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How to Start a Stuffed & Plush Toys Business


1. Introduction

Just put aside what you are doing right now, and look around where you are. Your gaze must have swept through a plush toy lying in a corner, no matter it’s a stuffed animal, a pendant doll or a brand mascot.

Plush toys used to be our best friends in carefree years, accompanying our lonely souls and introducing us to the strange world. And then it appeared as a good tool to bring us comfort, and tie intimate relations with people we cherish. In a sense, people of all ages can be regarded as your potential customers.

As per Future Market lnsights (FMI), the stuffed & plush toy industry has significantly risen in the global toy market. And the market is anticipated to witness the highest growth rate over the next few years due to the rising demand from children for plushies. Now as the COVID-19 pandemic nears its end, the stuffed & plush industry will enjoy a more promising vision.

Then how can you start a stuffed & plush toys business practically? CustomPlushMaker will expound the answers in the following aspects including the overview of stuffed & plush market, plush customizing and manufacturing, supplier and customer acquisition and plush marketing strategies.

2. Market overview

2.1 Market potential and trend

The total size of global stuffed and plush toys market peaked 9,089.4 million dollars in 2022, increasing at 6.9% compound annual growth rate between 2022 and 2032. The expansion of the market scale is mainly based on surging demand for kids’ soft and unique figurines. As per the study, the stuffed & plush toys market demand is anticipated to reach 17,689.4 million dollars by 2032.

The share of the stuffed & plush toys market in global toy market is 7%-12%. According to Alibaba international station, the stuffed and plush toys accounts for the second largest portion of the global toy market.

Despite the multi-faceted impact of COVID-19 on global economy, the demand of plush toys still witnessed a noticeable rising trend in 2021, continuing to register growth in 2022. STUFFED and STUFFED&PLUSH TOY ANIMAL are the fastest growing keywords on the website.

Based on type, the global stuffed & plush toys market is segmented into traditional stuffed animals, cartoon toys, dolls & playsets, battery-operated toys, and custom plush toys. Despite the growth in popularity of these different types of stuffed and plush toys, traditional stuffed animals still maintain their market dominance due to their timeless appeal and wide appeal across different age groups.

However, as the plush toy market continues to evolve, it will be anticipated to see how newer types of toys, such as custom plush toys, will continue to reshape the industry and appeal to consumers. They can be based on anything from a company’s logo or mascot to a character from a TV show or video game. Custom plush toys can be highly personalized and unique, making them popular among customers who want something special and unique.

Based on application, the stuffed & plush toys are mainly sold to hyper/supermarkets, toy stores, e-commerce platforms, hobby and craft stores, some retail formats and institutional buyers. Each application offers a unique shopping experience and provides opportunities for plush retailers and manufacturers to reach different types of consumers.

The e-commerce platform segment of stuffed & plush toys is projected to have the highest growth rate due to rising demand across all age groups and aggressive marketing by plush toy retailers in this field. By understanding the preferences and needs of these different segments, businesses can tailor their strategies to maximize their reach and impact in the plush toy market.

2.2 Consumer preference

As per Future Market lnsights (FMI) of the stuffed and plush toys, the product type has the highest threshold of impact, which means, in other words, customers concern most about this factor when purchasing plush toys. And some prevailing trends of plushie types are as follows.

2.2.1 Uniqueness

The majority of target plush toy customers are young generation, especially generation Z who are strong advocates for individuality and originality.

When the demand of stuffed and plush toys exploded, a pool of plush companies and manufacturers are scrambling to stand out in vehement competition by innovation. Rising preference for custom-made fur and plush toys is encouraging key plush companies to manufacture unique action-figure plush toys. Some of the leading plush companies are also innovating plush toys with sensors and GPS trackers.

Plus, the vintage cartoon and animate characters are gaining immense popularity among young people. Hence, many plush companies are competing to gain approval for the licenses of some trademark characters, forging exclusive advantage in the plush market over their competitors.

2.2.2 Diversity

Furthermore, it’s noticeable that several toy companies are manufacturing plush toys with different ethnicities and bodies for young kids, no matter ordinary or differently abled, to secure comfort in their bodies and identities. Diversity is an essential demand for play objects to provide a representation of the real world, through which all kinds of children can foster compassion and self-identity.

2.2.3 Eco-friendliness

This feature is typically reflected on USA and Western Europe customers with more environmental consciousness which will, in a large degree, influence their plush purchasing decisions. Sustainability appeared as an increasingly important factor in the stuffed and plush toy industry in 2021, with more consumers seeking out eco-friendly and ethically sourced plushies. Some experts forecast that the eco-friendly demand for stuffed and plush toys is expected to surge worldwide.

2.3 Playing field

2.3.1 Regional analysis

1. North America

North America has always been leading the stuffed & plush toy industry with one of the most lucrative markets—the US at its core. In 2021, the total revenue of the stuffed and plush toy industry mounted $3.3 billion in the US.

This country has a huge impact on both online and offline plush toy sales on the back of the growing demand for animated and action movies. Some leading plush manufacturers are seeking opportunities to foster partnership, merges & acquisitions with animated and cartoon movie makers, to expand their portfolio and maintain their dominance in the plush market.

2. Asia-pacific

The Asia-Pacific region is expected to dominate the global stuffed and plush toy market, with a market share of 34.2% in 2019. China is the biggest manufacturer of stuffed & plush toys and the main plush production base for the global market, with about 70% of the world’s plush toys produced in China. And the U.S. is the largest destination for China’s toy animal exports. Due to the advantages of low cost and wide variety of toys produced in China, the export volume of stuffed animals from China is expected to continue to rise.

Another power in Asia Pacific is Japan who boasts splendid Kawaii cultures. Japanese manufacturers merge multiple images characters and animals into plush making. And they add a fashionable touch on the stuffed and plush toys design, paying special attention on plushies’ textile, color and texture.  

2.3.2 Bricks vs. clicks

Impacted by COVID-19, many physical toy stores closed or reduced in capacity, while the online volume of the stuffed and plush toys increased significantly.

Today there are over 4.6 billion people getting access to the internet where enormous chances are lingering. The biggest online market is US, CHINA and the UK. A research paper from World Retail Congress that published in 2019 says that “The US is a formidable online force – it was the birthplace of the online market place and largely, Americans are very trusting online shoppers who have a high level of comfort shopping online”.

Hence, Online sales is the most promising marketing channel of stuffed and plush toys, for it’s not only more readily accessible for our potential plush customers in need all over the world, but also free from space restrictions.

But owing to that, the online plush marketplace is crowded with a wide variety of e-commerce platforms, amateur crafters, toy agencies and so on. Hence, the online competition is fiercer and consumers will be more particular about the merchandise especially those that can be easily found in physicals stores, like some traditional snuffed animals.

While the offline plush marketplace is much less complicated, mainly made up of hyper/supermarket, physical retailors and craft stores. And Hyper/supermarkets, like Walmart, Carrefour, with lower purchasing prices and larger volume, is a dominant power in offline market of traditional stuffed toys. So online shops and physical retailers must refine their plushies and seek unique strengths to gain a foothold in the crowded market. 

3. Customizing and Manufacturing

Based on the market overview, design and quality come first in consumer’s choice of stuffed and plush toys. Therefore, manufacturing emerges as a crucial part of the business. The detailed information of plush manufacturing process can be obtained in former blogs on our standalone website CustomPlushMaker (https://customplushmaker.com/). There are some supplements you should take special care of.

3.1 Promote customizing

Get aboard the fast train of custom plush toy development. The 21 century features personalized consumption. Personalized customization experience is being a leading trend in stuffed & plush toy business. By offering customization options, companies can differentiate themselves from other competitors and attract customers who are looking for plushies unique and special.

Companies typically offer a range of customization options, including size, shape, color, and features such as embroidered names or logos. You can even offer the ability to create fully custom plushie designs based on customer specifications.

However, creating custom plush toys can be a more complex and time-consuming process than creating standard plush toys, and may require additional resources such as specialized equipment and skilled labor.

Despite these challenges, the demand for custom plush toys is expected to continue to grow in the coming years, as consumers increasingly seek out unique and personalized plushies. And companies can manage to create a successful niche. 

3.2 Quality monitoring and post-sale services

Take time to learn about the legal requirement for toy-making and comply with regulations strictly. This will inform you what kind of materials and offerings you should purchase. Hence, it’s essential for you to track the ensuing using experience of our customers and deliver a timely solution to emerging problems.

For online business, consumer’s feedback and good faith of the company are of vital importance. Establishing online credit is a key to building the solid business collaboration in the long run.

3.3 Long-term input of new product

Step forward with the ever-changing market. In an aim to manufacture the cutting-edge plush toys and usher in the international plush market, you should renew your product lists more frequently based on the latest trend and the feedback on the plushies that have been put in the market.

You can also keep a watchful eye on recent hits in animate movies, comic books, and fashion currents, trendy elements. Considerable efforts should be put on research and development or your business will lapse into stagnation.

4. Premium suppliers and customer acquisition

4.1 Acquire good-quality suppliers

1. Research

 Use online directories, industry publications, and trade associations to find potential suppliers. Look for companies that specialize in high-quality materials and plushies, and have a good reputation for reliability.

2. Networking

You can find premium suppliers of made-up stuffed and plush toys through keyword retrieval on google and social media like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Many plush toy suppliers will leave their websites or contact details on their accounts.

3. Referrals

Ask existing suppliers for referrals to other high-quality suppliers they may know. This can be a great way to find new suppliers who have already secure a place in the industry.

4. Develop a strong pitch:

Develop a strong pitch that emphasizes your company’s commitment to quality, reliability, and innovation. Highlight your unique selling points of the plushies and explain why a premium supplier should work with your plush business.

5. Negotiate effectively

Negotiate effectively with your potential suppliers to ensure that you are getting the best possible deal on materials and products. This may involve negotiating on price, delivery schedules, or other terms.

4.2 Acquire premium customers

1. Research

Use market research to identify potential premium customers. Look for businesses and individuals who value quality, reliability, and innovation.

2. Networking

You can also search the keywords like “STUFFED ANIMALS” and “CUSTOM PLUSH TOYS”, on internet to find target customers who are in demand for custom plushies or stuffed animals, or you can sell the products on major e-commerce platforms.

3. Referrals

Ask existing customers for referrals to other businesses or individuals who may be interested in your products. Word-of-mouth recommendations can be a powerful tool for acquiring new customers.

4. Develop a strong brand identity

Develop a strong brand identity that features quality, reliability, and innovation. Use targeted plush toy marketing campaigns to reach potential customers and highlight your unique selling points. You can also set up a standalone website where you can put your brand stories and concepts.

5. Offer customization

Offer customization options to customers and tailored plushies based on their specific needs or preferences. This can help to differentiate your business from competitors and attract premium plush toy customers.

6. Provide exceptional customer service

Provide exceptional customer service to both new and existing customers. This involves responding to inquiries promptly, providing reliable delivery schedules, and addressing any concerns or issues promptly and professionally. Satisfied customers are more likely to recommend your business to others.

5. Marketing strategies

5.1 Product design

Product design enables companies to differentiate with the other competitors and appeal to the target consumers. It also helps communicate the brand’s values. Companies should be innovative and customer-focused in plush toy design to meet the ever-changing need of the market.

  1. Conduct market research and gather customer feedback on the plushies. A wide range of factors should be taken into account when designing the product such as target audience’s needs and preferences, market trends, and competitive landscape when designing your plushies. You can also target a smaller, specific customer base to create more focused and customized niches.
  2. Value uniqueness and creativity of the design. Collaborate with artists, crafters and renowned brands if necessary. Licensing popular characters or fashionable images can also help gain a share exclusively in the plush market.
  3. Establish brand identity through product design. Product design including the designing and packaging can reflect a brand’s value and communicate their message to the target audiences by creating a cohesive and recognizable brand image.

5.2 Pricing strategies

Price has always been the overriding factor in every product market. Companies need to balance the cost of plush production based on the target audience’s sensitivity to price and perceived value of the product, maximizing the profits and building a reliable customer base. There are some common pricing strategies in stuffed & plush toy market.

1. Penetration pricing

companies can set a low price to attract customers and gain market share. This strategy can be used for plush companies when launching a new product or when facing fierce competition. It applies to mass-market plush toys that appeals to a broad audience.

2. Skimming pricing

companies can set a high price for a new or unique product to maximize margins at the earlier stage of marketing. This may apply to limited edition or one-of-a-kind plush toys that appeal to a niche market of plush toy collectors or enthusiasts.

3. Promotional pricing

companies can offer discounts and coupons to attract more customers to purchase the plush toys, especially in holidays or company anniversaries. It can also speed up clearing the inventory of poor-selling plush toys to spare more room and resources for new plush products.

4. Bundling pricing

companies can bundle multiple plush toys together and offer them at a discounted price. This strategy can also promote the sales of poor-sellers due to the bundling of mixed types of plushies.

5.3 Marketing channel

5.3.1 Brick-and-mortar stores

Physical stores include toy stores, department store, gift stores and some craft shops where consumers can personally see and touch the plush toy to decide whether they would like purchase it.

Moreover, various in-store toy displays and exhibitions can be held periodically to catch the eyes of passersby who will be impressed by your brand and become your loyal customers later. It’s also very convenient for plush toy companies to hold promotional activities in mortar stores.

Supermarkets or department store are popular destinations of families where products are often sold at competitive prices, and plush toys are no exception. Plush toys sell well in supermarkets due to its convenience and affordability. Supermarkets may take multiple marketing tactics to attract customers to their plush toy selection, such as in-store displays, signage, and promotions.

Specialty toy stores often have a wider selection of plush toys and may carry unique or hard-to-find plushies that are not available in supermarkets. They can also provide a more personalized shopping experience and offer additional services such as gift wrapping or personalization.

5.3.2 E-commerce

E-commerce, the most cost-effective way of marketing, gradually replace the dominant position of traditional market. You can sell plush toys on powerful platforms which have solid business basis, coupled with setting up your own website to build your brand identity.

1. Online marketplaces

Major shopping platforms, such as Amazon, Esty and E-bay, can have access to a large and diverse audience base who are in need of your stuffed animals or plush toys, regardless of their location.

By means of the background monitor and big data analytics, they can gather and analyze customer behaviors. They can also provide plush toy sellers with features and tools that can optimize the product listings, manage inventory and process orders and payments. Plus, it’s an effective channel for recipients to find niche or some custom plush toy makers through keyword retrieval.

2. Company website

In addition to online marketplaces, it is worth setting up your own e-commerce website where you can connect with your customers directly, beyond any restrictions of the third party.

A dedicated standalone website can offer the greater control over the branding and customer experiences. You can also collect and analyze your customer behaviors, such as customer preference and distribution, and according to that alter the plush toy design or marketing strategies. Moreover, you can showcase your brand story, mission, and values on your website, and create a consistent brand image across all aspects of your online presence.

Once your e-commerce website is up and running, it requires ongoing maintenance and attention to ensure a positive customer experience and maximize its potential benefits, with the help of social media, email marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO).

5.3.3 Social media

Social media platforms offer advanced targeting options, enabling users to reach topics of their concern. By targeting your advertising to those who are likely to take interest in stuffed animals or plush toy business, you can find more potential customers who are already interested in what you have to offer.

Moreover, the social proof and customer feedback posted by plush toy buyers can increase the credit of the company, which is a key factor of online success. It’s also called word-of-mouth marketing. Positive word-of-mouth recommendations from satisfied customers can draw new customers who may not have heard of your brand before.

Traffic is wealth today. You can also collaborate with influencers who have a good fit with your plush toys. They may have a high level of engagement on their media posts and a large pool of followers, which helps to expand your audience base. But influencers with small followings still matter, for they may have more niche audience and higher level of engagement.

5.3.4 E-mail marketing

E-mail marketing is another large component of online marketing, which involves communicating with target audience through E-mail directly. By building a targeted email list and creating engaging, personalized emails, you can reach potential customers and encourage them to make a purchase.

  • To start with, build an E-mail list of your target plush toy recipients. Your E-mail list can be built by offering incentives such as exclusive discounts or special promotions.
  • Create effective E-mails. Use eye-catching visuals and copy that is clear, concise, and engaging. Make sure your emails are mobile-friendly and include a clear call-to-action. You can also create tailored messages for specific groups of recipients.
  • Measure the results. It’s important to track the effect of the E-mails, checking what works and what does not. A good way is to use metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, and conversions to measure the effectiveness of your plush campaigns and make adjustments as needed.

5.4 Promotion strategies

Plushies are fast moving consumer goods. Promotion is a powerful weapon to have an in-depth exchange with consumers based on promotional activities such as discounts, price cut and giveaways. It can help build up consumers’ concern and understanding about the plush toy brand and facilitate their brand loyalty.

1. Set the promotion target

Have a clear mind about who you are launching the promotional activities for whatever the difficulties you will meet. Take full account of types of plush toy customers.

2. Simplify the promotion

The promotion will attract a pool of plushie enthusiasts, many of which, however, will be hesitating to make an order. Hence, it’s necessary to simplify the preconditions and procedures to join the promotions.

3. Displays and decorations

Creating eye-catching window displays that feature plushies in different designs, sizes, and colors can help grab the attention of passersby and entice them to come into the store. Original posters with less words, and price tags are the most direct way to convey the information.

4. Offer loyalty programs

Loyalty programs, such as points or discounts for frequent customers, can help build brand loyalty. Additionally, you can set membership for longer-term benefits.

5. dynamic promotion

Use dynamic promotion especially during festivals, which means you should adjust promotion strategies along with different stages. It’s important to keep an eye on market change, in case that the toy store promotion and the market demand of plushies are disjointed.

In conclusion, the global stuffed & plush toys market is expected to continue growing, driven by factors such as rising disposable incomes, increasing consumer preference for high-quality and innovative products, and the popularity of licensed characters and brands. Custom plush toys are also gaining popularity due to their unique and personalized nature.

Starting a stuffed and plush toy business requires careful planning, research, and execution. By conducting thorough market research, identifying target customers, analyzing competition, and staying up-to-date with industry trends, aspiring entrepreneurs can increase their chances of success in this dynamic and growing market. And with appropriate strategies and approaches, a stuffed and plush toy business can be a rewarding and profitable venture.

CustomPlushMaker (Toyseei), crafting premium plushies for almost two decades, turns designer dreams into reality. Our rigorous three-stage quality check ensures excellence before shipping. Contact us now to bring your vision plush to life!