Mattel launches new range of Barbie dolls

In tune with its new strategy of aiming at mass sales, toy-maker Mattel launches the Season's Special Barbie range

agencyfaqs! News Bureau
NEW DELHI, December 20

In a country where only a few kids put playing with toys as a favorite activity, (they would rather watch TV) selling them is no easy task. Mattel, which failed to sell fewer pieces at high prices, in the late eighties and early nineties, is now seeking to sell larger volumes at lower prices.

In tune with this strategy, the company has launched the Season's Special Barbie and Kelly. This is the newest entrant in the Barbie collection — one of Mattel's products that has an almost instant brand recall value among kids. The range costs Rs 599.

The flagship Barbie now costs Rs 130, down from Rs 200. The lowest Barbie product now costs Rs 25. In July this year, for instance, Mattel cut the price of its Disney range of soft toys from Rs 275 to Rs 150. Its Mickey stuffed toy introduced in India in August 1999 at Rs 1,100 is sold today at Rs 550. In March 2000, Mattel had reduced prices on its Pen Pal Barbies from Rs 300 to Rs 250. In short, the company moved into a major expansion drive, slashing prices by as much as 40 per cent and adding 13,000 new outlets last year.

The strategy has enabled the company to sell larger volumes. Moreover, such undercutting does not affect the brand value, say analysts, because the toy market is aimed at children, for whom the joy that a particular brand can give is much more important than the brand name.

Mattel is also cashing in on the festive spirit. "We plan to give every girl an entire range of favourite icons with whom she can play out her fantasies about Christmas," says Roshini Bakshi, vice-president, marketing and new business development. Mattel's marketing strategy is to identify the Barbie range with Indian themes and cut down on the price. However, the Christmas theme, say analysts, may not lead to volume sales, as the company will have to agressively promote the theme itself rather than the brand as the theme is not Indian.

The three dolls — Special Barbie, her little sister Kelly, and a special Santa Beanie — will be available at all main toy outlets and gift stores in India.

What's apparent is that Mattel is targetting India in a big way. The reason? India has 35 per cent of its population in the under-14 group as compared to Germany and Japan, where only 21 per cent of the population are below 14. In addition to this, as urban families increasingly become double income ones, with both the parents working and the kids at home alone, the toy market —with its enormous capacity to aussage the guilt of parents who leave their children alone at home — is all set to boom. Several market surveys show that kids are the decision makers when it comes to buying games or toys.

Earlier Mattel was in a 40:60 joint venture with Blowplast India Ltd (Leo-Mattel). Though the company did not do well, a flurry of marketing made two of its brands, Hot Wheels and Barbie, quite well known. However, the company floundered as its range was pretty expensive and competition from the unorganised market of smuggled toys, tough. Blowplast pulled out, and Mattel left India.

Mattel is now present as a 100 per cent subsidary of the $5.5 billion parent company, Mattel Toys (I) Ltd.

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