Toy Insider’s annual Hot 20 list, which has a fairly solid track record of predicting the holiday season’s most popular toys, has declared 2018 to be the year of “gender reveal” toys — which I don’t want to discuss right now — and Boxy Girls, which I must.
Boxy Girls: Who or what are they?
Boxy Girls are dolls that order their clothes on the internet. They were created by Jay at Play, a toy company housed within the New York-based home goods company Jay Franco & Sons, which reportedly makes about $140 million a year selling pop culture- and cartoon-branded towels and bedding.
Boxy Girls are boxy. Their eyes, and heads, and mouths, and feet are designed to look sort of like boxes. This design choice is meant to draw a parallel between the girls themselves and the boxed clothes, accessories, and “surprises” that come with them — in miniaturized shipping boxes, because Boxy Girls are dolls that shop online. Get it? They are boxy, and they love boxes.
They combine the culture of online shopping with a spinoff on the unboxing trend — the huge genre of YouTube videos in which video makers simply open packages, be they of toys or expensive gadgets or enviable sneakers or crates of beauty products. The draw is the secondhand thrill of someone else’s purchase, the joy of envying another person’s newly acquired goods.
Unboxing is a huge industry — just one of its many stars is a child whose family helps him operate a channel called Ryan ToysReview, and nets enough views to make around $1 million a month in advertising revenue. The PR firm hired by Boxy Girls’ creators savvily sent samples to some of the biggest unboxing video creators, who then made unboxing videos of the unboxing-themed toy. The top entry, so far, has 1.5 million views. It’s a gorgeous YouTube-era success story and a huge win for the idea of consumerism as play.
Joe Sutton, president of Jay at Play, is happy to tell me about Boxy Girls, but he jokes three times that he “won’t say the name” of the company that dominates online shopping and most often sends out those familiar brown boxes. This is probably because Boxy Girls’ first major retail partner was Walmart, and to say the name “Amazon” would be a little rude.
“[The boxes] feel and open very much like a shipping box, so we include things like tissue paper, confetti, etc.,” Sutton explains. “And with the girls comes the continual opportunity to buy what more unique fashion accessories from what we call from our lookbook. All this gives the effect of receiving an online order from — I won’t use that other name — from sites like designer sites, whether it be Kate Spade or Sephora.”
Sutton tells me the idea for “dolls that shop online” came up in the summer of 2017. It was still rough when his team first spoke to “our first retail partner out there in Arkansas,” but Walmart loved the idea and emphasized to him: “It’s very, very important to create the experience for the consumer, so they’re actually feeling that they’re opening up packages from these girls and they’re shopping online with these girls.”
Boxy Girls debuted with TV ads in May of this year, and Sutton describes the response as bordering on hysteria: “People all over the country, whether it was Compton, California, or Jackson, Mississippi, or Dixon, Tennessee, or East Brunswick, New Jersey — Boxy Girls were selling out at a rapid pace in July and August, [which was also] when they initially hit the shelves at Walmart.”
“We wanted to give the kids the experience that they’re truly receiving online orders shipped to them in the mail,” Sutton says. “That’s why we have the box-theme look, and the boxes have a brown feeling. That’s what you see on your doorstep every day at home. There’s always a box coming from someplace special, which I won’t mention that name, okay?” (It’s Amazon.)
The original Boxy Girls are Riley (the New York City fashionista), Willa (the festival girl), Brooklyn (the foodie with an Instagram account), and Nomi (the rocker chick). “Season two” of the Boxy Girls fashion and accessories lines will launch this coming spring, alongside four new “gals” named Hannah, Nila, Hazel, and Kiki. Sutton emphasizes to me that the Boxy Girls do not have ethnicities.
I would like to see the Boxy Girls in person. Unfortunately, Jay at Play — which currently has an F-rating from the Better Business Bureau, mostly due to reports of unresponsive or unhelpful customer service — is moving to Florida in the next few months, so I am not allowed to visit its New York showroom. When I ask if I can get a visit to the showroom in before the move, Sutton repeats, “Jay at Play is moving to Florida.”
Though I will never witness it personally, Sutton tells me this trend is going to do nothing but grow this year. “Boxy Girls will be our frontrunner as far as creating interesting revenue for 2018 and on. … We’re looking to build the brand tenfold.”