Rainbow Loom and How a Tween Fad Can Die in Mere Months

Tween trends come and go like ocean tides, but the fad curve of Rainbow Loom surprised even jaded trend-watchers for its particularly fast downfall, much to the dismay of retailers hoping Rainbow Loom would be a strong holiday seller.

The trend of kids using a loom to make rubber band bracelets first caught on in late summer, spiked in September when kids returned to school, and was completely over by December. It grew too fast and too many players, including Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) , Toys R Us, Family Dollar Stores (NYSE: FDO  ) , and Jo-Ann Stores were selling basic and inexpensive rubber bands.

The perils of mass availability

"This was and is a trend that is so easy to get into that everybody and anybody that wanted to sell rubber brands is selling rubber bands. It is overly distributed," says Thomas Vellios, president of the tween retailer Five Below (NASDAQ: FIVE  ) , speaking with financial analysts during his company's third quarter conference call. The company was quick to capitalize on the trend, but soon noticed kids lost enthusiasm. "Just to help everyone understand this sort of trend a little bit," says Vellios, "the big sales tend to be the rubber bands, so it's sort of like that razor blade part of the business."

Indeed, mass availability contributed to Rainbow Loom's downfall. There was no real motivation for retailers to prolong a sales driver that ultimately resulted in a $1-$2 transaction. Rubber band sales don't actually pay the overhead for a business.

Limited-edition colors

Still, there were opportunities to prolong this trend. Toys R Us, for instance, held free in-store weekend lessons throughout the fall to help kids master this hobby. These lessons could have expanded into other category expansions, such as keychains or necklaces, or stores could have introduced materials beyond rubber bands to keep tweens interested and excited. 

Meanwhile, Silly Bandz -- rubber band bracelets in shapes of animals and symbols -- lengthened its popularity through brand licensing. Sports teams, animated cartoons, and pop stars all introduced Silly Bandz merchandise months after its initial craze. This, in turn, attracted old and new fans back to wearing these items.

It is reasonable to assume the same could have happened for Rainbow Loom. The New York Yankees, for instance, could have introduced rubber bands in the official colors of the team. Hello Kitty's brand licensor Sanrio could have created a Hello Kitty-endorsed collection featuring various pink rubber band colors.  

What's the next trend?

Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible for tweens to return to a trend after they have already moved on. Now, tween trend-watchers are predicting that socks for boys, uniquely colored lipstick or lip gloss for girls, and smartphone accessories are the emerging trends to watch in 2014.

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  • Report this Comment On December 17, 2013, at 2:38 PM, TXObjectivist75 wrote:

    Um, saw Marvel, Hello Kitty, TMNT, and Disney branded rubber band sets at JoAnns this weekend. They licensed the hell out of this. Having a 12 year old girl of my own, I know it's their 15 second attention span that's the problem.

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2013, at 12:51 AM, Susansback wrote:

    I disagree, Larissa Faw. My nine year old granddaughter says she wants nothing but rubber bands for Christmas. And a second loom. I know someone whose middle school aged son makes bracelets and sells them. I am guessing you have never touched a loom and maybe you are going by sales reports? I don't know. Unfortunately, there are many knockoffs and fakes on the market so things have gotten watered down. That doesn't mean that kids aren't using them anymore. And the fact that there are different kinds of band manufacturers doesn't mean anything except that loomers have a broader selection to chose from. Take a look at the Youtube rainbow loom videos and how many times they have been viewed; new videos are being uploaded all the time.

  • Report this Comment On January 01, 2014, at 10:49 PM, Essie wrote:

    I have to agree with Susansback on this one. Maybe in certain areas popularity is decreasing but I worked seasonally for Mastermind(small city in Ontario) and I personally witnessed at least a thousand Rainbow Looms being sold. That was only during my 10-20 hours per week. Sales remained steady through December, and the displays of elastics had to be fully restocked daily!

    But I agree the fad will die out soon. All it takes is for the new thing to come and steal Rainbow Looms Thunder. For now though it seems pretty steady.

  • Report this Comment On January 01, 2014, at 10:52 PM, Essie wrote:

    Also just to add, we charged 4-5 dollars per bag of replacement bands. And customers averaged about 2-4 bags each when coming in specifically for them. So it really was big money for Mastermind.

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