Adults Are Driving Sales of the Hottest Toy on the Market: Squishmallows
By: Kyle Xu
A toy sat safely along the aisles of Walgreens. Within a few seconds, a youngster had snatched it up.
It was a Squishmallow – one of the soft, squeezable, stress-relieving plushies that is designed as animals or objects with big bellies and sweet faces. Squeezing one is “similar to the feeling of winning at a slot machine,” said Nick, 27. He is a relentless fan of the squishy toy, owning about 400.
Different Squishmallows have sizes from two inches to two feet. They cost between $6 and $40. The toy is seemingly popular in all age groups. And according to Jazwares, which acquired Squishmallow’s main company KellyToy, fans 18 and up are driving sales.
Nancy Ferrell, a 31-year-old, was given a couple of Squishmallows while she was recovering from surgery in 2020. “It brings joy,” said Ferrell. She had “started to become kind of obsessed.”
The popular plushy is right up there with Legos, Barbies, and Hot Wheels. Circana reported that the Squishmallow was the top-selling toy of 2022 in the US and Canada. But how did this come to be?
Sunny Cho was a designer at KellyToy when her boss wanted her to create something with a stretchy, soft fabric. And then the Squishmallow was born.
Cho started with the round egg shape, then the belly and finally the face. She first made different animals, making 12 in total. The first “squad” of Cho’s unique creation was released in 2017 and sold at amusement parks and pop shops.
“Part of the initial appeal of Squishmallows was the fact that they were a little harder to get.” said James Zahn, editor in chief of the publication the Toy Book.
However, it all changed in 2019 when toy manufacturer Jazwares acquired KellyToy. Now the plush toy can be seen on sale in Walmart, Target, Walgreens, CVS, Costco, and more.
Each Squishmallow has a name, a “squish date” for when they were made and a cute backstory. Like Leonard, a vegetarian lion; Lalinda, a polka-dot giraffe pop star; and Tatiana, a dragon who likes dance-offs.
Squishmallows were not only satisfyingly squishy but also diverse and inclusive. There are deaf, blind, and even disabled animals. There are Squishmallow backpacks, clothes, slippers, and even bath bombs.
“There was nothing else like them,” said Zahn. “They hit every interest level and they always kept it fresh.”