At the end of August, the team at Pennsylvania-based Fox Chapel Publishing met with a buyer for a national craft chain to hear about holiday season forecasts for a new trend in toys – rubber band looms. "We were shocked by their projections," said Ray Wolf, director of sales and business development at Fox Chapel, adding that after conducting its own research, the publisher decided that the craze could "be something very hot."
And they were right. Building off the Silly Bandz trend of recent memory, the rage for rubber band jewelry was ignited by a toy called Rainbow Loom, developed by Cheong Choon Ng of Michigan. The end result is hundreds of little rubber bands, woven into a colorful bracelet. Rubber band jewelry is now a bonafide phenomenon – how-to videos for Rainbow Loom on YouTube have garnered up to 6.6 million views. Larger toy companies caught wind of the trend, and there are four looms currently on the market.
"For a small company like ours, the only way we can beat the big guys is do what we do best: be quick," remarked Wolf. The editorial department at the 40-person house shifted projects around to make its loom title, Totally Awesome Rubber Band Jewelry, the top priority. Published under Fox Chapel imprint, Design Originals, and written by Colleen Dorsey, a Fox Chapel employee, the book came off the press and was on its way to retailers in mid-October, just seven weeks after the initial meeting with the craft chain. Fox Chapel shifted printing locations from Asia to the U.S. to enable faster reprints.
"In my more than 30 years of book work, I have never had [a book] like this," said Wolf. "As a small speciality publisher, we normally take pride in being fast, nimble, and flexible, but we literally rewrote the book on this one."
According to Wolf, the title sells particularly well at stores that sell the rubber band or looms themselves, pointing to the strength of the specialty retail market. The first printing of 140,000 copies was sold before the units hit the warehouse, and Fox Chapel has gone back to press two more times. More than 500,000 units have been shipped in advance of the holiday season.
While Wolf acknowledges Fox Chapel's hard (and speedy) work of the staff at Fox Chapel, he attributes the books' explosive success to striking while the iron is hot. "I like to think it is all about the book and my sales team," he said. "But truth be told it is about catching a trend at the right time. Kids have embraced this new type of craft in an unprecedented fashion."