BRACE YOURSELF. The hula hoop is making a comeback — properly patented, on a wave of television promotion and with an added rattle. It is fully nine years since the simple, extruded-plastic hoops first had most of North America gyrating like so many whirling dervishes and sent a fair number of adult faddists into doctors’ waiting-rooms with slipped discs.
The craze eventually died, say the manufacturers, as much because of excessive competition as lack of consumer interest. So many firms were turning out hula hoops that it took the original maker, the Wham-0 company of California, until 1965 to straighten out its patent. Wham-O has now licensed Toronto’s Li’l Beaver Toys and Trucks Ltd. to make and
market the hula hoop in Canada.
The Mark II hula hoop has an added dimension. Beads inside the plastic make a rhythmical rattling sound when the hoop is spun. Li’l Beaver, who have a $500,000 advertising budget, are promoting the new version on 63 TV stations and retailing the hoop for $1.98. So far they have threatened infringement-of-patent suits against at least three other Canadian manufacturers who have tried to cash in on the publicity..
The hoops were test-marketed in Australia last January and were an immediate hit with the seven-to-15year-old age group. Further tests in three United States markets early last summer confirmed that there is a new younger generation able to be turned on to hula hoops. Li’l Beaver is also out to reactivate adult interest.
“We’re launching a diet program for adults involving hula hoops,” says sales manager Ken Nuttall, “and we’ve got girls swinging around Expo with hoops to show how it’s done. We’ll also be sponsoring hula hoop competitions for people of all ages. The hoop is here to stay. After all. the yo-yo never really died out.”
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