Knockoffs abound, but there’s only one Rainbow Loom

Knockoffs abound, but there’s only one Rainbow Loom

Strong-arm tactics at the toy stores up the ante on the rubber band bracelet kits

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Action figures, made on the Rainbow Loom (Courtesy Rainbow Loom Facebook page)
Action figures, made on the Rainbow Loom (Courtesy Rainbow Loom Facebook page)

The Rainbow Loom trend, some have said, is over. The plastic loom with the tiny, colorful rubber bands used by tweens to make bracelets, rings, even flip-flops, was declared dead last Christmas, due to over-distribution.

But there are advantages to being months, even years, behind worldwide curves.

“It’s still pretty strong in Israel,” said Elie Rosenblatt, whose company, V-Zot, has been importing the Chinese-produced kits to Israel since November. “It’s a smaller country, and there’s a thing for creative fads, and this isn’t just a thing for girls.”

What has amazed parents is the accessibility of the Rainbow Loom, a fairly simple product used by boys and girls of all ages. Not everyone can make a Rainbow Loom Triple Single bracelet, but even five-year-olds can handle a Rainbow Loom Single Band bracelet, particularly if they’re using one of the thousands of official and unofficial Rainbow Loom tutorials on YouTube.

The 11.4-inch-long loom was created by Detroit automotive engineer Choon Ng, who was looking for new crafting ideas for his two daughters. Reportedly based on a 19th century craft of looped knots called Brunnian links, it was released in the US three years ago but hit a high last summer, as tweens around the US took the simple product to new heights, designing ever more complicated bracelets, hair accessories and even sandals, ideas that Ng hadn’t considered.

The Wall Street Journal recently wrote about fathers such as New Jersey Governor Christie wearing Rainbow Loom bracelets made by their children (Courtesy YouTube screen grab)
The Wall Street Journal recently wrote about fathers such as New Jersey Governor Christie wearing Rainbow Loom bracelets made by their children (Courtesy YouTube screen grab)

Rosenblatt, a former corporate lawyer from Canada who started an import business three years ago, first came across the Rainbow Loom in Canada last summer, when his daughter received one as a gift from her grandparents.

“She finished her first bag of bands within a few hours, and went back to the store to buy six or seven new colors,” he said. “Someone in the store said they’d never seen anything sell out so fast.”

It took Rosenblatt a few tries to get the company to agree to having him handle Rainbow Loom’s exclusive distribution in Israel, as they needed him to guarantee a certain price while he was committing to making it affordable in Israel.

The first shipment sold out before it even landed in Ashdod. The suggested retail price is NIS 80 — retailers can mark it up or down — roughly equivalent to the US price of $16.99, plus value added tax, and Rosenblatt had few problems convincing stores to carry the product.

Within weeks, Israeli kids were posting their own YouTube how-to videos, as well as the official versions posted by Rainbow Loom Israel, this time with a man narrating the complicated Venn-like diagrams of “Milk-and-Honey” bracelets or Rainbow Loom bracelets designed with one’s name.

What Rosenblatt has faced, however, is steep competition from knockoffs.

“They’re cheaper and garbage, but half the price,” said Rosenblatt. “There’s lots of strong-arming going on.”

Many local toy stores carry the original Rainbow Loom, as well as the cheaper knockoffs. With about eight knockoffs in the local market, all calling themselves the original, it’s hard to steer customers straight, who think they’re “getting the real deal,” said Rosenblatt.

The battle of the knockoffs is happening in the US as well, said Rosenblatt.

“It’s just a little more bold here, because they can sell to the chain stores as well,” he added.

One local outlet that isn’t selling Rainbow Loom is Toys R Us, the US toy store chain, which produced its own version of the plastic loom, Cra-Z-Loom Rubber Band Bracelet Maker. Like other copycat manufacturers, the international chain found itself embroiled in a lawsuit with Rainbow Loom, which claimed the toy store had copied its distinctive C-shaped clips, used as clasps for the bracelets.

According to Rosenblatt, Rainbow Loom has sold over 3 million kits and at least 30 million rubber band packs worldwide. In Israel, around 70,000 rubber band packs have been sold — around 40 million individual bands. He hopes to continue the fad with some recent upgrades, a metal hook that’s longer-lasting than the plastic version and Looming Time, a new kit of watch faces to be used with loomed bracelets.

“You need the metal hook for high-tension designs, like the figurines,” said Rosenblatt, referring to one of the latest designs within the Rainbow Loom fad.

The real Rainbow Loom comes with a ironclad guarantee, even in Israel. Any official Rainbow Loom product, whether loom or hook, is guaranteed for a year from purchase.

“It’s the real thing,” said Rosenblatt. “We stand behind our product.”

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