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Kids stuck on Stikeez a headache for parents

| Innovation and technology

They are cute, only a few centimetres tall and seem harmless. But they are driving some parents to distraction and have been banned from certain schools.

Barely a month after Pick n Pay introduced them, Stikeez figurines have put children in a frenzy and parents out of pocket.

Marketing analyst Chris Moerdyk said the phenomenon of "pester power" - whereby children nag their parents into buying items - is here to stay.

He said: "Pester power is so powerful that children are responsible for 40% of parents' [choice of] motor vehicle colour."

He said shoppers could expect more aggressive marketing campaigns due to the "competitive market place" and "tough economic times".

Rustenberg Girls' Junior School in Cape Town has experienced a number of "unhappy incidents" involving Stikeez.

Principal Di Berry said: "The incidents relate to conflict during the swapping processes, exclusion from swapping processes and the disappearance of Stikeez.

"We do not believe [the collectibles are] safe for all children, especially younger children."

Staff at a Johannesburg school said that the "huge craze" had led to incidents of "swapping and stealing" during school hours.

In a snap online poll that The Times conducted yesterday, 56.4% of those surveyed expressed "hate" for the squishy figurines.

Some parents have capitalised on the fad by selling "leftovers" on Gumtree. Bertus Pienaar advertised a Stikeez collection on Sunday for R450.

It was sold within hours.

Pick n Pay said the craze had exceeded its expectations. There are 24 different Stikeez characters and shoppers get one free Stikeez for every R150 spent.

But there have been reports that some mothers are "delighted" that their children have ditched their iPads and stopped watching Dora the Explorer to play with their Stikeez.

While some schools are banning the toys, others are using Stikeez as an educational tool. Swap groups have sprouted around the country and a Pretoria audiologist has even turned her practice into a "one-stop swap shop". Adults are also using the figurines, albeit for more functional reasons - as place markers on wine glasses, for example.

The Stikeez sales are part of an agreement Pick n Pay entered into with Brand Loyalty, which is overseeing the Stikeez campaign in 20 other countries, including Germany, Russia, Italy, Greece and Sweden.

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