Bored kids turn to old-school entertainment... Classic Mattel toys make a comeback

Bored kids turn to old-school entertainment... Classic Mattel toys make a comeback

Mattel is seeing sales beat expectations and that is good news during the days of the coronavirus pandemic. The credit can be given to bored kids stuck at home and desperate parents trying to keep them entertained.

North American consumers are splurging on old-school entertainment favorites like Barbie dolls and the card game Uno, which makes Mattel a winner in an otherwise depressed economy. Sales are expected to continue to be strong in the coming months as schools remain closed. Mattel has seen its shares rise by about 4%.

The reopening of toy stores helps, too. Chief Executive Officer Ynon Kreiz reports that only about 4% of retail stores were closed at the end of June, while 30% of retail stores were shut at the end of March. Thus, reopenings were a factor in the rise in quarterly earnings. Gross sales rose in North America by 3% in the second quarter. Besides pointing to Barbie and Uno, Baby Yoda plush toys are credited for the increase in sales numbers. Gross sales of Barbie dolls increased 7% to $199.3 million in the second quarter. Overall net sales fell nearly 15% to $732.1 million in the economic fallout from the global coronavirus pandemic and overseas sales. But that number still beat analysts’ average estimate of $678.5 million.

There is a political component to Barbie sales, too, because this is 2020. Mattel has packaged a Campaign Team Set “to expose girls to public leadership roles and pique their interest in shaping the future.” That’s fine but I do wonder why this didn’t happen in 2016 when there was the first female presidential nominee of a major political party in the United States. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Nonetheless, Mattel has teamed up with She Should Run, a nonpartisan nonprofit providing “guidance and support to women considering a run for office.” Yes, as a conservative, I usually roll my eyes when a group calls itself nonpartisan but that is how it describes itself. In this case, the candidate Barbie doll is a Black woman and her three top “counterparts” look to be two White women and one Hispanic woman, because, again, this is 2020. (If Mattel did this in 2016 it would have been awkward for Democrats since, you know, Hillary is a White woman.) The other three Barbie dolls are the candidate’s campaign manager, fundraiser, and voter. The set is priced at $39.99.

The set of dolls is meant to show the importance of a political team working together for victory. And, yes, the color choices are deliberate.

“[T]he brand made the political candidate Black because there are fewer Black female elected officials and fewer Black women exploring a path to political leadership. Of the 127 women serving in the 116th Congress, 22 are Black and of the 90 women serving in statewide elective executive offices, only 5 are Black. Additionally, since voter turnout for Latinos lags around 20 percent behind that of white and Black voters, Barbie designed the voter doll to highlight this underrepresentation for girls.”

Ironically, I am reading more and more articles about the record numbers of women running for office this cycle, as well as the high number of minority women running, Black women in particular. Most importantly, to me, is the record number of Republican women running for office. Let’s just say this package deal of Barbies looks to be checking identity boxes, which is a typically Democrat move. They are the party of identity politics.

We already know the power of the Black female vote, but when it comes to Black women running for elected office, those numbers are thankfully swiftly improving. After a record number of female candidates running—and winning—during the midterm elections in 2018, a report released on Monday showed that Black women are throwing their hats in the congressional ring in record numbers in 2020, showing little Black girls everywhere what is possible.

Barbie has run for office seven times before this year.

Of course, this isn’t Barbie’s first run for office since her birth in 1959. “With seven runs for office since 1992, Barbie has a long history of showing girls they can and should be in office,” says the brand. “Ahead of the 2020 election, the brand is launching this new doll set alongside a full marketing program aimed at the next generation of leaders by highlighting the importance of voting and taking a stand and showing girls how to run a campaign.”

The campaign set is the latest offering from the Barbie Dream Gap Project, which aims to mitigate self-limiting beliefs in young girls.

And because political engagement and ambition aren’t a game, the Barbie Dream Gap Project has also donated funds to She Should Run, with a portion of resources specifically dedicated to Help Her Lead, “a course designed to support young girls, particularly girls of color, in their pathway to political leadership by giving adult role models the resources and guidance to engage and inspire them early in life” through intentional conversations, fundraising, volunteer efforts and leadership activities.

“With the upcoming elections and the current push for equality and representation, 2020 is an incredible time for us to inspire young women and girls to lead,” said Erin Loos Cutraro, founder and CEO of She Should Run. “Understanding the role we play in empowering our daughters is the first step—we have to have healthy conversations at home and encourage curiosity. By getting them excited today, we’re giving them the confidence to raise their voices and run for office tomorrow.”

If I was a parent of a little girl who plays with Barbie dolls, I’d probably think of this set as a contribution to the Democrats. Most importantly, little girls need to know that women run for office all the time and the first woman elected to Congress was a Republican from Montana in 1916. The color of a woman’s skin shouldn’t be a factor, though we know it is for many voters.

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