Is Barbie’s Dream House up for Sale?

Within traditional toys and games, global sales of dolls and accessories increased by around US$770 million in 2012. However, the world’s most recognisable doll, Mattel’s Barbie, registered a decline in sales. This was partly due to an increase in brands which are providing tougher competition within the dolls and accessories category. It was also due to the US market, which accounts for over 30% of the global dolls and accessories category and is key to Mattel’s overall brand strategy. This strategy has seen Mattel gain a significant 40% share of the US market, although this has been at the expense of Barbie’s category share.

Barbie and Monster High Category Share, %, 2012, selected markets

Barbie and Monster High Category Share, percent, 2012, selected markets

Source: Euromonitor International

2012 saw a pattern emerge when comparing the shares of Barbie and Monster High in different markets. Countries such as France, the US and the UK had a higher ratio of Monster High shares, compared with Barbie shares, averaging out at around 45%.  This was in contrast with other countries such as Ukraine, Argentina and Romania where the disparity in share was greater at around 7-8%.  Looking at these differences, a trend has emerged between developed and emerging markets. Developed markets are embracing the newer Monster High brand, which is subsequently cannibalising Barbie’s share, whereas in the emerging markets Barbie continues to maintain a dominant share, suggesting that these markets could be late adopters of Monster High in years to come.

US trends influence global market

The US is a unique market for dolls and accessories, with the top three brands – Barbie, American Girl and Monster High – all belonging to Mattel. Barbie’s dominance of the dolls and accessories category diminished following the inception of Monster High in 2010 and subsequent strong growth to reach actual sales of US$313 million in 2012. Barbie, although still likely the most iconic doll in the world, appears to have lost some of its appeal among younger girls. Much of this is likely to be down to shifting household demographics in the US, which are increasingly non-white, moving to a more diverse and multi-cultural landscape. Younger girls, therefore, are increasingly identifying with products like Monster High, which feature dolls that are supernatural beings and have no defined ethnic background. With the US being the largest market for dolls and accessories by some distance, the erosion of Barbie’s share there has had a significant impact on the overall growth of Barbie globally.

In 2012, Mattel recorded 10% value sales growth in dolls and accessories globally, outperforming the wider category, which posted a 9% gain. This double-digit growth suggests that Mattel’s brand strategy is seeking to capture more sales from an increasingly diverse consumer demographic. However, to suggest that Barbie has had its day would be presumptuous. With plans to launch a new range of accessories before Christmas 2013, coupled with a majority brand share across emerging markets, Barbie will continue to dominate dolls and accessories.