Justin Bieber merchandise hits hot holiday toy lists

The 16-year-old pop star has a doll coming out next month, and it has already found a place on this year's hot holiday toy lists.
By Ylan Q. Mui
Thursday, November 18, 2010; 1:31 AM

Toy developer Jay Foreman has carefully charted the rise of Justin Bieber on what he calls "the heat index."

First he spied the swooshy-haired 16-year-old singer cropping up in tiny photos in the corners of teen magazines. Then Foreman watched him take over entire pages with centerpiece spreads. When he heard late-night comics taking potshots at Bieber in their monologues, he knew it was time.

Justin Bieber was ready for a doll.

"I just know it when I see it, you know?" Foreman said. "That their personality can carry billions of dollars worth of this type of product really says incredible things about their appeal."

Foreman's company, the Bridge, placed a rush order this summer for roughly 1 million Bieber dolls to hit store shelves in time for the holiday season. Toys R Us predicted demand would be so great that it flew the dolls in from Asia, rather than wait for them to arrive by boat. The dolls landed in stores this month and sold out in some locations. The product is slated to become available at other retailers early next month.

"We've got the fever!" said Lisa Harnisch, a vice president at Toys R Us. "He tops all the Google trends. He dominates the Twitter chatter and has sold-out concerts. With this type of opportunity, we knew we wanted to capitalize on it."

Every year, there is intense competition for the elusive title of the hottest holiday toy. This year's contenders include Sing-a-Ma-Jigs, whimsical, colorful creatures that play music when squeezed. There's Paper Jamz, electric guitar look-alikes that play perfectly with just a touch. And the Kinect Xbox video game system is challenging the dominance of Nintendo's Wii.

But the Bieber doll requires no explanation or instruction manual. Few toys can inspire the fervor that he stirs in his fans. They have clicked endlessly on the YouTube videos of him singing around his house - in the bathroom, holding a toothbrush, wearing his jammies - that propelled him to stardom. They have listed "Bieber" as their middle names on Facebook and plastered their Twitter accounts with his photos.

"Omg there's a Justin bieber doll!!!!!?" tweeted a user named kim_luvs_JBiebs. "Another thing added to my Xmas list!!!!!!!!!!!"

Jennifer Lynch, 20, and her college roommate decorated their dorm room at Miami University in Ohio with Bieber posters and were recently awaiting shipment of his biography (heavy on photos, light on text) and a life-sized cardboard cutout. On Tuesdays, Lynch and her sorority sisters post Bieber news and notes on each other's Facebook walls as a pick-me-up.

Never mind that he's only 16 and Lynch is almost of legal drinking age. She is infected with Bieber Fever. Lynch estimates she has spent $100 on Bieber paraphernalia. That's not including the doll, which has a suggested retail price of $18 to $28. She's hoping it'll be under the Christmas tree this year.

"Yeah, he's younger," said Lynch, of Alexandria. "But it doesn't hinder our love for him."

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