What are Silly Bandz?

Silly Bandz are a brand of silicone rubber bands with shapes including animals, objects, and letters. They are distributed by BCP Imports and are generally worn as bracelets by middle school, highschool, and elementary students.

The toys come in dozens of shapes, colors, and themes, and can be used as a regular rubber band. On someone’s wrist, they look like a regular bracelet, and when taken off they revert to their original shape. They are often worn many at a time, like sleeves, and are traded like other collectibles.

Children playing with Silly Bandz wristbands

The idea was inspired by shaped silicone office products that were created with the hopes of being a green product. They did not work as companies did not want to spend that much on rubber bands. They were then made larger to fit as bracelets and re-branded as Silly Bandz by Robert Croak. The toys are sold in packs of 24 for about $4.95 to $5.95. A number of competing manufacturers make the product. BCP Imports, located in Toledo, Ohio, supplies Silly Bandz.

Silly Bandz were first sold on-line in November 2008 then gained popularity in Birmingham, Alabama stores in the fall of 2009 and were widespread across the south by October 2009. They then moved up the east coast of the United States, reaching New Jersey, Long Island, and Staten Island in November the same year. As of April 2010, Sillybandz sold the bracelets to 8,000 stores across the U.S., and seven spots on Amazon’s April 22 list of best-selling toys and games were occupied by the bracelets.

One parent attributed the toy’s success to being easily lost and broken, and said that, “If your friend has the princess kind, then you have to have the princess kind, too.” Seth McGowan, a toy industry analyst for Needham & Company, said it is refreshing that the “lowest of technologies” is appealing to children. Silly Bandz have been banned in many classrooms for being too distracting.

According to a Boston Globe article the bands are so popular (and distracting) that some area schools are taking action. In Milton, the principal of the lower school of the St. Mary of the Hills School asked students to stop wearing the bands after teachers reported that some kids were crying over lost bracelets or playing with the bands instead of listening in class.

The TOP selling Silly Bandz theme is:

Princess Shapes Silly Bandz:
The 24-Pack Princess Shapes includes: Tiara, Diamond Ring, Glass Slipper, Princess, Majestic Castle, Magic Wand. This pack has shapes in six assorted colors to be collected, worn, or traded with friends. They can be treated as traditional rubber bands and worn as bracelets but spring back into their original shape when not in use. Buy the Princess Shapes Silly Bandz for $4.95 now.

Rock Band Silly Bandz
The 24-Count Rock Bandz Shape Pack of colorful silicone bands includes Guitars, Rock Hands, Mic Stands, Drums, Jumping Rockers, and Rock. This pack has shapes in six assorted colors to be collected, worn, or traded with friends. They can be treated as traditional rubber bands and worn as bracelets but spring back into their original shape when not in use. Buy the Rock Band Silly Bandz for $4.95 now.

Spring Time Silly Bandz (it has been Retired/Discontinued):
The 24-Pack Spring Time Shapes includes: Butterflies, Bees, Tulips, Umbrellas, Kites, and Chicks. This pack has shapes in six assorted colors to be collected, worn, or traded with friends. They can be treated as traditional rubber bands and worn as bracelets but spring back into their original shape when not in use. Buy the Spring Time Silly Bandz for $5.95 now.

Fantasy Shapes Silly Bandz:
The 24-Pack Fantasy Shapes includes: Mermaids, Unicorns, Fairies, Dragons, Phoenix, and Genies. This pack has shapes in six assorted colors to be collected, worn, or traded with friends. They can be treated as traditional rubber bands and worn as bracelets but spring back into their original shape when not in use. Buy the Fantasy Shapes Silly Bandz for $4.95 now.

Silly Bandz selling like hot cakes

Silly BandzArticle by Tara George, NY Times.

At Michael Casaren’s toy store in South Orange, children from elementary to high school are coming in every day with their wrists and forearms wrapped in a jumble of silicon bracelets, desperate to buy more.

The bracelets are called silly bandz, and they are today’s kid fad. Sold in packs of 12, for about $2.50, or 24 for about $5, they are organized according to theme: animals, princesses, alphabet, Western, for example. Kids stack them on their wrists and trade them. The coveted ones glow in the dark. On a child’s wrist, they look like brightly colored rubber bands, but laid on a lunchroom table for inspection, they revert to their original shape.

“It’s definitely an obsession,” said Mr. Casaren, whose store, Sparkhouse Kids, has sold out and is awaiting a new shipment of 16 cases.

If Sparkhouse Kids is like other stores throughout the region, those cases will also sell out soon after they land on shelves. Kids call stores wanting to know if new bands are in. Parents ask to be put on waiting lists, or even offer to pay more for first dibs on new arrivals.

Teachers have “sillybanned” them from their classrooms for being a distraction. At the After School Program at Tuscan Elementary School in Maplewood, for instance, students were told they couldn’t trade them any longer because the bands were causing arguments and a few children without them were sneaking them away from those with an abundance of them. But like any good craze, interest among the kids only surged when the toy became contraband, or in this case, “contrabandz.”

“It’s totally viral,” said Wendy Bellermann, a mother of three elementary-school children in Maplewood. “It’s the perfect fad from a retail point of view. They are eminently losable. They break.” She added, “If your friend has the princess kind, then you have to have the princess kind, too.”

The Silly bandz craze was first noticed in Birmingham, Ala., late last year, according to one manufacturer, and has steadily spread up the East Coast. Parts of New Jersey, Long Island and Staten Island first started seeing them in November, and those areas are now gripped by the craze. So far the fad has not erupted in the rest of New York City, but one distributor estimates it will in a few weeks when the large toy stores start selling them.

Though they are referred to generically as “silly bandz” by their young collectors, the same product is made by a handful of competing manufacturers and marketed under the names Silly bandz, Zanybandz, and Crazy bandz.

They are popular with boys and girls alike. Students from kindergarten all the way up to high school collect them. There’s a Facebook page with over 83,000 fans and a whole genre of silly bandz videos on You Tube in which kids show off their collections. eBay hosts a lively online auction of the bands where sets can be snapped up at a discount.

The appeal of Silly bandz lies in their perfect combination of being affordable, collectible and tradeable, says Jackie Breyer, editor in chief of The Toy Book, a magazine based in Manhattan. She said they are reminiscent of the Kooky Klicker pens that were popular last year, as well as the Beanie Babies and Webkinz crazes of yore.

“They’re cool to trade, to collect and fun to play with and everyone is, like, going crazy about them,” said Kaitlin Thomas, 8, of Maplewood, who owns between 70 or 80, some of which were bought with money from her piggy bank. “The penguin and golden retriever are my favorites because everyone says the penguin is rare and I think the golden retriever is cute.”

James Howard, president of Oklahoma-based Zanybandz, said he came up with the idea for the bands in the summer of 2009 when he was visiting China, where he manufactures silicone kitchen products. While there, he noticed some shaped silicone bands that were made as office supplies. He said he figured if he made the shapes “cuter,” his nieces and nephews would love them. They did, so he started manufacturing them.

He says the craze took off in Birmingham, where the Learning Express stores started to sell them. Sales quickly went from 25 packs a month to 7,000 a month.

“Pretty soon we were banned in six school districts there, and after we were banned in the first one there was no looking back,” he said. “Getting banned fuels the craze like a five-gallon can of gasoline on a campfire.”

Mr. Howard saw demand hopskotch from Alabama to Florida, then New Jersey and parts of New York. He now sees it heading West. He said his main rival, Silly bandz, was developing the product simultaneously. Their manufacturer, Brainchild Products, based in Toledo, Ohio, could not be reached for comment.

“We’re in about 10,000 stores now,” Mr. Howard said. “We’re hiring eight people a week (to take orders.) The phones are ringing all the time. We have to remind ourselves that we’re selling rubber bands, not body parts for surgery. So if that person doesn’t get their shipment immediately it’s not the end of the world.”

Joel Schreck, whose company, On The Road Reps, is the East Coast distributor for Zanybandz, says the craze is “every bit as big as Webkinz.” He says in 28 years in the business, he’s seen crazes come and go, but what’s unusual about this one is how intense interest suddenly erupts in pockets in one state, rather than spreading uniformly throughout.

Mr. Schreck noted that enthusiasm for a hot product like this can burn out as quickly, so to keep the kids interested, Zanybandz will be bringing out a new set of themes: Circus, Hollywood and A Day At The Beach, which should be available after April 26.

Sean McGowan, an analyst who tracks the toy industry for Needham and Company, said in a high-tech era when children want iPods and iPads and Wii games, it’s refreshing to see something as simple as this get their attention.

“This is the lowest of technologies,” he said.

Silly Bandz Bracelet Craze: School Ban

Silly BandzBy BONNIE ROCHMAN (Time Magazine) – Thu May 27, 2:10 pm ET

The Bandz are now contraband. Schools in several states, including New York, Texas, Florida and Massachusetts, have blacklisted Silly Bandz, those stretchy, colorful bracelets that are creeping up the forearms of school kids across the U.S. And starting this week, all 800-some kids at my son’s elementary school in Raleigh, N.C., were commanded to leave at home their collections of rubber band–like bracelets, which retail for about $5 per pack of 24. What could possibly be so insidious about a cheap silicone bracelet?

“It’s a distraction,” says Jill Wolborsky, a fourth-grade teacher at my son’s school, who banned them from her classroom before the principal implemented a schoolwide ban. One student stole some confiscated Bandz from her desk, choosing them over the cash in her drawer.

Students fiddle with them during class and arrange swaps – trading, say, a bracelet with a mermaid for one with a dragon – when they should be concentrating on schoolwork, teachers say. Sometimes a trade goes bad – kids get buyer’s remorse too – and hard feelings, maybe even scuffles, ensue.

That’s what prompted Karen White, principal of Snow Rogers Elementary School in Gardendale, Ala., in October to become one of the first administrators to forbid students their Bandz. “We try not to limit their freedom of expression and what they wear, but when this became a problem, I knew we had to nip it in the bud pretty quickly,” says White, who has since extended an olive branch in the form of monthly Silly Bandz days.

Silly Bandz are the latest in a long list of kid-centric fads – in the tradition of Cabbage Patch Kids, Beanie Babies, PokÉmon cards and Crocs. BCP Imports LLC, the small business in Toledo, Ohio, that’s behind the bracelets, was not prepared for the frenzy. It’s increased its workforce from 20 employees to 200 in the past year and just this week added 22 phone lines to keep up with inquiries. The company sells millions of packs a month, and Robert Croak, the president, can still hardly believe it. (He took my call after hanging up with Macy’s, which is interested in creating a Silly Bandz float for its storied Thanksgiving Day parade.)

Croak got inspired about three years ago at a product show in China, where a Japanese artist had devised a rubber band cute enough to escape the trash bin. Though Silly Bandz have been out for two years, they began catching on a year ago – Alabama was an early adopter, as were New Jersey and Tennessee. They’re just now gaining traction in California and Texas.

“They’re getting banned because kids play with them so much,” says Croak, who maintains they’re the right product at the right time, a cost-conscious trinket in tough economic times that can even be a learning tool for little ones, kind of like flexible flash cards.

His company receives about 500 fan letters a week. One, signed by a 10-year-old named Logan Librett and a few of his friends in New Rochelle, N.Y., suggested a way to circumvent all the bothersome Silly Bandz restrictions: “Some schools in New York have banned them, but we have ideas that might change that … clear silly bands that teachers can’t see and only glow in the dark.”

Just in case the company bites, Librett offered his address. He’s still waiting.