- Feb 17, 2004
- Reaction score
Barbie clothes -- for real people
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<!-- TextStart -->By Angela Moore
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fairies leaped, surfer girls danced and fashionistas sashayed down the catwalk as Mattel showed off its Barbie clothing line -- for real people.
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The toy maker, best known for its Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels cars, was shining the spotlight on its well-known brands at the International Licensing Show on Tuesday through consumer products like cosmetics, fragrances, music CD, and even a glamorous clothing line for adult women.
"Mattel is the holder of intellectual property that appeals to kids," Matt Bousquette, president of Mattel Brands told Reuters in an interview. "There's a lot more that we can do with that property than just making toys."
Among the performances at the show, Mattel had little girls dressed as winged fairies performing a ballet, and silver confetti pouring from the ceiling. A group of older girls performed a 1960s inspired beach dance promoting clothing and products related to the Cali Girl brand.
Mattel also showcased a couture line for adult women, already very popular in Japan, that the company said it is "cautiously considering" launching at some high-end U.S. retailers this fall.
Mattel wants to sell the clothing and cosmetics only at select retailers to strengthen the brand equity, said Richard Dickson, senior vice president of Mattel Brands consumer products.
Weak sales of Barbie dolls, a lacklustre retail environment, and strong competition have hurt Mattel's profits recently. The company is trying to raise Barbie's non-toy profile as well as tap a grown-up fan base as part of a long term plan to reinvigorate the toy brand.
El Segundo, California-based Mattel is introducing a story-based "worlds of Barbie" strategy for lines such as new Cali Girl, Fairytopia and Princess and the Pauper doll, many with accompanying DVDs.
Dickson said the popularity of Barbie products for older consumers could trickle down and benefit the toy category.
"From an aspirational perspective you re-engage the younger girl with Barbie, she sees Barbie as relevant, fashionable, cool," Dickson said. "The doll will be the piece of that they can have."
The toy industry is working to recover from a year that wasn't much fun, marked by slowing industry sales and bankruptcy filings by KB Toys and the parent of upscale FAO Schwarz toy stores. Even No. 2 toy seller Toys R Us. is in the midst of a strategic evaluation, which analysts say will lead to many U.S. toy store closures.
The 2003 holiday season was also marked by severe price cutting on toys, which can lead to the erosion of a brand's perceived value by consumers, analysts have said.
"Our ability to add value at retail depends on the strength of our brands," Bousquette said. "How retailers price is up to them, but (the price cutting) we went through last year was not healthy for the industry. I hope it doesn't happen again."