Squishy Mogu pillows prove a big hit

NEW YORK (Kyodo) Yoshinobu Ishida walked through the plastic foam manufacturing company his father founded, pondering a way to sustain the business.

He picked up some of the tiny beads left on the floor, wrapped them in fabric and realized the answer he was looking for was right in front of him.

This was in 2000, and the beads, taken from the remnants of bicycle helmets, led Ishida to create what ultimately became known as Mogu, an ultra-squishy, uber comfortable pillow.

Mogu products are designed not only in standard square and rectangular shapes, but in hearts, stars, tubes and even chairs, coming in a variety of bright and pleasing colors.

Since the opening of a flagship store in January in downtown Manhattan, sales of Mogu have been very good, according to Mogu America CEO Hiroshi Matsumiya.

“I am worried about stock due to the fact that our products are selling out so quickly. We pile shipments of new pillows on top of new pillows but they disappear so rapidly,” said Matsumiya, 46.

Under the parent company, Osaka-based Ebisukasei Inc., Ishida launched a home furnishings division for the product — originally called the Pom Pom Cushion.

In the first nine months of 2002, Ebisukasei’s sales soared from $10 million to $50 million.

The success of Mogu at the Salone de Mobile design show in Milan, Italy, in the spring of 2003 made Ishida decide to look for a way to launch it in the United States.

The first initial test run saw as many as 20,000 pieces sold per week in notable U.S. retail shops, such as Brookstone and Urban Outfitters.

Collaborating with American and Japanese entrepreneurs during the same year, Mogu gained a firm foothold in the United States.

Prices at Mogu start at $19.99 and the most expensive item, at $2,499, known as swivelball, is an egg-shaped seat you sink your body into.

“We believe that people want comfort — many kinds of comfort — in the environment around them,” said Geoff Roesch, director of business development for Mogu America.

A new cushion set, slated for arrival in autumn, is called Mogu People, a collection of 18 cushions representing ideas such as “joy,” “courage” or “patience.”

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