Webkinz turn 3 — Retailers brace for the cute-and-cuddly crowd

By Lindy Lange

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

They’re cute, they’re cuddly, they’re Webkinz.

Popular with preschoolers to tweens (and even some teens), these Ganz stuffed animals (dogs, cats and everything in-between) come with a secret code (you find it on the toy’s tag) that opens Webkinz World, an online site where owners can play games (both educational and just for fun), do jobs (grow a garden or help the Webkinz veterinarian), and earn "money" to "buy" stuff (clothes, food, shelter) for the online version of their stuffed animal.

And now, they’ve got their own day: April 29. But stores are celebrating things this weekend.


"They’re cute, and with kids playing on computers this is a safer way for them to be online," says Rene Nordus, co-owner of Miracle Mile Shopping Center’s ABC & Toy Zone. Nordus says that, although they’ve been selling Webkinz for two years, the toys really caught on locally last fall.

"Two years ago, we had a two-foot section of Webkinz," she says. "Now, it’s more like 12 or 16 feet."

In celebration of Webkinz’s third anniversary, Toy Zone, along with Webkinz retailers across the country (including Rochester’s Ashley’s Hallmark), will host the Webkinz Extravaganza this weekend. At Toy Zone, there’ll be games (Wheel of Wow and Jelly Bean Challenge), prizes, face painting and refreshments. To add to the excitement, the first 500 customers who make a minimum $10 purchase will receive a free Webkinz.

"I’m excited, it should be fun," says Nordus, adding that the festivities are scheduled to take place during regular store hours (Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.) for as long as supplies last.

So what makes these stuffed animals so special? It’s because "they’re cute and you can go online and play games and buy stuff for your pets and make them cute rooms," says Madison Dreyer, 9, a Rochester third-grader.

Madison bought her first Webkinz last fall on a trip to Disney World. She has 12 now (her favorite is a bulldog she named IPawd), many of which she received as birthday and Christmas gifts. Madison goes online to Webkinz World "as often as my mom lets me" sometimes playing interactive games with her cousins Adam and Austin (and their 20-plus Webkinz) in Texas.

"I like all the games, they’re easy to figure out and fun to play," says Madison whose Webkinz stuffed animals sleep with her every night "and I like that you have to take care of your (online) pets, feed them, give them baths and keep them happy."

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