Comfy Critters could push IPG to $30 million in 2017

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 1,291 views 

Doug Keller has hitched his toy wagon to an online feline. If his track record is any indication, that should lead to even greater success for Rogers headwear and apparel company Infinity Product Group.

Keller, founder and CEO of the Rogers-based company, said IPG’s trademarked Comfy Critters brand will soon include a new character — “Grumpy Cat,” an Arizona feline whose real name is Tardar Sauce. Grumpy Cat, known for her distinct grumpy facial expression, has been an internet and television superstar since 2013 when her owner’s brother posted a picture of the puss online. The Official Grumpy Cat Facebook page has nearly 9 million followers, and the feline has made numerous television appearances on all major networks.

Keller announced the exclusive licensing agreement with Grumpy Cat’s owner at Toy Fair, an annual trade show held recently in New York City and produced by the nonprofit trade group Toy Industry Association Inc.

“We’ll have the product in the market in the July-August timeframe,” Keller said. “The Grumpy Cat popularity is crazy.”

IPG produces and sells a wide variety of items in a number of retail outlets. It has licensing agreements with numerous brands including Major League Baseball, Ford, Chevrolet, Primos and Professional Bull Riders.

But since securing a critical licensing deal with Nickelodeon 18 months ago, it’s the company’s trademarked Comfy Critters products that are beginning to gather momentum in the toy category. Just in the past three months, Keller has made a successful Comfy Critters pitch on the Home Shopping Network – selling 2,500 products in less than 10 minutes – IPG has launched its first national television commercial and the company has signed a worldwide distribution deal through Australian-based distributor Funtastic.

With Comfy Critters playing a larger role, Keller said IPG’s total sales in 2017 are expected to be more than $30 million, a 20% increase in the past four years.

“We’ve taken our time to grow and expand the Comfy Critters product from a grass-roots perspective,” Keller said. “We’ve got our patent on the product, and we’ve put our marketing efforts behind it. And we’re starting to see the results pay off. Again, we do a big headwear business, but we’re definitely starting to get more calls from people who say, ‘Oh you guys do the Comfy Critters.’ So, the change is definitely coming where one day IPG is [known for] Comfy Critters.”

CRITTERS MEAN CASH
Comfy Critters are wearable hooded blankets that can also be transformed into a plush stuffed animal.  IPG has eight branded characters – a variety of prehistoric, farm, sea and fantasy animals – and there are 14 licensed characters. IPG announced in August 2015 it signed the licensing agreement with Nickelodeon to manufacture, distribute and market Comfy Critters products based on four of the cable network’s animated television shows — “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “PAW Patrol” and “Blaze and the Monster Machine.”

Comfy Critters are available online only at Amazon.com and mycomfycritters.com. Keller said the website is drawing about 1,000 unique visitors each day, and converting nearly 10% of those visitors into sales.

“Last year we were selling 200 Comfy Critters a week; now we’re selling 3,000 a week,” he said. “For us, we’ve never really based our success on what we sell on the internet. But with Comfy Critters, it’s exciting to us that we are seeing our product sell other places besides brick-and-mortar stores. I compare the trajectory we’re on with Pillow Pets, and if you look at what it took them four or five years to do, we are well ahead of them.”