Are Kids Over Barbie?

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barbie shelf

The iconic doll with the hourglass figure is struggling against newer, cooler rivals.

After 54 years, the most iconic American doll is beginning to show her age.

Quarterly sales of Barbie dropped 12 percent, marking the fourth straight quarter of declines. Overall, the 21st century hasn’t been kind to the former queen of the playground. Not only did she break up with her longtime beau Ken, but Barbie sales in the U.S. have dropped by approximately 50 percent since 2000. All of which raises the question: Are today’s kids bored by Barbie?

It certainly appears that the new dolls on the block are pushing Barbie out of the picture. Mattel’s American Girl sales jumped 14 percent in the latest quarter, while sales of Mattel’s other dolls rose 23 percent, suggesting the hourglass classic is having trouble keeping abreast.

So, why is Barbie no longer the coolest doll? Isn’t being an astronaut-cheerleader-WNBA player-dolphin trainer enough for today’s generation of doll owners?

Compared to the other dolls out there, Barbie is an “unsocial luddite,” writes Roberto A. Ferdman at Quartz. For one, Mattel’s Monster High dolls, which launched in 2010 and are based on teen character offspring of famous monsters (imagine vampires crossed with an all-girl punk band), have been a huge hit, with sales growing to more than $500 million since they hit the market. Mattel has also been far savvier with American Doll, “squeezing everything it can out of the craze, creating an entire ecosystem of products,” says Ferdman. From the accessories, including furniture and clothes, to the movies, magazines, and stores where you can take your doll for tea, American Doll owners spend an estimated average of $500 per doll. (The doll itself with her book runs a cool $110, a lot more than your average Barbie.)

“Those real-life interactive experiences are proving attractive in an era of child-oriented mobile devices and new technologies,” writes Ferdman.