BOSTON (CBS/AP) – She’s 57-years-old but toy company Mattel says Barbie deserves a makeover.
In one of the biggest redesigns ever for the iconic plastic doll, Barbara Millicent Roberts, aka “Barbie,” will soon be sold in three new shapes—curvy, tall and petite.
“I’m sort of surprised it’s taken this long,” toy store owner Storey Hieronymus Hauck told WBZ-TV.
Her shop, Tadpole Toys on Clarendon Avenue, doesn’t carry Barbie dolls for a variety of reasons, one of which points to Mattel’s makeover motivation.
“It [selling Barbie] is not something we’ve tried to specifically avoid but we do have a customer base that tends to be thoughtful about positive influences on girls,” said Hieronymus Hauck.
For many years parents and activists have criticized the mostly white and unrealistically proportioned doll’s effect on body image for young girls. In launching the new generation Barbie, Mattel says they wanted to reconnect with customers who felt she didn’t look enough like a real girl.
“We were hearing that many thought that Barbie was out of touch,” said Evelyn Mazzocco, Mattel SVP and global brand general manager.
Barbie will also be more diverse, coming in seven skin tones, 22 eye colors and 24 hairstyles. And Barbie’s foot was movable for the first time, allowing her to kick off her heels and wear flats.
“We believe that women of all shapes and sizes can contribute to this world,” said Nai Collymore-Henry of the Massachusetts chapter of National Organization for Women.
Collymore-Henry was on Beacon Hill Thursday promoting a pay equity bill, noting that women in Massachusetts earn 82 cents on the dollar– even less if they are minority women. She notes the doll with more than 180 different careers might also be interested in the issue.
“She’s had a series of careers and I think that she’s a feminist in her own right,” laughed Collymore-Henry. “This is a step in the right direction for Mattel.”
The El Segundo, California, toy company said it will still sell the original 11.5-inch Barbie. The new versions will begin arriving on U.S. store shelves in March and will roll out globally after that. They are available for preorder at shop.mattel.com, and will ship in February.
Marketing experts said more will have to be done to return Barbie to her former glory.
“The look of the dolls is great,” said Marc Rosenberg, a marketing consultant in Chicago who has worked in the toy industry for 25 years. But in order to connect with kids, the new dolls need to show up in Barbie YouTube videos, apps, shows and other content, he said.
Worldwide sales for Barbie have fallen every year since 2012. Mattel will release 2015 sales figures next week.
The company sells other dolls, including Monster High and American Girl brands. But Barbie remains very important, bringing in about 27 percent of Mattel’s total revenue in the most recent quarter.
It is hoped that the new models will reinvigorate sales by bringing back into the fold the parents who had grown tired of the familiar blonde doll.
While Barbie may look different, she’s still not shying away from the spotlight.
The doll is on the cover of Time magazine. Barbie’s new curves are shown in shadow on the cover, next to the headline, “Now can we stop talking about my body?”
It’s a stark contrast to when Barbie showed up in the pages of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue nearly two years ago. Back then, the doll wore a black and white swimsuit, black heals and had white sunglasses tucked into her blonde hair.
(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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