With no real “hot, must-have” toys for 2013, the toy of choice seems to be Barbie, a dated Mattel (MAT) favorite that is poised to make a comeback.
As retails scramble to push their toys on consumers, no true winner has emerged. That has sent parents to the old Barbie standby — with Mattel perhaps poised to reap the gain.
When retailers anticipate demand for a toy, they stock up, and the number of tractor-trailer-size shipping containers filled with smiling Barbies from Mattel arriving at U.S. ports during the critical August-through-October retailer order window was up 6% this year, hitting 2,441 and making Barbie the No. 1 most popular toy, according to Panjiva, a company that tracks imports on toys made overseas. (Shipment numbers represent each time the product term was written on a bill of lading arriving at U.S. ports.)
Only two other dolls made it onto Panjiva’s top 10 list: Mattel’s Monster High dolls, a line featuring teen goth characters inspired by monster movies and books, which comes in at No. 3 with 828 shipments; and Jakks Pacific’s Sofia the First doll, the title character in Disney’s new animated Disney series about a girl princess, at No. 7 with 364 shipments.
While the move toward Barbie is good for Christmas, it’s uncertain if Mattel stock will reap the rewards.
Barbie arrived in stores in 1959 — when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president — and in the years since has sometimes struggled to find her footing, amid both competition from newcomers like MGA Entertainment’s leopard-print-clad Bratz dolls and criticism from researchers showing how Barbie’s unrealistic proportions affect young girls’ body image.… “Mattel does find ways to keep Barbie contemporary,” says Derrick Daye, managing director at Los Angeles-based consultancy The Blake Project, but he says some parents may buy the doll because it reminds them of their own childhood.