In June, American Girl launched its first wholly new collection in a decade: WellieWishers, which are slightly smaller and targeted to a younger demo, specifically girls five to seven.
The quintet—who’ll also get an animated series and app—is billed as “a sweet and silly group of girls who each have the same big, bright wish: to be a good friend,” and American Girl invites you to, “Explore their world as they step into colorful garden boots and get ready for stomping in mud puddles, putting on shows, and helping friendships grow.” They’re so outdoorsy they’re literally named after galoshes! They’re also $60 a piece, cheaper than the company’s other offerings (unless you count Bitty Babies) (which I don’t) (have you ever known anybody who actually bought a Bitty Baby?), a pretty major development that says something about the company’s current business fortunes.
The Washington Post delves into the business dynamics behind the decision. Apparently, for all the adorable accessories, American Girl hasn’t been killing it lately: “Sales at the brand, owned by Mattel, fell 7 percent last year. On Wednesday, the company reported that business has only gotten worse since then, with American Girl’s sales plunging 19 percent in the second quarter.” This despite a recent packaging revamp. Basically, Frozen is eating everyone’s lunch.
Hence, the Post suggests, the WellieWishers, which extends the company’s market reach to younger girls but also provides a less sticker-shocking price point for new parents. (As opposed to being meant as a budget alternative.) “For this age group, some moms, candidly, are concerned about making a really significant investment in a product they don’t know yet,” American Girl marketing VP Julia Prohaska told the paper. Yes, because five-year-olds are agents of chaos.
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The new dolls are slightly less luxe than the classics—shorter, with plastic bodies and unblinking eyes. But there’s one area where American Girl didn’t skimp:
One place Mattel didn’t try to trim costs, though, was on the dolls’ hair. Julia Prohaska, American Girl’s vice president of marketing, said it still went with highly durable wigs like those used in their other toys because the team believed the figurines needed to be able to “withstand hours of hair play.”
Well, until your kid goes through her hair-cutting phase.