Why Americans have stopped buying Barbie

Sales of the iconic doll franchise fell 13% over the holidays. What are girls spending money on instead?

By 247 Wall St. Feb 3, 2014 2:32PM

Computer Engineer Barbie (© WENN.com)By Douglas A. McIntyre, 24/7 Wall St.


Sales of Barbie, the popular doll franchise started in 1959, fell 13 percent in the fourth quarter. Holiday demand for Barbie is critical to parent Mattel (MAT), shares of which paid the price for the fall-off.


Mattel's fourth-quarter sales dropped 6 percent to $2.11 billion. For the year, revenue was flat at $6.48 billion. For all intents and purposes, the huge toy company is stuck in neutral.


Mattel did not give a reason for the sharp drop in Barbie sales. However, several developments in the way that children spend their time could be ongoing culprits.


Barbie's largest weakness is probably that it is still a "toy" in a world where children spend hours with interactive games, texting and participating in social networks.


The major attraction of Barbie has stayed mostly the same over the decades. The doll has a closet full of outfits and beauty products, which is not much compared to the hundreds of games that youngsters play on smartphones and tablets.


Depending on the study, Americans spend 10 percent to 15 percent of their waking hours online. It is generally assumed that this figure is higher among young people than older ones who grew up in a period before Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR).


The migration of people to the use of portable devices in no less impressive. Nearly 300 million Americans have wireless subscriptions. As superfast 4G networks proliferate, the abilities of these devices as multimedia platforms and game devices grow.


Some of the most downloaded free apps are aimed at girls. Among them is Covet Fashion, an online dress up game. Another is Eye Make Up Salon, an app that lets girls prepare themselves for a variety of "parties." Not only are these games interactive, they do not require a trip to a store and the price of traditional toy.


Barbie has begun to die off, and if there is a single major culprit it is that there are better "toys" for young girls online that they can play with as they spend hour after hour on Facebook while texting.


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73Comments
Feb 3, 2014 3:17PM
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Maybe it's because parents shove a smart phone in their hand by the age of 8. By nine they've watched every hip hop video made and by 10 they've learned all about sex, not from their parents, but from the porn that streams into their lives.

Tragic societal issue that continues to get worse. Who needs Barbie you ask?

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It's because kids no longer know how to have fun or imaginations, parents have driven it out of their kids. Not to mention more girls are getting into video games.
Feb 3, 2014 5:00PM
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So 13% less Parents were able to afford to buy their child a Barbie Doll. I guess sending all those Mattel Jobs to China is starting to come back and bite you in the azz.  No Job = No Money = No Barbie !
Feb 3, 2014 5:04PM
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Oh please, years ago Barbie was bad for kids to play with because she didn't look like a "real woman" and she was a "bad rolemodel" but now people are outraged because Barbie is being left in the dust? Make up your minds!
Feb 3, 2014 4:50PM
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THATS BECAUSE WHEN WE WERE KIDS, GIRLS PLAYED WITH DOLLS AND BOYS WITH MODEL CARS TILL THEY WERE 10-11 YRS OLD.  NOW THEY TWITTER-FACEBOOK-LOOK AT PORNO AND HUFF KRYLON.

OH THE GOOD OL DAYS OF STEALING BUTTS OUT OF THE ASH TRAY.

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If anything it is probably the price that has caused the market to dwindle during the redession. Also look at the feminist movement as still being against Barbie as being to unrealistic bodily and swaying their children away from her. I can also say that as having a daughter, that she simply loves having toys associated with the cartoons and shows she watches. She is really into the "Monster High" toys and perfers them and their cartoons and movies. The Barbie cartoons for the most part are boring to her and is not interested as she is in the others, thus she has showed little interest in the Barbies comparatively. 

Feb 3, 2014 6:00PM
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Have a granddaughter who turned 9 today.  She wants a Barbie.  So, I guess Mattel will sell at least ONE more Barbie!!! (Hmmm, I wonder if they are on sale?)
Feb 3, 2014 4:49PM
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give me a break everyone posting on here. barbie sales are down because of bratz, monster high, disney dolls, and american girl dolls. 
after paying 80+ dollars for an american girl doll (that is made in china) parents don't have money left over for anything else.
if your kids are into bratz and monster high dolls then you aren't going to spend money on barbie too. 
barbie used to be the only name in the game except for cheap knockoffs.  now there are a bunch of other alternatives.

my 8 year old daughter has an old smart phone (no cell plan, just smart phone for her to get on wifi) and she spends 99% of her time doing other things than playing on the phone.  my 13 year old niece just gave my daughter all of her old dolls because she doesn't play with them anymore... and that is the age that is on social media.  not 3-10 year olds who actually play with dolls.
it's perfectly logical to me that the writer of the article is pulling this out of their butt and doesn't have any real world experience with it.  And it's also obvious to me all the people who are berating parents over "shoving smart phones in their face" that they have no real world experience with this either.  perhaps you should be checking with the people who actually have kids before you go about assuming you know everything.

Feb 3, 2014 5:57PM
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My granddaughter is a brunette 9 yr old.  She likes her Barbie dolls and has several.  We buy the "special" dolls that are connected to a movie such as Frozen, Little Mermaid, etc.  However, when it comes to buying other Barbie dolls, she wants only brunette dolls.  She doesn't like all the blonde dolls because "not everyone has blonde hair and I want one with my color hair".  Maybe if the company made the dolls a little bit more representational of ALL little girls, they might sell more.
Feb 3, 2014 5:28PM
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When they start making 6' Barbie...they will be back in business...
Feb 3, 2014 7:41PM
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My daughter is 9 and loves Barbie. Unfortunately, the prices are absolutely ridiculous- $15 for a package of 2 outfits at Target?! And when her friends do come over, the first thing they do is get all the Barbie stuff out and play. Her best friend (9 years old) commented to me last week "I wish my mom would buy me Barbie stuff! All I got for Christmas was an ipod and movies". Parents are allowing there kids to grow up way too quickly! 
Feb 3, 2014 6:02PM
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Whilst strolling round the Harbour this morning about 11 am. I noticed a 
Muslim extremist slip from the quayside and fall into the water.
He was struggling to stay afloat because of all the explosives he was 
carrying. If he didn't get help he'd surely drown.
Being a responsible citizen, and abiding by the law of the land that 
requires you to help those in distress, I informed the Police, the Coastguard, the
Immigration Office and even the Fire Service.
It is now 4 p.m., he has drowned, and none of the authorities have yet 
responded.
 
I'm starting to think I wasted four stamps.
 
Feb 3, 2014 3:56PM
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I preferred the human Barbie. Come on Barbie, Let's go party.
Feb 3, 2014 11:48PM
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I have 3 boys and never had a need for a Barbie. I started a daycare center and decided to purchase some Barbie's for the center. I think its the cost that is keeping people from buying them. With this economy who can afford the cost of them.
Feb 3, 2014 5:41PM
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Make an obese Barbie and it may fly off the shelf.
Feb 3, 2014 5:48PM
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My daughters would rather play Minecraft than barbies.  Why play with a doll when you can build an entire world together?  As a bonus, there are no pieces scattered across the floor for mom to step on.

Don't worry, we keep the tablets they use completely locked down with a special kid-safe app.

Although they do love playing with actual legos also (including the Mindstorm).  And they do have some dolls, but they prefer Equestria Girls or Ever After High, because frankly they're more interesting.  The first grader is already writing her own little notebook paper books about their adventures, and designing and sewing her own dresses for them.
Feb 3, 2014 6:02PM
Feb 11, 2014 3:15PM
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Funny thing is, that My daughter and her friends age 11-13 are playing with Monster High Dolls for hours on end in the bedroom and all around the  house. All the parents and kids I know have Monster high or Happily Ever After High Dolls.  These girls also play mindcraft and phone games but they love to make mini videos of the dolls dancing to there favorite songs. Which they put on there phones and the kids try to see who made the best one over the weekend.  There's also a craze where they take the entire dolls face paint off and turn them into a more anime looking doll.  I suggest this for more mature and or older kids if parents aren't going to supervise. But it's a lot of fun.  I just think barbie has pushed there own agendas on kids, vs leaving it up to the kids imagination, such as Barbie and Ken getting a divorce.. and other dumb marketing schemes kids aren't dumb and in an internet world they have access to all the dumb things Barbie has done in recent years, like the Bratz lawsuit.. etc.. 
Feb 3, 2014 2:58PM
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How about the relentless assault on having a sexy figure by the left and feminazis? These pear shaped manly women want to convince the rest us that their bloated and saggy body type is A-ok and have fits whenever women display real sexy bodies. Some guys like big women. Most of us don't.
Feb 4, 2014 2:12PM
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Hello. I totally agree with the phones situation. I think that information is the new dolls now. Not many kids play with toys these days. Only a few imaginative children are interested in toys. Like building blocks and some of those children become architects. I think that parents have a lot to do with their children evolving from kid to an adult. When I was a kid I wasn't interested in playing with toys. I much rather read articles in magazines that had real meaning. When you're forced to grow up as a child things like toys don't mean anything.
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