By Bailey Faulkner
The late ’90s saw Beanie Babies come and go. More recently, Webkinz exploded and quickly receded from national attention. Now, the hottest fad for kids — and many adults — is the newly-famous (or infamous) fidget spinner.
If you are a parent of a public school child or someone who likes to keep your hands occupied during day-to-day tasks, you probably already know more than you’d ever like to find out about the ball bearing spinners originally intended to help users with ADHD. Like many of the seemingly silly trends of previous generations, spinners have now risen from their original purpose to become one of the best-selling toys — or gadgets, as some would argue — in America.
“The fad has transcended kids and adults that may have benefitted most from spinners,” says Karyn Kennedy Herterich, proprietor of Blowing Rock gift shop Serves You Right.
Herterich, who has seen countless fads rise and fall during her 40 years in retail, doesn’t seem very surprised that fidget spinners have recently skyrocketed in popularity.
“Kids are funny because what spinners might have originally been used for, kids have found ways to make competitive,” Herterich observed. “We sold hundreds and hundreds of them during spring break.”
Although the hype surrounding them might indicate otherwise, spinners are relatively simple contraptions. The average fidget spinner is comprised of a central pad with ball bearings connected to a rotating disk with two or three wings. By grasping the center pad, the user can spin the rotator disk while reading, writing, talking on the phone or carrying on an assortment of daily tasks.
Many believe the act of spinning helps calm the user and increases his or her ability to remain focused on the task at hand. While the science behind the devices is uncertain to say the least, it is a fact that fidget spinners have become a hit.
“I bet I get twenty emails a day from vendors that I don’t buy from pushing the spinners,” Herterich said.
While a sudden abundance of a certain product usually drives down prices for customers, fidget spinners haven’t necessarily followed most people’s expectations. In fact, spinners first hit the market as relatively low-quality gadgets; only recently have companies begun to produce top-of-the-line spinners, which usually retail at around $20.
While some manufacturers like Top Trenz have developed sturdy, high-performance models, soaring demand has inevitably caused an influx of cheap and fragile spinners that can rotate unassisted for only around 20 seconds or fewer. Spinners like those made by Top Trenz are capable of maintaining a spin for two or three minutes without interference from the user.
Although some reliable spinners currently on the market may perform better than others, some of the lowest quality spinners can be detected immediately. A recent shortage of ball bearings in China has led some low-end manufacturers to include used or even rusted bearings in their products. A quick Google search can find some sites selling the devices for as low as $1 or lower. You should probably avoid those if you are looking into purchasing one for yourself.
If Herterich has learned anything about hopping on the latest trend or fad, it is that keeping your ears open is essential.
“If you listen to your customers, you can learn a lot. If kids are saying ‘have you heard of such and such?,’ you better be listening.”
Open ears may collect more than just a few comments from kids on spinners, and that popularity is largely the reason the devices have met criticism from those involved in teaching and school administration.
“We are watching spinners very carefully because many schools are beginning to outlaw them because they can cause distractions in the classroom,” Herterich said.
Having seen her share of similar products rise to stardom only to burn out, Herterich is taking a safe stance on America’s latest gadget craze.
“Like Kenny Rogers said, ‘You have to know when to hold them and when to fold them,’” Herterich remarked.
If you would like something to keep your hands busy or if you’d just like to see what all the fuss is about, you should stop by one of the two Blowing Rock stores while you can. They’re hard to keep from spinning off the shelves!
You can learn more about the spinners at each store by calling Serves You Right at (828) 295-4438 and the Incredible Toy Company at (828) 264-1422. Although the Incredible Toy Company is currently sold out of the hot new gadgets, the store is expecting a shipment in the very near future to accommodate the High Country’s fidgeting needs!