In a blast from the past rivaling the popularity of video games, classic toys are rolling into the marketplace at warp speed. Leading the pack is the yo-yo: the wheel-on-a-string rumored to have existed since 500 BC.
TV commercials on kid-geared channels like Nickelodeon have boosted industry sales, but demonstrations and competitions are credited with sustaining yo-yo fever nationwide. Middlefield, Ohio-based Duncan Yo-Yos ships thousands of yo-yos weekly, and sales have quadrupled in the past two years, says Mike Burke of Duncan Yo-Yos. The company's latest marketing tool: lesson plans for middle schools, where yo-yos help teach principles of science.
"Today's yo-yos aren't just cute toys," says Lori Northcutt, 33, owner of Phoenix-based The Yo-Yo House. "They're sports equipment."
Northcutt was moved to spin off The Yo-Yo House when, during the 1997 Christmas season, she noticed yo-yos were accounting for more than half the sales at her educational toy store, Brainstorms. When retail space freed up nearby, Northcutt moved fast to open The Yo-Yo House and, between the two stores, sold 20,000 yo-yos last Christmas alone. Since then, she's added San Diego and Chicago locations of The Yo-Yo House.