For nearly 50 years, Barbie has been at the heart of Mattel’s success, the largest toymaker in the world. The world’s most well-known and best-selling doll, debuted at the American International Toy Fair on March 9, 1959which is also celebarted as Barbie’s official “birthday”. But now the very qualities that long drew girls to her (a clean image) are turning them off. Sales have plunged, retailers are cutting back on shelf space for her and for the first time a competitor has edged her out as the No. 1 fashion doll in the United States. Bratz, a line of dolls with pouty lips and big heads, made by MGA Entertainment, California, reported that it overtook sales of Barbie in the 2005 holiday season – a remarkable coup for a brand introduced just five years ago. Barbie has long been the best selling toy brand in the world and retailers devote big expanses of space to Barbie and her paraphernalia. Several factors have contributed to Barbie’s stumble. Electronics made for children have lured girls away from traditional dolls at ever younger ages. Because of Barbie’s close ties to fairytales and historically safe fashions, the doll has come to be viewed as a toy for girls 3-6 years old. Recently Barbie’s presence in the life of an American girl has been said to be a negative influence. Many groups say that young girls may set the doll as their model, leading to issues with body image and gender role insecurities later in life.
Mattel executives are quick to point out that Barbie remains the best-selling brand in the world; not just for a doll but for any toy. Mattel’s Neil Friedman has other ideas to increase sales and is not ready to give up on Barbie yet. Some of the new features will include Barbie’s that can dance change facial expressions and more extravagant houses. Mattel estimates that there are well over 100,000 avid Barbie collectors. Ninety-percent are women, at an average age of 40, purchasing more than 20 Barbie dolls each year. So wait and watch for the farewell time; if ever it is!