the hottest toy of the year," says Gerald Storch, chairman and CEO of Toys "R" Us. "There's absolutely no doubt about it." Needham & Co. analyst Sean McGowan thinks they'll be the biggest toy craze
since Tickle Me Elmo in 1996.
The rodents are made by Cepia, a seven-year-old, 16-employee company in St. Louis started by Russell Hornsby, a former Mattel employee. In a brainstorming session about creating a robotic toy, Cepia execs last year narrowed the list of candidates to a fish, a dog and a hamster. "Out of these, [a live] hamster is the one parents least like getting," says Natalie Hornsby, the company's marketing director, and Russell Hornsby's daughter. "So we figured a toy substitute would have some value."