‘If you can find them, buy them’: Squishmallow toy craze hits Ottawa


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They’re soft, spongy, and super cuddly, but kids looking to wrap their arms around a Squishmallow this year might be disappointed on Christmas morning.

The little plush “Squishes” each have their own name and story and have grown in popularity during the pandemic among collectors young and old.

Emma Mitchell, 30, has acquired at least 450 Squishmallows over the past two years, which are on display in her Ottawa apartment.

“They’re so bright and fun, and especially like the past two years, it’s been such a dark and horrible time…” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said Squishmallows brought a real sense of community back into her life, even at a time when she and the rest of Canada were being told to stay home.

Through videos on Instagram and TikTok, Mitchell connected with Squish lovers around the world.

Its audience on TikTok has grown to over 21,000, with some of its videos garnering as much as one million views.

Ottawa morning3:44Why Squishmallows are all the rage this giveaway season

Plush collectibles have been a rare treat for children and adults alike throughout the pandemic. 3:44

“Sometimes I go to a store and I can’t find anything and people always look at that too,” Mitchell said, adding that one of his favorite things about the collection was the “hunt”.

As pandemic restrictions were lifted, Mitchell helped organize Squishmallow gatherings in Ottawa where collectors could come to buy, sell and trade in the trunk of their vehicles.

Squishmallows was recently nominated for the Toy of the Year Awards 2022 by the Toy Association, a non-profit trade group that represents all companies that design, produce, license and deliver toys and entertainment products for young people. (Robyn Miller / CBC)

She said collectors also post tips on Facebook groups or other platforms to share information on the location of rare Squishmallows.

Limited product

Recently, Squishmallows was nominated for the Toy of the Year 2022 (TOTY) awards by the Toy Association, which calls itself the “Oscars” of the toy industry.

Joel Reiken, vice president of operations at Playtime Toys, an independent toy store chain in the Toronto area, said he has seen Squishmallows’ popularity skyrocket over the past two years.

“Now they’re crazy, but there’s no product. So if you can buy them, you should buy them,” Reiken said, comparing the toys to the Beanie Babies boom of the late 1990s.

High demand, coupled with global manufacturing and shipping delays, make Squishes hard to find, he said.

Emily McGhee sells part of her collection to raise funds for Toys for Tots Canada, a charity that helps provide toys to children in need. (Robyn Miller / CBC)

Help with anxiety

Emily McGhee, 19, said Squishmallows had helped her through the pandemic and a series of anxiety-provoking medical appointments.

“They’re nice because I can give them a hug while everything is going on and they keep me kind and calm because I feel like there’s someone there for me,” McGhee said.

Now she sells part of her collection exclusively to parents of young children looking to wrap them up on Christmas morning.

All proceeds from its sale will go to Toys for Tots Canada, a charity that provides toys to children in need.

WATCH | “No one stops at one”: collectors turn to softness and cuddling for pandemic comfort:

“No one stops at one”: collectors turn to soft and cuddly for pandemic comfort

Emma Mitchell, who has collected at least 450 Squishmallows in the past two years, says plush toys have been a comfort during the pandemic and have a thriving online community of fans. 2:31

Resale prices soar

McGhee said she is trying to help parents who are competing with part of the Squishmallow community who buy wholesale to resell the toys at a higher price.

Depending on their size, Squishmallows sell for between $ 4 and $ 100 in stores, but McGhee and Mitchell say the resale price is much higher.

Emily McGhee said some Squishmallows are priced much higher than their retail value. She saw this duck, named Avery, for about $ 150. (Robyn Miller / CBC)

“Some of these Canadians will sell for around US $ 400 and it’s like… I bought it for $ 7.99,” Mitchell said.

“Every once in a while you might be like, ‘Oh man, I could really make some money with this.’ But like, at what cost?

“I find the community aspect a lot more fun,” she said.

Emma Mitchell has stated that she knew she could make a lot of money with her Squish “team”, but the reason she collects is not for profit. (Robyn Miller / CBC)

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