‘It’s an Addiction’: Rise of the Squishmallows, an Irresistible Plush Toy With an Adult Fanbase

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When it comes to Squishmallows — the plush toy with irresistibly cute faces, egg-shaped bodies, and charming backstories — age is just a number.

Created by toy designer Sunny Cho, the plushies were first released in 2017 and quickly gained a loyal following, which skyrocketed during the pandemic and has captured the hearts of all ages — particularly those above 18.

“It’s been really interesting to see that it’s not just kids, it’s adults,” Laura Zebersky, president of Squishmallow’s parent company, Jazwares, told CNBC. “Our demographic is very wide and broad and it’s very unusual in our business to have that.”

One hundred million Squishmallows, which cost between $5.99 and $39.99, were sold last year alone, per CNBC.

The toy industry has dubbed the trend “kidulting,” which involves adults actively seeking products that evoke nostalgia from their youth. South Florida-based Jazwares, a Berkshire Hathaway company, acquired Squishmallows in 2019. Reps told CNBC that consumers aged 18 and up have been the demographic driving up sales — which have increased 40% over the past two years.

While the company has collaborated with major franchises like Star Wars, Pokémon, and Hello Kitty to release limited-edition plush toys, it is also careful not to oversaturate the market with products.

Nick, 27, (who spoke anonymously for career purposes), told the Washington Post that finding a specific and sought-after Squishmallow is “similar to the feeling of winning at a slot machine.”

“It’s an addiction,” he added.

Nick, who has about 400 Squishmallows, and estimates he’s spent nearly $2,000 on the plush toys over the past two years, is far from alone in his enthusiasm.

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“It took off in a way no one really expected,” James Zahn, editor-in-chief of Toy Book and senior editor at the Toy Insider, told the Washington Post. “Part of the initial appeal of Squishmallows was the fact that they were a little harder to get.”

There’s also a Squishmallows community that’s about more than collecting the toys; for many, it’s about the shared experience and camaraderie among fans. Enthusiasts organize meetups, trade Squishmallows, and engage with influencers on social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.

Nancy Ferrell, 31, who has about 200 Squishmallows with her wife, told the Washington Post that collecting the plush toys gave her a sense of community online.

“It brings joy,” Ferrell told the outlet.

Related: How One Mom’s Mission To Rebuild Her Daughter’s Confidence Sparked a Revolution for The Doll Industry

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