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When the plastic flamingo trend took flight in the 1980s

The plastic flamingo was having a moment in the 1980s, even if some people didn't want to admit participating in the trend.

Retailers, producers saw double-digit sales gains driven by demand for lookalike plastic birds

When pink flamingos trended in the '80s

36 years ago
0:39
Canadians were having a love affair with pink flamingos in the mid-1980s. 0:39

The retailers watching pink flamingos fly off their shelves were happy to see the plastic lookalikes trending with consumers.

But they weren't sure why it was happening back in 1985.

"No one seems to be able to answer that question and people just don't admit to having them," said Harold Fry, a senior buyer for Canadian Tire, who talked to CBC's The Journal about the trend that summer, when the birds were selling for $5.99 a pair.

The chain had seen its sales of the ornamental birds jump 70 per cent over the previous year, according to The Journal.

You can only sell so many

By 1985 the bright-coloured bird sculptures were popping up everywhere, even though they'd been around for many years. All of a sudden they were featured decorations at parties, they were put in planters, they were left on lawns — sometimes by the owners, sometimes by people playing a prank. 

The people making those flamingos, however, weren't under any illusions that the trend would last forever.

No need for 'additional pink flamingo capacity'

36 years ago
0:33
The Journal's Fred Langan visits a Quebec-based plant where pink flamingos were made. 0:33

In Canada, Tucker Plastics was making the flamingos — and was reportedly the only company in the country doing so. Owner Don Henderson believed the market for these products was likely becoming saturated.

"Let me put it this way: We're not going out and building additional pink flamingo capacity," Henderson told The Journal.

Months later, however, the Chicago Tribune would report that the company had sold more than 100,000 sets of the birds to U.S. and Canadian customers that year. And Henderson told the paper sales were up 35 per cent for his company. 

Real vs. plastic

The flamingo motif was also making appearances in wooden sculptures, tie racks and the real birds were featured on the intro of the Miami Vice TV show.

While flamingos were surely having a moment, The Journal's Fred Langan predicted that actual flamingos would be the more popular flamingo in time.

The real versus the plastic pink flamingo

36 years ago
0:24
The Journal's Fred Langan talks about the real and the plastic pink flamingo. 0:24

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