When you think of holiday-themed toys, most of them involve a tradition in the month of December. But Reindeer in Here reins in a message for a year-long celebration.
Reindeer In Here is a book and plush set sent by Santa in December as the first gift kids can get during the holiday season. The story behind the plush is that it wants to get to know each child and celebrate that being different is normal. Kids are then encouraged to take their new plush friend everywhere with them to go on adventures and help Santa make their Christmas wishes come true.
The product was also on display at Wonder Works’ ELFstravaganza event in Charleston, South Carolina on Neighborhood Toy Store Day to kick off the holiday season. The Toy Book caught up with Adam Reed, author, creator, and CEO of Reindeer in Here, and Christine Osborne, owner of four toy stores, Wonder Works, about the product’s success and its performance at specialty retail.
The Toy Book: Tell me about Reindeer in Here and how it got started.
Adam Reed: I am actually a TV producer by day, and four years ago I had never even written a children’s book. One morning I woke up from a dream, went to the gym, and stream of consciousness wrote my first book and had no idea where it came from. Titled Bee In The Sea, I self-published it, it won a bunch of awards, it sold well, and figured I’d do that as a hobby. Flash forward to two years later (2016), when my daughter was about to turn two, we wanted to start a family Christmas tradition with her. As I looked in the market I couldn’t find one that I felt had a true positive Christmas message, was a tradition I’d want to repeat for many years, wasn’t going to stress me or my wife out having to move it everyday coming up with ridiculous scenarios, and that could also be a true Christmas friend to a child. So after searching and searching for that and not finding it, I decided to create that magical story and tradition. And of course, what is the most magical thing beyond Santa at Christmastime? A reindeer of course! Add to that the fact that I wanted children to be able to take their magical Christmas friend anywhere and everywhere, and the title Reindeer In Here was born!
TB: What is the message behind Reindeer in Here?
AR: Reindeer In Here a Christmas friend sent by Santa as the first gift of the holiday season to get to know each individual child and celebrate that being different is normal. It’s important to note that this reindeer has one antler smaller than the other—this “different” reindeer was the one that came up with the idea to send all of Santa’s reindeer to each individual child early in the holiday season so the reindeer can get to know them and then tell Santa about their true Christmas wishes.
Christine Osborne: “Different is normal” is truly a magical message that is about one to two years ahead of its time. Mindfulness and bullying are some of the topics brands address, however, no one has hit on Adam’s message. In this day and age, children are introduced to divorce, cancer, learning disabilities, and more at a younger age than we were. Reindeer in Here provides a coping mechanism—one that shares we are all unique and different in our own way and that life is not smooth all the time. That bumps along the way, whether physical or emotional, are the norm. Learning to cope, discuss one’s feelings, and have a snuggly friend that makes one feel better is extremely important to a child. Children all have friends that have different things going on with themselves, a family member, or a friend. Viewing this as normal, it helps develop a child’s healthy perceptive of life. It will allow for a more well-rounded individual, that tolerates diversity with compassion and love. Adam Reed’s message is extremely timely.
TB: How is the message unique from other holiday-themed products?
AR: Because it is more than just a positive Christmas tradition, it has a core message that resonates year-round—that being different is normal. It’s not that being different is special, but it is normal. We are all different and that should be celebrated. That is the true reason why parents and children all over the world have fallen in love with it. Add to that, the fact that it works on multiple levels (1) It’s a positive elf alternative; (2) it’s a child’s Christmas friend they can take anywhere and everywhere; (3) there is NO STRESS for parents; (4) the message that being different is normal; and (5) it’s a tradition that can be repeated for many years—and it hits every bucket that parents have been looking to fill for themselves and their children at Christmastime.
CO: As early adopters of Elf on the Shelf, Wonder Works was one of the very first independent specialty retailers to embrace the Elf’s Magic and still does. However, Reindeer in Here is an excellent example that the holiday itself is celebrated in many ways across the globe. Each have their own magical message to share and each are necessary in this day and age. Reindeer in Here’s different is normal message is timely and culturally necessary, whereas Elf on The Shelf’s magic of the holidays specializes primarily on the magic of the season.
TB: What was consumer reaction for Reindeer In Here this holiday season?
AR: Tremendous! In only one year of being launched, we were in more than 1,200 independent retailers; 19 million in-home catalogs; have incredible reviews (almost all 5-star) on Amazon and Facebook; have tens of thousands of comments, direct messages, and emails from parents all over the world about how much their children have connected with the reindeer; and we will do 50 to 60 times the business we did last Christmas. It is an incredible testament to the fact this brand is truly resonating on every level, and for it to spread so fast and be so positively received has really made me proud. I am honored to have the ability to have my brand invited into family’s homes as a yearly Christmas tradition and I take that responsibility very seriously.
CO: Wonder Works has four local toy locations in one of the top tourist destinations in the U.S. We feature an annual Holiday Kickoff event for Neighborhood Toy Store Day, ELFstravaganza, attended by 6,000 member of the community. The hottest toy manufacturers, large and small, attend. This year, Reindeer in Here was one of the hottest, busiest booths of the entire event. Parents and children flocked to meet Adam, the author, and the Reindeer Mascot. The message that different is normal resonated with everyone, and the ability to cuddle your reindeer and have it provide the security a child needs was an undeniable draw. The kids did not want to put it down! Reindeer in Here is here to stay, as seen by the many plush and book sets sold this holiday season in our locations.
TB: What is the importance of launching Reindeer in Here at first specialty retail?
AR: After our sell-out success in 2017, I had an offer from one of the sharks from Shark Tank (I was not on the show) to go straight into big box retail. I said no, because I want to build this brand smartly and strategically step-by-step. This is a legacy brand and company that I want to leave to my children and grandchildren someday, so building it smartly was key. I was concerned if I went straight to big box it could be seen as a fad and be one and done. So, I decided to commit to independent retail this year because I know the power of these independents. The entire growth of this brand has been grass-roots. I know how amazing independent retailers can be at spreading the word on a very organic level. Amazing independent retailers such as Christine Osborne at Wonder Works have customers that have been coming to their stores for years, and trust them, and to see those customers embracing the brand so widely has been truly amazing. I was lucky enough to do eight weeks of book signings all over the country in these great independent retailers, and it exemplified the organic growth and response as each signing I went to had more and more people as the word spread throughout the holiday season.
TB: Do you have plans to expand distribution?
AR: Right now we are weighing all our options. The brand is being pursued by many retailers big and small, licensing opportunities, and global expansion. While I am flattered by all the interest, I want to find the right partners who believe in the brand, the messaging, and what this can become long-term, and those will be the long-term partners I will be looking to forge ahead into the future with a smart, strategic, methodical build. The future is definitely bright with possibilities and we will be plotting the course early next year.
TB: What’s next for Reindeer in Here?
AR: This is truly 5 percent of what I have planned for this brand. We will be the number one Christmas tradition brand of all time in the not too distant future. I can’t reveal what we have planned, but like we attacked 2018, no one will be anticipating what’s coming for 2019. I am not just treating this like a consumer products company. As I mentioned, I am a TV producer and I am treating this brand the same way I would any TV show I create—with a full 360 degree approach. You will see what I mean by that as next year starts to unfold. We are innovating every year, and are proud to be establishing the new Christmas tradition brand for families all over the world. It truly is just the beginning of what we have in store, and everyday I wake up excited at what lies ahead.
TB: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
AR: I think you are aware of this, but when we launched in 2017 we sold out of our entire inventory on Amazon in under two hours on Black Friday, and it became an instant No. 1 New Release and an instant No. 1 Best-seller. In 2018, we were awarded 12 separate awards, making us the most-awarded Christmas tradition brand of all time! All of the above happened in one year’s time from Black Friday 2017 to Black Friday 2018. We have been praised by many press outlets for Reindeer In Here having officially solidified its place as the only bonafide direct competitor to Elf On The Shelf.
CO: As a specialty toy retailer, it is very rare to find a brand/product that has an internal message that will resonate with everyone. When I saw this and met Adam, I knew it was the real deal. The message is timely and powerful. Sharing this message to a child at a young age can have a dramatic impact on their views of others and affect decisions they make in the future. Children are our future and positive impacts are crucial to making the world we live in a better place.