Etch A Sketch Sales, Stock Surge — Thanks to Romney

Thursday, 22 Mar 2012 03:36 PM

 

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Pushed to the bottom of the toy box by video games and other high-tech gadgets, Etch A Sketch is suddenly drawing lots of attention, thanks to a gaffe that has shaken up the race for the White House.

Ohio Art, maker of the classic baby boomer toy, is sending a big box of Etch A Sketches to the presidential campaigns to say thanks for the publicity and a boost in sales.

It started when Mitt Romney strategist Eric Fehrnstrom was asked Wednesday about the candidate's politics now versus next fall. He likened the Republican's campaign to an Etch A Sketch: "You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again."

Editor's Note: Wall Street Whistleblower Warns of Meltdown, See His Uncensored Interview

Democrats and Republicans alike seized on the remark, saying it was evidence that Romney is a flip-flopper willing to alter his positions for political gain.

GOP rival Newt Gingrich told voters in Louisiana that "having an Etch A Sketch as your campaign model raises every doubt about where we're going." Rick Santorum brandished an Etch A Sketch and told voters he is a candidate who stands "firmly on the rocks of freedom, not on the sands of an Etch A Sketch toy." Santorum's staff also handed out miniature Etch A Sketches to reporters.

While Romney's opponents are hoping the remark will erase his momentum and reframe the debate, the biggest winner might be Ohio Art.

Its stock, which trades over the counter, had nearly tripled by Thursday afternoon to $9.65, and major stores reported a jump in sales, said chairman Bill Killgallon.

"We're proud that one of our products is shaking up the debate," he said.

The toy, with its familiar gray screen and bright-red frame, allows youngsters to draw things by twisting two white knobs. A quick shake erases the image and lets you start over.

Etch A Sketches were made in Ohio until 2000, when the company moved production to China because of increasing costs.

Over the years, Ohio Art and Etch A Sketch have benefited from millions of dollars in free advertising from movies and television. The company saw a big jump in sales after Etch A Sketch landed a role in "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2."

In fact, the toy gets so much free publicity that Ohio Art spends very little on advertising it. Despite its newly found place in Ameican politics, the toy was invented by a French electrical engineer, Andre Cassagnes, and brought to the United States by Oio Art.

The company, based in Bryan, doesn't release annual sales figures but says that more than 150 million of the iconic toys have been sold since 1960. It's most popular with grandparents and mothers who are looking for a bit of nostalgia.

How long the latest bump will last is anybody's guess.

Editor's Note: Wall Street Whistleblower Warns of Meltdown, See His Uncensored Interview

"I'm not sure that just because the candidates are talking about Etch A Sketch that kids are going to tell their moms to go out and buy one," said Martin Killgallon, the company's marketing director.

"While it is still too early to tell what type of spike the product will achieve, we're confident we will see a spike in Etch a Sketch sales. Sales are now up 1,556 percent on Amazon.com," he declared.

One thing the Etch a Sketch won't do is pick sides in the presidential campaign, he said.

"We have a left knob and a right knob," he said, "so we neutrally speak to both parties."


© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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