The formerly nameless tiny green character from The Mandalorian Disney+ streaming series is, hands down, the most popular item of the holiday season this year, according to Matthew Purdy, owner of Toy Traders in Langley.
“This is the hottest toy of the year,” Purdy told the Langley Advance Times, demonstrating how an animatronic Grogu toy can open his eyes, waggles his ears and makes cute burbling sounds, exactly like the series.
Formerly known as ‘baby Yoda,” after the Jedi master from the original films, the creature was finally named last month, about two-thirds of the way through the second season of the Disney+ streaming series that is devoted to the attempts of the title character to reunite the “child,” or “asset,” as he is referred to by some characters, with his own people.
It is a struggle keeping the toy on the shelves.
“We just got 18 more, and we’ll be out in two, three days,” Purdy estimated during a Wednesday Dec. 9 interview.
The difference this year, is there are actually toys based on the character that are available before Christmas, unlike last year, when there was a frustrating delay in getting toys based on the tiny alien to market.
In December of 2019, the new character introduced in the Star Wars series was an instant hit, but no dolls were made prior to the premiere of the show for fear of the character being leaked.
As a result, none were available until the new year.
This year, in addition to a moving and burbling life-sized Grogu, there are many other versions available, including plush toys and games.
Like every business, the iconic toy store has had to adjust during the pandemic, taking steps to limit the spread of the coronavirus through the use of measures like masks and social distancing.
There will be no seasonal visit by “Santa Vader” and other cosplay Star Wars characters this year, due to what a Toy Traders newsletter cites as “complications caused by Death Star droid COVID-19.”
According to the newsletter, Vader will return next year with a friend – the Grinch.
READ MORE: VIDEO: Langley kids meet ‘Darth Santa’
Purdy has noticed a change in buying patterns as well, especially a surge surge in sales of traditional jigsaw puzzles and board games that can be played at home.
“Puzzles have been big since the pandemic started,” Purdy observed.
“This year, because of COVID, we can’t travel, we’ve got to stay at home. we’re trying to be safe,” he summarized.
“People want to entertain their kids, so games and puzzles are bugger than ever.”
So big, in fact, that the store initially had to limit the number of puzzles any one person could buy during the early days of the pandemic.
“We had to tell people, you can only buy one of each,” Purdy recalled.
Purdy said it appeared some were buying multiples of the same puzzle from Toy Traders, then trying to resell them at a markup.
Things have settled down some since then, and the restrictions are no longer necessary, he added.
Another Toy Traders expert, Lori Heppner, has noticed anything that can keep kids occupied at home is selling well.
“Everything indoors is up [in sales],” Heppner commented.
Among the top sellers are crafts and science kits, “which is great for little minds – it keeps their minds going, it keep their little hands going,” Heppner said.
Like most indoor-friendly products, they are “flying out of the store,” she commented.
Always-popular Lego also has a Mandalorian connection, with different u-build projects for different age and skill levels.
One especially popular Lego offering, Heppenr said, is “NINJAGO” which is set in a kid-friendly world of ninjas battling against evil.
Harry Potter and Jurassic World Legos are also doing well.
Other popular items cited by the Toy Trader online newsletter, are L.O.L. Surprise collectible dolls – the name stands for Little Outrageous Little Surprise — as well as the Funko Pops series of vinyl figurines, based on a pop culture character.
And yes, there is a Mandalorian Funko, holding Grogu.
— LEGO NINJAGO Movie (@NINJAGOmovie) January 1, 2018
When customers come to Toy Traders, they are less likely to linger these days, Purdy has observed.
“Wer’e seeing people for shorter bursts of time,” he noted.
Where before, people might be inclined to linger to look over the many displays, now they arrive with a goal and a desire to efficiently realize it.
“Nobody wants to be shopping too long,” Purdy commented.
READ ALSO: VIDEO: Celebrity Kevin Smith delivers Facebook Live tour of Langley toy store
Toy Traders, at 19880 Langley Bypass, is B.C.’s biggest independent toy store.
It routinely wins positive reviews for its selection and atmosphere, with one of the most memorable endorsements coming from filmmaker Kevin Smith, who called it “phenomenal,” and “spellbinding,” during a 2018 tour of the premises, live-streamed online