Toys “R” Us is counting on Kendall, Emerson, Camille and other new dolls from the American Girl toy line to draw shoppers to its stores during the holiday season and throughout the year.
The Wayne-based retailer announced its partnership with Mattel Inc., which owns the American Girl brand, at the end of August, but kept details under wraps until this week, when it rolled out American Girl boutiques in about 100 of its stores nationwide, including the Toys “R” Us in Totowa, which opened its boutique Monday.
Toys “R” Us’ current strategy for revitalizing its stores involves giving shoppers products and experiences they won’t find at other places that sell toys, in particular at the company’s top rivals, Walmart and Target. Toy industry analysts, when the American Girl deal was announced, said the premium brand could also give Toys “R” Us a “classier” image.
Mattel is hoping its partnership with Toys “R” Us, as well as a distribution deal with Kohl’s stores nationwide, will boost American Girl sales, which have slipped in recent years.
Six New Jersey Toys “R” Us stores have created 700-square-foot American Girl shops and given them prominent display in the front of the stores. The Paramus store on Route 17 — as well as stores in Secaucus, Freehold, Eatontown and Deptford — will have the boutiques, in addition to the Totowa store.
Some shoppers at the Totowa Toys “R” Us did a double-take upon seeing display of American Girl dolls, which previously were sold only online and in American Girl flagship stores.
“American Girl! What are they doing in Toys “R” Us?” was the reaction of shopper Stella Quigley of Clifton, who has bought the dolls in the past for her 10-year-old granddaughter. “I was very surprised to see that,” said Quigley, who was at the Totowa store Monday.
Quigley’s granddaughter has 10 American Girl dolls, and Quigley was looking to see if Toys “R” Us had the new Girl of the Year doll to add to the collection. Toys “R” Us won’t be selling the Girl of the Year dolls, but Quigley said she might visit the store again to look for accessories for her granddaughter’s dolls.
The Toys “R” Us stores will not carry the full line of traditional American Girl dolls, but instead will sell the brand’s two newest doll lines. They are the Truly Me line, which are dolls that come in about 100 different combinations of hair color and style, and skin color, so a child can pick the doll that most resembles her; and the Wellie Wishers line, which are smaller, 14.5-inch dolls intended to appeal to younger girls, and are about half the price of the traditional 18-inch American Girl dolls. The Wellie Wishers dolls are priced at $59, while the Truly Me and other American Girl dolls cost about $120.
The American Girl brand also began selling Wellie Wishers dolls, and its 2016 “Doll of the Year” in 1,100 Kohl’s stores nationwide this year.
American Girl dolls were a hot property for little girls growing up in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but the company has struggled in recent years to reach new generations of little girls.
In 2015, Mattel reported that sales of the brand had declined by 7 percent from the previous year. The company said several of its girl brands had suffered from a lack of creativity and it has brought in a new management team to turn the brands around. It also attributed the sales decline to the introduction of the Truly Me line. The Wellie Wishers line was created in response to complaints by parents that a lower-priced option was needed, and that line is credited with boosting American Girl sales in the most recent quarter.
The company reported last week that sales of the brand were up 14 percent for the third quarter to $125.5 million.
A Toys “R” Us spokeswoman said that while Kohl’s also sells the Wellie Wishers and other American Girl dolls, Toys “R” Us will be the only retailer authorized to sell the Truly Me dolls and to have American Girl boutiques within its stores. The boutiques will have Toys “R” Us employees who have been trained to sell American Girl dolls and to answer questions about the brand.
American Girl dolls were a favorite gift of doting grandmothers willing to spend $100 or more on a doll and clothes and furniture. The first dolls depicted girls growing up during various periods in American history, such as colonial times, or the Depression, and included themed accessories and story books about their lives. The brand was so popular at one point that Target sold a line of lower-priced knock-off doll furniture sized to fit the American Girl dolls.
The American Girl brand was launched by a catalog and mail-order company called The Pleasant Company in 1986. Mattel acquired the brand in 1998. According to Mattel, close to 30 million American Girl dolls have been sold since 1986.
Story Link : Madelon