Oxford Dictionaries made “selfie” the word of the year in 2013. U.S. consumers responded by making the “selfie stick” the gift of the year in 2014.
Around the U.S. this holiday season, camera shops, department stores and pharmacies have been having a hard time keeping up with demand for the selfie stick, a retractable pole that people clamp onto their smartphones to take better pictures of themselves.
Nordstrom, which carried the Selfie On A Stick model in 118 stores starting in late November, said it had to reorder the item twice before Christmas and is currently sold out.
ProMaster, which supplies camera accessories to 500 U.S. stores, said it had to keep re-ordering selfie sticks after running out of stock. On Dec. 25, the hashtag #selfiestick dominated Twitter, as gift-receivers posted pictures of themselves with the gadgets, which typically sell for $10 to $30.
“We basically couldn’t keep them in stock,” said Jirair Christianian, owner of Mike’s Camera, a 12-store chain based in Boulder, Colorado. “People are taking a lot of selfies these days. The selfie stick makes it easy and makes it fun.”
The holiday craze adds to evidence that selfies – photos taken of oneself and shared on social-media sites – have gone mainstream, even with a lingering stigma that such photographs are emblamatic of a narrcissistic society.
Hundreds of thousands of selfie sticks have likely sold in the U.S. since this summer, including about 100,000 in December alone, though there’s no official tally since the products are so new to market, said Andy Brennan, an analyst at researcher IBISWorld. The items became popular in camera shops over the summer and demand intensified around Thanksgiving after Time magazine named the selfie stick one of the best inventions of the year.
“It was one of the most popular Christmas gifts this year,” said Brennan, who added that drugstores including Walgreen’s Duane Reade had trouble stocking the gadgets. “Every retailer I spoke with about selfie sticks sold out and had to resupply.”
A representative for Walgreen didn’t return a call for comment.
Caroline DiMauro was in line at a Walgreen store just a few days before Christmas in Cincinnati when she picked up the gift last minute.
“I was ecstatic when I saw it,” DiMauro said. “I had just overheard my daughter talking about how it was one of the latest hot gadgets.” Thirteen-year-old Isabella said she plans to use it to make YouTube videos with her brother and sister.
Various manufacturers make selfie sticks, technically called extendable monopods. Some of the products include Bluetooth remotes that trigger the camera. Others require the user to set a timer on their smartphone to take the shot. Many of the sticks can unfold as long as about 4 feet.
Selfie sticks are more than for just vanity shots of oneself. Photographers can use the pole to extend their reach, getting more friends and family members in a shot or including more sights in the background. The stick can help people get interesting camera angles or be used as a microphone boom arm.
“It’s not just about shooting your eight closest friends at arm’s length,” said Mike Worswick, owner of Wolfe’s Camera in Topeka, Kan., who added that selfie sticks were the best-selling device this month. “It has some useful applications that go beyond the obvious.”