Trends in Plush and Toys at Sports Fan Stores

Sports fans love showing support for their favorite teams. Plush and other toys are one fun way to do just that. Whether as a keepsake, game day souvenir, collectible, or children’s toy, fans enjoy purchasing a wide range of these items.
At the Seattle Team Shop in Seattle, Wash., Assistant Store Manager Jacob Campbell said the approximately 400-square-foot store sells Foco brand plush. Foco is a top manufacturer of plush mascots and bobbleheads. Campbell noted that trends for top-selling items vary by season for the local teams, depending on what teams are playing. “We have small Seahawks and Mariners teddy bears, and medium plush teddy bears for the Huskies, Sounders, and Seahawks. Our largest plush animals are big monkeys, created for the Seahawks.”
For the summer, plush sales stay consistent, as they do throughout the year. “Toys are steady throughout the year. In the summer, our best-sellers at the store tend to be visors and sun hats.” To sell more plush merchandise, Campbell primarily relies on display. “For us, the main thing is placement in the store. We keep the plush items next to the register, so they are the last thing people see, and kids are always excited to see it, and always run to the display. Pricing however is high-end, which makes it a little more challenging as an impulse buy for parents.”

General Manager and Head Buyer Chad Rogers, with Corey Rogers, of Sports Fanz in Hurricane, W.V. Action figures are a tread currently in the toy industry.

In West Allis, Wis., Amy Hunt, owner of the 4,000-square-foot Green & Gold Zone related that “Teddy bears, unicorns, and football-shaped plush toys sell the best for us. We sell the most of our plush merchandise around Christmas, but over all they do well all year long.” Because of those strong sales, she added, “We’re always looking for new items in plush, because they do so well for us.” Additionally, Hunt’s store also sells bobbleheads and team totem poles. “Plush is the best-seller for us though,” she reported.
Summer best-sellers? Hunt predicted the Wisconsin Brewers plush and toys will do quite well for the store. “We have some plush baseballs ordered that go well with our other Brewer items, and Brewer bobbleheads, and as far as I know those should be big for us. We usually can’t keep our bobbleheads in stock, they are such a popular item with our customers,” she reported.
To sell more plush figures and toy merchandise, Hunt relies on a variety of methods. “We use social media extensively to promote them, and we put new items up on Facebook and on our website just as soon as they come into the store. We also cross merchandise them throughout the store, and we group like-items together as well, so our customers can see everything we have. We position some of it near the register, so they’ll see it when they check out, too.”
Jeff Lemieux, owner of Jeff’s Sports, Inc. in Brookfield, Wis., does not sell plush merchandise at all. But the store offers other toy category items. “We do very well with our bobbleheads, but the very hottest thing for us are sports card collections. They sell for any team at all, because it is based on any hot players for any given team. With bobbleheads, our best sales come from local team figures.” Lemieux said that he is considering adding plush items for local teams to his toy mix as well. His best-selling summer items depend on how individual teams perform. “Brewers merchandise should sell for us if they do well,” he asserted.
Selling more toy merchandise is based on a number of factors. “Social media definitely plays a part, and we position the items in the store close to the register or at the front of the store so people can see them easily. We will also cross merchandise the items when appropriate.”
At Sports Fanz in Hurricane, W.V., General Manager and Head Buyer Chad Rogers reported that the store has seen a new trend in toys. “There has been a huge trend to action figures. Funko Pops PVC figures have been huge for us. We also did an in-store promotion for the West Virginia Mountaineers bobblehead that was tremendous.” The bobblehead sales also raised money for a charitable fund and brought a lot of positive attention to the store, he said.
Rogers explained that the reason the Funko Pops figures are so popular is in part because there aren’t as many companies manufacturing sports action figures as there used to be. Their availability through Funko is very appealing to customers; however, Funko is not the only action figure style that does well for the store.
“We also brought in a brand new one from an Ohio company called Party Animal,” Rogers said. “They make little 4-to-6-inch action figures they call Big Shot Ballers. The figures are small and to scale, but their heads are oversized, with a look like bobbleheads.” Rogers said these figures include NBA, NFL, and MLB players.
“To supplement the individual Big Shot Ballers line, Party Animal also did gift packs of mini-figures with seven or eight individual figures shrunk to just a couple of inches high. That has done very well. They also do a product called Teenymates that follow along the same idea in gift packs; but they’re shrunk to just a couple of inches high.”
Rogers noted that these small mini figures have sold very well for the store, especially the mini figure NBA items. He finds that very few companies these days make action figures, so the PVC figures that Sports Fanz carried, including Teenymates, are somewhat unique, which is part of why they do so well for the store.
When it comes to plush, stores sales are strong as well. But the store doesn’t carry conventional plush figures. “We don’t sell stuffed animals. We sell plush throw blankets with team logos on them, and a product called Security Blankets from a company called Masterpiece Puzzles. It has a small plush teddy bear head and arms on it in super soft plush. The Security Bear is a massive seller for us, mainly in college teams. The blankets measure approximately 50-inches-by-60-inches,” he said.
For the summer, Rogers said best-sellers will be both TeenyMates and Big Shot Ballers sets created for baseball teams. “Those will definitely be popular for us. But, what I’ve noticed as a big summer seller are sports team items for cars rather than other categories of merchandise.”
Selling more plush and toy merchandise means both social media and store display for Rogers, and the store’s social media hits all the major platforms. “We do a lot of social media, in fact we do every kind, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. We have also started to develop our own YouTube channel. And we do promotions through Google shopping.”
According to Rogers, the store shoots videos inside the store to show people what merchandise they typically offer, and any new products as they come available.
“Along with that, we also have adopted a hybrid drop method, in which we carry best-selling team items in the store, but we can get the same items in for any team, if people want to purchase them, and ship those. That helps us appeal to all types of team fans.”
As to in-store display, the 2,800-square-foot SportsFanz has a large display of the PVC action figures positioned in the front of the store. “In the summer, we move our plush animal blankets to the back of the store because they are more of a fall item. But they still sell year-round.”
While sports fans are driven to purchase a wide variety of team logo and character items, plush and toys are a strong seller at most fan stores.

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