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Inside the New World of Sticker Enthusiasts

Pipsticks now produces 30 new sticker designs each month, fielding very specific requests in their three Facebook groups. All the stickers in their two monthly packs are now made up of their in-house designs and “the response has been nuts,” Vazquez says. Subscribers frequented the store pre-pandemic, both to get exclusives a few weeks before everyone else, and later, to stock up on extras. “Some designs really speak to people and they want a bunch of them; they want to be able to use them with abandon,” says Vazquez. Their three biggest sellers: Rainbow dinosaurs, sloths wearing t-shirts saying “I love naps,” and a subscriber request—avocados doing yoga.

Vazquez is especially pleased with the moving messages she gets for stickers that touch people’s hearts, such as a sticker of a child in a wheelchair that delighted a kid whose dad uses one. She’s concerned about other aspects of representation too. When she observed that most people on stickers were white, Vazquez set out to change that with her designs; a recent sticker she produced features a Black woman’s hand signing “I love you” in American Sign Language.

Even though Vazquez has found that die-hard sticker lovers “tend to be a bit introverted,” she has found that social media engagement helps fuel her business, and sticker fandom as a whole. “It’s not just a scrolling thing where people are looking at other people’s stuff,” she observes. “They’re asking where someone got the sticker, how long they’ve had it, and if they want to swap it for something else.”

So what is fueling the current sticker revival? It boils down to nostalgia, personalization, and price. Sarah Schwartz, Editor-in-Chief of Stationery Trends Magazine and founder of the website The Paper Nerd, links stickers’ comeback to the “pencil resurgence” she’s seeing in the stationery market. “What stickers and pencils have in common is they’re cheap and they’re collectible. You get one, you tend to get more.” Scwhartz calls them “affordable splurges” and recalls that at the most recent National Stationery Show, most retailers were snapping up stickers. “There is a backlash to the digital transformation of our culture. There’s something simple and accessible about these little endearing objects.”

Brittany Paige
Brittany Paige

Caroline Weaver, 29, owner of New York City shop CW Pencil Enterprise, which at one point boasted its own sticker room, tells me stickers “evoke a really intense sense of nostalgia” for her generation. “We’ve been relying on all these tech devices for long enough now that people are reverting back to these simpler, more pleasurable, more tangible analog things because it’s just a different experience. For the most part stickers don’t have an inherent purpose, so I think adults buy them for the exact same reason that kids buy them: because they’re fun and it makes them happy.”

The crafting boom during the COVID-19 pandemic has also boosted stickers’ appeal. Both Pipsticks and EverythingSmells have seen online sales soar since March. Vazquez’s Pipsticks customers have told her how stickers have helped them get through the “sadness and isolation” of 2020. EverythingSmells’ sales are up 43% over 2019. Founder Riniker believes people “are looking to their childhood toys, stickers, and memories to help soothe and restore” during this challenging time.

Additionally, sticker creators have used their artwork to reflect the upsides and downsides of this tumultuous year, producing images of a dumpster fire and voting sheets, to stickers featuring Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B from the “WAP” video.

Brittany O’Brien, 27, founder of the company Brittany Paige, started selling a “You’re Killing It” hand sanitizer sticker on March 25; it was an instant bestseller, and, customers told O’Brien they’d gifted the sticker to loved ones who’d lost their jobs or were essential workers. One, a nurse at NYU Langone, put the sticker on the computer in the hospital’s break room.

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