Holiday Shopping Notebook: Tutus for Zhu Zhus

AP News
Posted: Dec 03, 2009 3:53 PM

Zhu Zhu Pets are the year's most coveted Christmas gift. Better give something that valuable the pampering it deserves.

How about a nice crocheted sweater for Num Nums? Or a John Deere-themed sleeping bag complete with a hamster-sized pillow for Mr. Squiggles?

Retailers may be struggling to keep the $10 furry robotic hamsters in stock, but some entrepreneurial DIYers are creating a niche market online for scores of Zhu Zhu-sized accessories.

From clothing to carriers, business has been surprisingly brisk.

Aimee Roeschke, 35, began selling Zhu Zhu tutus and hamster headwear_ yes, a category that includes hamster mohawks _ on eBay and Etsy in late November. So far, she's received about 100 orders and managed to make $500 in just over a week.

"I didn't think it would do as well as it did, but it just took off," said Roeschke, who lives in Valencia, Calif., and already sells children's tutus online.

Inspired by a request from her daughters, ages 2, 5, and 7, to make Zhu Zhu clothing to match their own ensembles, she dug into her scrap fabric and whipped up critter-sized costumes in about 15 minutes.

At the online auction house eBay, Roeschke's items start at 99 cents, but typically sell between $5 and $12 each.

Across the country in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Kira McGough is making Zhu Zhu pajamas and pint-sized sleeping bags, each accompanied by a matching hamster headrest.

She's already earned about $400 and is considering asking a friend to help her sew the gear to keep up with demand as the Christmas holidays near.

The most popular items? Anything lined with faux fuzzy wool.

"I guess they want to keep the hamsters warm," joked her husband, Chad.

Kathie Tinkham, a 47-year-old homemaker from Pawtucket, R.I. sewed a mock Zhu Zhu pet out of an old glove and whipped up a handmade hamster home for the creature, complete with felt wood chips sewn into the floor, a Zhu Zhu water bottle and fake hamster food. Priced at $25, it sold in less than 8 hours.

Most of the accessories aren't licensed by the company behind the hamster havoc, Cepia L.L.C., based in St. Louis.

There are, of course, official accessories for devoted hamster fans.

Cepia sells everything from a hamster funhouse and "adventure ball," to a skateboard, car, bed and hamster carrier. And an official iPhone application featuring a series of games starring Mr. Squiggles, the light brown hamster, just launched.

_ AP Retail Writer Ashley M. Heher


Target on the go

NEW YORK (AP) _ Discounter Target Corp. is taking a page from fast-food chains as it opens three limited-time shops in Manhattan; Washington, D.C.; and San Francisco that allows shoppers to order gifts by number.

The shops, called Target To-Go, offers 50 different gifts for all ages, including home decor, gadgets and toys, and the presents all come gift wrapped. The pop-up shops will be open from Dec. 11-13.

"We're always trying to reach our guest in new and interesting ways, and Target To-Go gives city dwellers a joyful, convenient and affordable holiday shopping experience," said Shawn Gensch, Target's vice president, brand marketing in a statement.

Items available include Spin Master Ltd.'s Liv dolls for $19.99, Razor scooters for $25 and women's quilted robes for $15.

_ AP Retail Writer Anne D'Innocenzio