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Lonely adults are driving a boom in stuffed animal sales

Grace Mayer,Gloria Dawson   

Lonely adults are driving a boom in stuffed animal sales
  • Adults are clamoring for stuffed animals, a craze that is part of a larger toy trend among adults.
  • But stuffed animals are not simply toys utilized for joy and amusement.

Stuffed animals aren't just for kids anymore. Adults are clamoring for squishy friends and weighted plushies.

The trend took off during the pandemic, and for many young adults, the trend has persisted. But it's not just about cute, soft décor. For some people, stuffed animals help alleviate anxiety and loneliness.

Marina Khidekel, a health journalist and founder of Hugimals, is one of these adults. She said she created Hugimals, a line of weighted stuffed animals designed to relieve stress and promote sleep, in part for herself. She found weighted blankets were too stifling and wanted a smaller weighted item. While her toy brand started targeting parents with anxious kids, she thought other adults, like herself, would also be interested.

Now, a year after the brand launched, more than 50% of Hugimals's customers are adults, Khidekel told Insider over email. She said they're either buying the stuffed animals for themselves or gifting them to adult friends or family members and using them to alleviate anxiety and help with their sleep.

Squishmallows and Jellycats, two other popular plush toy brands, have seen similar interest spike among adults since the pandemic. Squishmallows — rotund, squishy toys with smiling faces — became the top selling toy in the US and Canada last year, according to market research firm Circana. The brand has garnered ardent adult fans: Some customers who spoke with the Washington Post reported owning over 400 of the plushies.

The stuffed animal craze is tied to a larger toy trend among adults, or, as the toy industry has labeled this group, "kidults." They're buying up all kinds of toys — from Legos to American Girl Dolls — to reconnect with their inner child. The toys can also add a bit of playfulness to one's home décor. For London-based toy brand Jellycats, the brand's Amuseable line, which features stuffed coffee cups, plants, and various fruits, is a big draw for adults, the Wall Street Journal reported.

But stuffed animals are not simply toys utilized for joy and amusement. People are turning to them to help them cope with anxiety, stress, grief, and isolation, Time reported. While the positive effects of stuffed animals are still being researched, some studies have found that weighted blankets and cozy toys can reduce anxiety.

Some people have also used them to cope with loss. After Marcella Johnson lost her fourth baby, she told Time, she found comfort in holding weighted items and realized other grieving mothers did the same as well. This experience led her to create the Comfort Cub, a weighted teddy bear designed for people coping with loss.

And with more young adults reporting feelings of loneliness and mental health struggles, a stuffed animal could provide additional comfort. That's partly what Khidekel's Hugimals are designed to do. Weighing 4.5 pounds, these stuffed animals are designed to replicate a "calming, hugging you back" effect, she told Insider. Since using her Hugimals, she's read reviews of her product and heard from customers who say the stuffed animals have helped with their anxiety and sleep.

"Reading reviews from adults moves me so much, because I know how much Hugimals help me relieve my own stress and fall asleep easier," Khidekel told Insider.

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