry platform with the combination of Jazwares' unique operating capabilities and Alleghany Capital's financial backing.”
In a press release, Kellytoy co-president Jonathan Kelly said, “I have known and respected the management team at Jazwares for a long time and believe that after years of building the company, Kellytoy's logical next stage of growth is through a partnership with a larger, yet very nimble, global platform such as Jazwares. We are confident that our combined talents and the synergies that will result from this transaction will benefit both companies.”
What are Squishmallows?
Squishmallows are a line of soft plush toys similar to stuffed animals, and there are more than 800 Squishmallow characters, with most selling for $10 to $40, according to the Times. “I love their cute little faces,” Melissa Whittaker, a New Hampshire woman with more than 70 Squishmallows, told the newspaper. “They’re very nice to hug, and you can double them up as pillows.”
In the six months leading up to the Times profile, Squishmallow sales tripled, according to Jazwares. “The success of Squishmallows comes from the exclusivity, which helps drive collectibility,” Kelly told the paper.
The toys are particularly popular among college students, so much so that the University of Alabama in Huntsville has a fan club with its own Instagram account. The University of Alabama’s Crimson White newspaper reported on the craze earlier this month, with junior MacKenzie Hay saying that she uses her Squishmallows to soothe her stress, especially while she was battling COVID-19.
If the popularity of Squishmallows reminds you of another collectible plush craze, you aren't alone. Hay likened her love for Squishmallows to her parents’ “whole Beanie Baby obsession.”
“They have so many different personalities and names, so it’s fun to collect them,” she added.