Mattel CEO ‘Resigns’ After Soft Barbie Sales

Maybe girls just aren't that into Barbie anymore?

via @BarbieStyle on IG

Bryan Stockton, the CEO and chairman of Mattel has resigned from both positions after the company reported a 59 percent decline in profits. (The Guardian says he was fired.) A big part of that were the soft sales of Barbie, the company’s iconic doll.

Mattel was the largest toy company in the world until Lego took that title. Over the past year-plus, the numbers have been on a steady downward trend.

“In 2009, Barbie accounted for more than quarter of all doll sales in the US, but that had fallen to 19.6% in 2013,” according to The Guardian. So yeah… “resigned” is probably a nice way to put it.

Christopher A. Sinclair is taking up both positions, effective immediately. “Mattel is an exceptional company with a great future but the Board believes that it is the right time for new leadership to maximize its potential,” he said in a press release statement. Mattel also owns Hot Wheels and Fisher-Price.

The question is, “Where does the company go from here?” As The Guardian points out, the kids these days love Elsa and everything Frozen-related. And Legos are soaring in popularity.

The loss of interest in Barbie comes amid efforts to drive attention her way. Just in the past year or so, we’ve reported on a partnership with the Girl Scouts, a new Instagram account, her modernization as an entrepreneur, and (feeble) attempts to reach Latin American consumers.

While trying to reach different audiences are admirable, the problem boils down to the question that Quartz is asking: Is Barbie relevant to young girls?

I’ve never seen Frozen, but the gist I get is that there is something of an empowering message in the tale. (This Wikipedia summary isn’t really helping me.) At the very least, it’s nice to see female characters at the center of a movie. We’ve also seen the badassery of Merida in Brave, and the main characters in MaleficentThe Hunger Games, and DivergentParents don’t want to expose their daughters to the unrealistic body expectations of Barbie dolls; the so-called “Barbie effect.” And there are all of these other alternatives to choose from.

Barbie doesn’t just need to widen her net with social media and international expansion. She needs an overhaul to meet the tastes and expectations of today’s girls. Blonde hair and trendy clothes aren’t as important as having something powerful to get behind; something that speaks to courage, integrity and thoughtfulness as much as it does to good looks.

These days, Barbie looks a little shallow compared to the competition. It’s not just a question of relevance but of flexibility of the brand. How much of a makeover can Barbie withstand while still holding on to her inherent Barbie-ness?