Barbie ditches her Malibu dream house

Mattel says the famous doll will introduce a new dream house in 2013. But is it another desperate move from a struggling toymaker?

By Aimee Picchi Feb 7, 2013 4:32PM

Barbie's Malibu dream house (Mattel Inc., http://www.trulia.com/barbie/)Barbie's ditching her life in Malibu after residing in the glitzy California seaside town since 1971. 


It may be a long overdue move. After all, there's something, well, dated about Malibu, which was a byword for California-style living in the 1970s and 1980s, inspiring a 1983 television movie starring Susan Dey of the 1970s sitcom "The Partridge Family" and the Malibu sedan from Chevrolet. 


Like Malibu's connotations, Barbie's also dealing with age. Sales of the iconic doll fell 4% in the fourth quarter, Mattel (MAT) said on Friday. That marked the third quarterly decline in 2012. 


Mattel and other toymakers are suffering from an economy that's still recovering from the recession and kids who increasingly would rather play "Angry Birds" on their parents' iPhones than with a physical toy.  


Barbie's home search is one way Mattel is trying to generate new interest in the doll. Millions of women who grew up playing with the Barbie Malibu Dreamhouse and Malibu Barbie might be interested to follow along as the doll searches for her new home, which hasn't yet been "found."


Mattel is combining virtual and real aspects in the doll's move. It's listed the fictional Malibu Dreamhouse for a whopping $25 million on real estate site Trulia (TRLA), where fans and the merely nosy can view photos of Barbie's "bachelorette compound" complete with pink "granite" countertops and heated pink "marble" flooring (the house's decorating theme is best described as "pink plastic").


So where is Barbie moving? Mattel plans to keep that under wraps until the fall, when it will announce her new dream house and release a new playset -- just in time for the holiday shopping season. 


Rather than asking consumers and fans to suggest locations for her new house, Mattel has tapped a team of designers to help make the decision.


The promotion isn't dissimilar to Hasbro's (HAS) efforts with Monopoly, with the toymaker creating some buzz for the venerable board game with a "Save Your Token" contest.


Fans from more than 185 countries participated in the Monopoly campaign, which asked people to vote on Facebook about which tokens to keep. In the end, the iron was booted and a new cat token will be introduced later this year. 


As for Barbie, her house will be listed by Josh Altman of Bravo's "Million Dollar Listing: Los Angeles," who says he'll be happy to show her houses all over the world. 


According to the New York Times, Altman noted, "And Ken is fine with whatever she wants to do."


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