The Super Soaker Craze of the Summer of 1991-92

Summer 1992 Toys-R-Us Ad

An advertisement for the Super Soaker 200 in the New York Times, July 1992.

The Super Soaker became the runaway hit toy of the early 1990s. In 1991, Larami Limited shipped over $90 million worth of Super Soakers to toy shelves across the world accounting for about two million individual Super Soakers. The Super Soaker was an immediate success, as it surpassed the previous generations of water guns in both size and power. Additionally, the Super Soaker did not require any batteries, a major selling point during an age where batteries both drained toys and parents wallets. By the end of 1991, stores were having trouble keeping Super Soakers in stock and the Super Soaker 50 was considered the hottest toy in America.

Parents waited in lines at toy stores to snag a Super Soaker for their children with one retailer noting that the craze for Super Soakers surpassed the Cabbage Patch doll rush of 1983. Larami Limited and retail stores vowed to not be caught off guard in 1992, and production of Super Soakers increased and stores dedicated increased shelf space to accommodate demand.

By 1992, a Super Soaker arms race had begun in earnest. The New York Times described the Memorial Day weekend of 1992 "like the opening day of hunting season." Larami also unveiled new Super Soakers to compliment the Super Soaker 50. Larami stoked demand by airing commercials targeted at children and teens featuring a spot where teens dressed as gangsters used Super Soakers to crash an outdoor party (see video). The summer of 1992 left Larami flush in cash, and sales were up one third compared to 1991.

Retailers cashed in on the demand by increasing shelf space and selling water guns year round. Target reported sales of Super Soakers up triple over 1991 and Kmart doubled its shelf space dedicated to Super Soakers. The arrival of the Super Soaker 100 and 200 also spurred children to urge their parents to upgrade from the more modest Super Soaker 50. When a journalist at the Ottawa Citizen told a coworker he had bought his child a Super Soaker 50, the coworker quipped "It wouldn't cut it on my street" and had already purchased a Super Soaker 100 and 200 for her children out of fear of being left behind in the neighborhood arms race.

The power of these Super Soakers, coupled with their ubiquitous presence on the streets would fuel a backlash to the Super Soaker which began that same summer (see Part 3).

Selected Bibliography:
This big shot is the hottest toy in America. Chicago Tribune. July 28, 1991.
The Rise of Saturday Afternoon Specials. New York Times. May 23,1992.
A neighborhood drenched in moral dilemmas. Ottawa Citizen. June 28, 1992.

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