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What Strategist Readers Are Buying: String Lights and Wireless Chargers

Photo: Courtesy of the retailers

Welcome back to Your Shopping Cart, wherein we break out the top ten products that you, devoted Strategist readers, all bought in droves. Think of this as the TL;DR of the Strategist: If your likeminded brethren are buying these items, maybe you’d like to, too.

This edition of the best-sellers list — our first of 2020 — covers the final days of holiday-gift shopping and includes both returning favorites and some promising newcomers. The doll that trend forecasters told us would be the hottest toy of the season took the top spot for a third time, followed by a lip balm from the Gen Z–beloved Glossier. Closing out the top three is a board book for toddlers. Next up are two new-to-the-list products: a set of string lights in fourth and a wireless charging stand in fifth. Our sixth-place finisher, a drill-brush attachment for cleaning bathroom surfaces, hasn’t been on the list since last April, and another new product, an expert-recommended board game for parties, comes in seventh. The weighted blanket we deemed one of the best to give as a gift takes eighth place, while a cozy bathrobe lands in ninth for the second time in a row. Finally, a perennially popular pillow for side-sleepers rounds out the list in tenth.

Photo: Courtesy of vendor

Back in November, trend forecasters told us that they predicted the Skyrocket Blume Doll would be the most popular gift for kids this past holiday season. It looks like they were spot on. This week marks its third first-place finish on our best-sellers list, and it was the fifth best-selling product on the Strategist overall in 2019. Adrienne Appell, the senior director of communications at the Toy Association, says the doll — which starts out looking like a potted plant and comes with a little watering can — is a new take on the “surprise toy” trend, in that you don’t know what exactly you’re going to get until you open it. “The hair is made of slow-rise foam,” Appell explains, “and when you water the ‘plant’ it looks as if your doll is blooming from the pot.” When we tested one out in our office last month, we found that whole “blooming from the pot” experience to be totally correct — and captivating.

This lip balm is one of Strategist beauty columnist Rio Viera-Newton’s favorite Glossier products (she says the berry color is “the yummiest, prettiest, and boldest blackberry shade”) and a Gen-Z staple. In our survey of 100 cool teens, the highly Instagrammable Balm Dotcom was named as the lip balm to have by many respondents. One told us, “I can’t live without this. I know it’s a bit pricey, but it’s really good and also the packaging is cute!” It also made our list of the best gifts for teen girls, so we suspect many unwrapped some over the last few weeks.

After child-development experts told us this interactive board book is one of the best gifts for 2-year-olds, it has now appeared on this list seven times — and was also one of our 2019 best-sellers. Illustrated by artist Hervé Tullet, the book features colorful “buttons” to let toddlers learn about cause and effect. It encourages finding patterns, making predictions, learning colors, remembering sequences, and having fun with a parent, sibling, or other caregiver.

As we discovered in both our very enlightening 100-teen poll and our survey of cool college students, string lights are some of the most universally beloved décor in this age group. This set stands out since it also has clips for displaying Polaroids or Instax photos. “I can hang my Polaroid pictures on these string lights up on my wall, and have them be all lit up so I can look at them while I’m reading before bed,” says Sydney, one of the teens we surveyed.

Columnist David Pogue told us he “hated all wireless chargers” until he found this stand. He likes that it keeps your phone propped up (vertically or horizontally) so you can still see the screen as you charge, and how it will even work if your phone is in a case. Sold by his rave review, we went on to recommend it as a gift for both dads and techies.

Back in 2018, Strategist managing editor Maxine Builder raved about how efficiently this drill-brush attachment cleaned her bathroom tiles. “The drill did all the hard work, scrubbing faster and harder than I ever could by hand, and the results were noticeable even after the first pass,” she wrote. It quickly became a best-seller and has since earned a spot on the Strategist 100, a collection of our most stood-behind products.


Board-game experts consider Codenames, in which players must guess a series of words based on one teammate’s clues, one of the best party games for adults. Dale Yu, the editor of Opinionated Gamers, says that the game is a “bit more cerebral” than meets the eye and requires “some good clue-giving skills as well as some imagination.” Strategist writer David Notis recently brought the game to a friend’s holiday dinner and was happy to find that “everyone loved it.”

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Designed to relieve anxiety and improve sleep quality, weighted blankets work by providing calming deep pressure, like a massage. When Strategist senior writer Karen Iorio Adelson went in search of the best weighted blanket to give as a gift, she tested out a handful, concluding that “Baloo stands out among the rest of the bunch for its thoughtful design.” It’s hit the list seven times since then — most recently last May.

This plush bathrobe from Parachute (the maker of some of our favorite linen sheets) holds down the ninth-place spot for the second consecutive time. That’s not too surprising, though, considering it’s a cozy staple for hibernating season and an all-around good gift. Writer Amanda Fitzsimons says the robe has “been something of a viral hit: At its peak, Parachute’s waiting list for the bathrobe was 1,900 people long.”

If you’re thinking it’s time to replace your pillow, this long-time favorite of ours (and yours: it’s made the best-seller list 26 times now) would be a solid replacement pick — especially if you’re a side sleeper. When we tested a wide selection of pillows, we concluded that the Wamsutta Extra-Firm was the most comfortable and supportive of them all. According to our former deputy editor Jason Chen, “Unlike other pillows that mistake plushness or fluffiness for support, the WEF didn’t sink as soon as I rested my head. Instead, it had a firm, satisfying spring — it’s a different sensation, but one I took to right away. And even though I didn’t do any measuring, my head felt more propped up from the mattress and sheets than with any other pillow.”

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

What Strategist Readers Are Buying: String Lights, Lip Balm