The lessons of fidget spinners

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YOU can spin them on your nose, chin, finger or tongue. Some include LED lights; others resemble a ship’s wheel, or even a skull and crossbones. The fidget spinner has three paddle-shaped blades attached to a central, weighted disc containing ball bearings. Flick a blade and it spins—for as long as 12 minutes, if it’s an advanced model from Japan. Originally designed to help calm children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or autism, it swept the world earlier this year as a toy that everyone could play with.

Retail sales have undoubtedly slowed recently, says Mark Austin of ToyWorld, a trade publication—good news for the schools that have banned the toys as too distracting for pupils. But the spinner has created a new “fidget” category of playthings. And the global toy industry has learned lessons from its surprising success.

The fad started in America in February. By May, all 20 of the top-selling toys on Amazon,…

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