Saturday, December 24, 2011
You knew I was building towards one of my long-winded rants, right ?
Current Mood : Strap in, guys - I'm loquacious !
Learned something interesting today. 'My Favorite Doll', a long-time mail-order doll seller before online ordering changed the way we buy toys, is no longer carrying Barbie. Seriously. Even if you never ordered from MFD, you saw their ads in doll magazines, I promise you. They almost always had a full or half-page in Barbie Bazaar, and I thought they got the National Convention 'Barbie's Best Friend' award, but I can't find evidence of it, so probably not.
They're actually based in Canada, with a good rep and closeness to Mattel Canada...which, for some reason, stopped carrying the full Barbie catalog about three years ago. MFD was supplementing with outside contacts, but they're either tired of it, their source is out of the circuit, or it's simply too expensive these days, so MFD's out of the current Collector Barbie game, and sale-selling what they got left.
They started with vintage Barbie, so they're keeping that, though. Can't say I blame 'em - the 'previously loved' game is probably more stable than the current Collector one ! Here's a direct quote off their site, "This is a sad decision, but a definite sign of the times as to how Mattel is managing the Collector business." Is it just me, or is that a definite 'oh, snap' to anyone else ?
To be honest, I'm kinda surprised it's taken this long. While Barbie is Mattel's flagship, they seem determined to steer it into an iceberg. When a doll comes out with much fanfare as a super-rare ultra-dilithium gift set at $130., then ends up at sales outlets like Tuesday Morning six months later for $30., you're not making many friends. When distribution is still screwed up after over sixty years in business to the point where I never saw most of the Fashion Avenue outfits and still have trouble finding new items, due to unstated 'specials' to some retailers (and didn't you get fined for that in the late 80s ? I'm lookin' at you, TRU and Mattel !), and other little tricks, you have to wonder what drunk monkey is in charge.
While it's been outta the frying pan and into the fire with Monster High, I ended up with MH because Barbie'd simply become too annoying. And boring. I thought we (Mattel and us adults) were headed in the right direction - less fantasy princess, more real person. Furniture that wasn't pink. Houses you could display your dolls in without cringing. Clothes that looked like something an actual person might truly wear and feel attractive in...not 'print on one side only' cheap cop-outs and 'polyester princess' continuing waaaay past the time when double-knits were cool.
But, no, tour down a Barbie aisle these days. It's half the size - if not less - than it was, because no one cares. It's back to pink princess everything, and when Doll A looks just like Doll C except for the clothes, why bother ? The collector stuff still uses cheap bodies and crap fabrics, and you're either swimming in them (waiting for markdowns) or you're trawling eBay because they've never been seen in your state. Even kids don't care anymore, they're jaded because there hasn't been anything truly new in ages. All their dolls and all their clothes look alike - and parents aren't as willing to buy more of the same in a tougher economy. Except possibly real divergences like Monster High, which is so far removed from Barbie, they can't even wear the same clothes.
That was something I couldn't figure out last year. Why exactly were MH dolls so different ? Mattel could have just used green ingredients in an older head mold on a standard Barbie body and probably got some interest. I've actually heard parents complain that DracuLaura can't wear Barbie clothes, but MH can barely be found this Christmas, while Babs is gathering dust. At first, I thought that Mattel was, once again, protecting their flagship - if MH bombed, they had no connection at all to Barbie, so it was less of a loss. Kind of like when they changed My Scene Barbie's name to Kennedy, they could cut the whole line loose if sales didn't improve, and the Barbie name would carry on, unconnected to the failed experiment.
Now I think MH was different for a reason beyond that. I still think it was part of it, but not all. I think the people in charge of the project knew this line had to be completely different, or it'd be met with yawns. "Oh," the toy-buying public would sigh, "Freaky Barbie", and move along to something unique. In some ways, MH is reflective of new trends in toys and dolls - articulation is changing and scale is evolving while the latest thing in Barbie - Stardolls - have actually gone backwards. If my information is correct, Stardolls are only jointed at the neck and shoulders. I gotta take someone else's word for it because, thanks to those fun distribution issues again, I've never seen one. I have it on good authority (Hi, Parareality !) that MH dolls fit their shoes, so that's about all I'd want one for - to accessory steal for dolls I like better ! Pretty sad, when you think about it.
I know Mattel says they're having record sales in Barbie this year. I remember one year they cooked the books to say that, too...but I think they learned their lesson on that one. All I know is, as MH looks forward to its third year, the dolls are as hard - if not harder - to find than ever. Barbie aisles are still packed and faced, with some items overstocked. Some days, I have to wait to get into the MH section - it's fulla people, while the baby and regular fashion doll aisles could host cricket conventions.
I just don't know. It may be that Barbie Collectables - something I rarely bought anyway - has lost so much in sales to Tonner, Fashion Royalty, and a cruddy economy, that they're just not interested anymore. I wonder if they'll still be around for more than a dozen dolls in ten years.
But ya'll know me, I've always held that collector dolls are about as useful as Kleenex raincoats - I wanna play and create and enjoy in a way that doesn't include a perfect box.
I'm the 99%. I'm Playline.