This effort to remake Barbie as a progressive icon appears to be a calculated business decision on Mattel’s part to win over today’s millennial parents. While Barbie is still a powerful force in the toy market, generating $971 million in sales in 2016, younger parents have been less keen on buying the doll for their daughters than those in generations past. Mattel has seen sales of Barbie spiral downward since 2009.
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In other words, Barbie is caught in a bind: Mattel needs to sell parents on more progressive versions of the doll, but it might take years of marketing for this new version of Barbie to become familiar and exciting enough for kids to want them. “You have to do more than offer one of these curvy or career dolls in the corner,” Brown says. “It’s a chicken and egg problem: If you offer enough of these dolls, over time, once kids get used to them, eventually they will start asking for them. Then the dolls will become profitable and it would be worth stocking them.”