Casey Weiss (L) and Alexa Deriggs display
Mattel's new Barbie Girls MP3 player targeted at 10-13 year
after it was unveiled in New York April 26, 2007.
NEW YORK - Mattel Inc. is using technology to come up with a new twist
on a toy launched in 1959 to appeal to today's Web-savvy, multimedia girl
On Thursday, Mattel unveiled Barbie Girls, a doll-shaped MP3 player that
turns into a live character at BarbieGirls.com, a Web site where girls can
interact with each other in a manner reminiscent of Second Life, the virtual
world for adults.
The company hopes the new toy, which brings together Web surfing, shopping
and music downloads, will cool demand for rival MGA Entertainment's sassy Bratz
dolls -- a line of big-headed, skinny dolls with scant, trendy clothing.
The world's largest toy maker is also taking aim at Apple Inc.'s iPod music
players and Ganz's Webkinz, furry animal toys that come alive online.
The official launch of BarbieGirls.com came a week after the company gave it
a public test run.
Toy analysts say this latest addition to the 48-year-old Barbie line should
be a hot seller, helping the brand reverse nearly five years of declining sales.
"If Mattel's online community is successful -- with penetration similar to
Webkinz -- we estimate maximum annual sales potential of about $100 million, or
about 3 cents a share," Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Lisa Bolton Weiser wrote
in a research note.
Retailers said earlier this month that demand for Webkinz, which are sold at
specialty retail shops such as Hallmark and American Greetings Corp., has
MUSIC AND FASHION ONLINE
Reviving the Barbie brand has been a major priority for Mattel, who has seen
her former target audience defect not only to Bratz, but also to flashier,
high-tech items such as iPods and video games.
The Barbie Girls music players, which can hold up to 120 MP3 or 240 WMA-file
songs, come to market in July and will cost $59.99, Mattel said.
"I think we've got a hit on our hands," said Reyne Rice, a New York-based toy
trends expert at the Toy Industry Association. "You've got music, you've got
fashion and you've got online -- all these components tied into today's girls."
At BarbieGirls.com, users can customize their characters' looks and styles.
They can also go to the online mall and shop for clothes, accessories and
furniture for their online room. Users can even adopt a pet.