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In A Spin

Fidget spinners are the latest trend that has the potential to go from the playground to the promotional arena, but concerns over product safety are making some think twice.

Unless you have been living in a cave for the past few months, it has been hard to miss the emergence of a new trend – the fidget spinner.

For those who don’t know, the toy is an addictive little thing that can be spun between the fingers while you chat away with someone, take a phone call, or read over a report. It doesn’t actually do much, but that hasn’t stopped it becoming one of the fastest growing trends of late.

Aaron Sargent, managing director of Pinpoint Badges, said he first noticed the product in the retail sector in late February this year.

“We were the first supplier to market with this product in the promotional industry. We launched the product in March,” he said.

Pinpoint gave the spinner a push in the first week of April, but Sargent said the initial response was underwhelming. “I think we were a little too early out with this as the real buzz had not started. After an e-mail campaign we had many replies from distributors asking what the product even was.”

Given the product’s history, this lack of initial uptake, seems par for the course. Far from being a new toy on the block, the fidget spinner has been around for more than 20 years. American Catherine Hettinger invented the toy back in1993, to entertain her seven-year-old daughter. However, she did not have the $400 to renew her patent in 2005, meaning she has not benefitted from the millions of the toys that have been sold.

It is hard to explain the product’s sudden popularity. Some educators claim the fidget spinner is a useful tool for children who have ADHD, giving them something to do with their hands to help them concentrate. At any rate, the spinners have become a word of mouth hit, to the extent that some schools have banned them as they have been deemed disruptive in the playground.

The fidget spinner has become ubiquitous, but here lies a problem. Because it is classed as a toy, it must have a CE label signaling that it has been approved for use by children. However, many of the items coming into the UK do not have this mark. In Ireland, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission has issued a warning to parents about potentially dangerous versions of the popular toy. Working with Revenue and Customs, 200,000 suspect fidget spinners have been seized since 8 May.

Toby Hall, director of Suzanne Lynch Design said he had received mixed message about what to look for. The company was asked to source some fidget spinners for a client. The quantity was small so it decided to ask some UK distributors as well as its usual Chinese suppliers.

“I’m fairly convinced that as a toy these will need CE marks and to meet the requirements of toy directives,” he said. “However, we have been told by two UK promotional product distributors that this is not the case and that they are selling fidget spinners without CE marks.”

For companies looking to capitalise on a hot trend, it may be galling to go through extra hoops when street vendors are selling the same item by the truckload, probably without CE markings. However, any thoughts of short-term gain need to be weighed against longer term damage to the reputation of supplying companies, and ultimately to their clients. If in doubt about a product, it’s probably best to pass on it and find a more reputable source.

Pinpoint’s Sargent said that it pays to look carefully at what you are buying as there are many different versions around, and some have small parts that can come away. “Our version can pass CE testing so we have no concerns whatsoever over it,” he said.

It is also a lucrative line. “From middle of April to middle of May I would say this has accounted for about 10% of our incoming order value.”

This demand is backed up by Sourcing City, which has provided Product Media with data from its suppliers that show the popularity of spinners. Liz Young, supplier services director, Sourcing City, said that for the year to date, three out of the top five most popular products, out of 250, were fidget spinners.

Sargent said that there is a huge opportunity for the product to cross over to promotional use. “Buyers of promotional products may not be aware these are available to be branded a promotional product.

“We are finding that distributors who have put out emailers are getting a lot of orders. Making your customers aware of current trends in our industry is very important, which is why we are doing so well on this as we had first to market advantage in the promotional industry.”

According to Sargent, you should be proactive. “If a distributor sits backs and waits for calls on them, they will miss the boat, so get promoting!”


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