Fidget spinners, the hit toy that spun out of nowhere

By By JOSEPH PISANI Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Stores can't keep them in stock. Parents are scrambling to find them. And some schools have banned them.

The mania for fidget spinners -- the 3-inch twirling gadgets taking over classrooms and cubicles -- is unlike many other toy crazes. They're not made by a major company, timed for the holiday season, or promoted in TV commercials. They're more easily found at gas stations or 7-Eleven than at big toy chains.

"It just took off," says Richard Gottlieb, a consultant at Global Toy Experts in New York.

Fidget spinners have been around for years, mostly used by kids with autism or attention disorders to help them concentrate. But they exploded in popularity this spring.

Shannan Rowell, a sixth-grade special education teacher, says that after a weeklong break in late April more than half of her 25 students suddenly had one.

"They seem to be taking over classrooms," says Rowell, who lives in North Grafton, Massachusetts.

Gottlieb thinks it's likely a kid brought one to a playground and the craze spread from there. Recent YouTube videos of people spinning them on their noses, foreheads and shoes also helped.

Helen Holden heard about fidget spinners last month when her 7-year-old twins demanded she stop at a 7-Eleven to buy them.

"I thought it was a drink," says the bank vice president and blogger from Los Angeles.

That store was sold out, and so were several other 7-Eleven locations that she called.

The chain says spinners have "been flying off the shelves" since they went on sale in March.

Holden's kids said they needed them before school on Monday so they could practice spinning them. So she signed up for Amazon Prime, paid $5.99 for one-day shipping and had two $15 fidget spinners delivered on a Sunday.

"I totally got suckered by my kids," she says.

At Funky Monkey Toys, owner Tom Jones says he got a phone call about the fidget spinners in April. About 30 minutes later, another person called. "I said, 'Whatever they are, I need to get them.'"

Now, the phone has been ringing 20 to 30 times a day with people checking if they're in stock.

His shop in Oxford, Michigan, can sell up to 150 in a day.

"We run out of them frequently," says Jones, who recently got a shipment of 2,000.