It's official: fake hamsters from China are recession-proof. Mr Squiggles and his Zhu Zhu Pet friends Chunk, PipSqueak, Num Nums and Patches are proving impervious to the economic downturn. The popularity of the biggest toy this Christmas underlines the success of the formula of low pricing in the US and cheap production in China.
Zhu Zhu Pets, this year's Cabbage Patch Dolls or Tickle Me Elmos, retail at between US$8 (Dh29) and $10 in the US, and the difficulty in buying them in the UAE or anywhere else in the world shows that consumers are still happy to go crazy for toys at Christmas. There is even an underground Zhu Zhu Pets market in many cities in the US for those who cannot source them, and they sell for hundreds of dollars.
But their popularity and market scarcity also shows that retail outlets such as Toys 'R' Us or Wal-Mart are more cautious about being landed with too much inventory and are possibly stocking less. This has not stopped retail chains flying the rodents in directly from China by the millions. The toy maker Cepia has four factories making the Zhu Zhu Pets under contract. The popular hamsters have survived a scare when the toy site GoodGuide.com said it had found traces of carcinogens in the hamsters they tested. That claim was subsequently denied by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.