SIMSBURY, CT—There’s nothing like a hug from a friend, and it’s a moment sure to surprise and delight guests. Hoteliers have picked up on this, too, providing stuffed animal “friends” as an in-room amenity or even an offering at check-in. The New England Toy Company seeks to drive brand awareness and leave guests feeling warm and fuzzy with the help of a plush pal.
You might say founder Josh Livingston is a toy aficionado. He’s been doing this for more than a decade. The New England Toy Company designs and produces custom stuffed toys based on a company’s mascot, character or a stuffed animal branded with the company’s logo. With a minimum quantity of 1,000 pieces, hotels of all sizes have the opportunity to create a custom stuffed animal.
“We know that stuffed toys are an item that people seem to keep forever—they treat them like they are alive! Therefore, a stuffed toy given as a free gift to hotel or resort guests or sold in a gift shop is an item that will be a reminder of the great experience they had at a resort,” said Livingston. “With our service, hotels do not need to be limited to off-the-shelf or stock stuffed toys that simply have a t-shirt with the hotel logo on it. Instead, they can have a completely custom stuffed toy that has their logo directly embroidered or printed on the toy or made to look exactly like their mascot or character.”
Stuffed toy concepts are developed and designed in the U.S., with production occurring with a partner facility overseas. Livingston and his team provide hotels with a prototype sample for approval and then move into order production. New England Toy Company handles the logistics, including safety testing, custom clearance and delivery to the hotel.
“We begin by learning if the stuffed animal will be a free gift to guests or if the hotel intends to sell the item in the gift shop. Knowing this helps us develop the right size and price point to fit within the budget,” he said. “We then discuss if they have an idea for a certain animal or character or, if not, we research what animal is native to the location of the hotel, so that we are developing an appropriate animal. For example, a hotel in Hawaii may want a turtle or gecko and not a polar bear.”
According to Livingston, teddy bears and dogs are among the most requested stuffed animal type by hoteliers, as well as animals that are native to the hotel’s locale.
“Most of our clients are looking to provide a free gift that will give guests a ‘warm and fuzzy’ feeling as a reminder of their stay and to be a high quality representation of their brand,” said Livingston. “We have had great feedback with hotels re-ordering the same animal year after year or deciding to do a different animal each year. Some of our clients include Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel Hawaii; Four Seasons Beverly Hills in California; The Ritz Carlton Chicago; and Planters Inn in Savannah, GA.”
One of his favorite creations is a teddy bear holding a clap board made for Four Seasons Beverly Hills, illustrating the company’s ability to tap into the local film industry as the basis for the product.
“I’d like hoteliers to know that they don’t need to settle for a generic stuffed animal as a giveaway or to sell in their gift shop,” he said. “For the same price, they can have a completely custom stuffed toy that will forever remind their guests of the lovely vacation or overnight stay they had at their hotel.”