Days before Black Friday is a less than ideal time for Elmo, the inspiration for some of the most popular toys ever created, to have his name associated with allegations of sexual misconduct.
Depending on who’s being asked, the resignation of Elmo voice and puppeteer Kevin Clash over accusations of sexual relationships with teenage boys may put a damper on holiday sales of products based on the fuzzy red Sesame Street character.
On Twitter, some consumers vented their distaste for Clash on such preschooler fare as Elmo toy planes, plush stuffed Elmos and Elmo puzzles.
“RIP Elmo, now I got to throw away all my nephew’s Elmo toys,” wrote Twitter user @iamVITAMINCJ.
Hasbro, which makes a $40 Elmo music play set, among other products, stood behind the lucrative monster.
Elmo toys likely account for half to two-thirds of the $75 million in annual sales Hasbro generates from the Sesame Street product line, according to BMO Capital Markets analyst Gerrick Johnson.
“Sesame Street and its wonderful characters have been entertaining and educating children and families for more than 40 years,” the toy company said in a statement. “We are confident that Elmo will remain an integral part of Sesame Street and that Sesame Street toys will continue to delight children for years to come.”
In the 1990s, Tyco’s Tickle Me Elmo product was so trendy that parents swarmed stores looking for it. Chances are that shopper enthusiasm for similar toys will be more muted this year.
Sesame Street producers and product makers will have to “really walk a line very, very carefully here,” said Peter Shankman, vice president at marketing software firm Vocus. They could try to rework the Elmo brand to help teach kids to avoid strangers, he said.
“The problem is, Elmo had a grown-up problem in a children’s world,” he said. “That’s not easy to gloss over.”
But even though “a small percentage of parents” may have some second thoughts, kids will likely still clamor for their so-called “lovable pal,” according to George Cook, a professor at the Simon School of Business at the University of Rochester.
“I think the impact will be very minimal and Elmo the toy will survive another year,” he said.
Clash resigned Tuesday after decades of voicing Elmo on “Sesame Street” after being accused of a second sexual affair, this one with a 15-year-old boy. Cecil Singleton, now 24, sued Clash on Tuesday, alleging a brief relationship when Singleton was underage and seeking $5 million in damages.
Another man, who said he was 16 when Clash allegedly pursued a sexual relationship with him, has since recanted his accusation.