Sidetracked again!!!

It seems like every time I have a post in mind for a particular day, something comes along and puts it on the back burner.  Today is one of those days.  But this news is big.  I mean really BIG.

American Girl has announced that they will be selling some of their Truly Me and Wellie Wishers lines in Toys R Us.

Now, before everyone goes all bat-crap crazy about how bad of an idea this is, let me point out a few things here.

  1. Sales for the company are down
  2. Not everyone lives near an American Girl Store
  3. They aren’t going to be available in every Toys R Us store

Sales for the 2nd quarter of 2016 fell 19% from the previous year, same quarter, for American Girl.  That’s a huge drop.  I’m not sure what the exact cause was, but that is something to be concerned about.  And definitely something needed to be done as this was not a new issue, but one that was getting bigger.

The American Girl stores are a fun idea.  But has anyone ever sat down and thought about how much it costs to run one of those stores?  Everyone has something to say about how the prices keep going up and up and up on the merchandise while the quality has either stagnated or gone down.  Blame it on the AG stores.  Overhead on those is enormous!  From the rent they pay, to the utilities, to the workforce, I quite honestly don’t know how they are making very much at all.  There are only 2 days a week that the store is super busy.  I’ve been in the Columbus store twice during the week and it’s like a ghost town.  I suspect that many of the other stores have a similar situation.  It costs big bucks to have a presence in a shopping mall and where these stores are at are generally high-end locations where rents are through the roof.  I have my doubts as to whether or not we will see very many (if any) new AG stores open in the near future.  And if we do, they are also going to be in high traffic, destination areas like the ones already there.

Then there is the whole issue of there only being stores in certain areas.  Where I am at, it’s a 3 hour drive to the closest store.  It’s about to get down to an hour with the opening of a seasonal store in the Pittsburgh area, but it’s still an hour away and not permanent.  I know people who live even further away from one.  And there is still a certain percentage of the population that won’t shop for something online.  Did you know that 75% of ALL toy sales are done in a retail store and not online?  I thought that was an interesting fact.  Which means that there is a large percentage of the population who hasn’t even set eyes on an American Girl doll, let alone bought one.

Competition in the toy market is huge, always has been.  Now it’s even fiercer with other things like video games and the internet taking up kids time and interests.  In order to stay competitive, toy companies have to always be on the lookout for a newer, better way to market their goods.  And where better than the nations largest toy chain???  I’d rather that they end up there than in Walmart or Target.  From what I have read, AG will still have a lot of control as to how it goes and what happens.

Right now Disney is AG’s biggest competitor in the doll segment.  With the release of the movie “Frozen”, AG literally found themselves frozen (pardon the pun) out of the doll market.  Every little girl wanted their own Elsa or Anna.  Or did they???  Perhaps that’s what they bought because another choice that they would have liked wasn’t available where they were.  Picture this scenario:  grandma tells her granddaughter that she will take her to the Toys R Us near them, and she can pick out whatever she wants.  Kids live in the moment.  They don’t think about the “what if’s” or “could I”.  So they get what they can see, what is tangible in front of them.  And if that doll isn’t there in front of them where they can see it, they get what is.  In the words of Veruca Salt:  “I want it NNOOOOWWWW!”  We live in an instant gratification world these days and if left to the choice of “buy this now” or “we can order this instead”, they are going with option number 1.  Or worse yet, they decide to buy a video game.  Eeeeek!!

I saw where someone actually said in a comment on another blog that having to order an American Girl doll or go to the store is what makes it special.  HUH?!?!?  What kind of elitist hogwash is that?  What makes American Girl special is the stories, the books, the accessories.  If you are buying an AG doll for you or a little girl because you have brand/ego issues, perhaps you need to be spending that money on a good shrink!  I’m amazed at how many people seem to forget that these are toys.  Intended for children.  They are very well done, but at the end of the day, they are still dolls, made for little girls, originally as a learning tool.  They weren’t supposed to be the Louis Vuitton of dolls.

One concern that does come up fairly often is “will this affect the quality”.  It could.  However, that ship quite frankly has already sailed.  When Mattel partnered with Pleasant Company there was almost an immediately change in the product quality.  There has been a steady decline, but overall the product is still a good product.  Honestly, I don’t foresee this as an issue any time soon, and hopefully never.  Recent releases tell me that they are spending a decent amount of time on producing a quality product.  I just wish they’d spend that much time on research for the BeForever line, but that’s another story for another time!  Two high end brands that come immediately to mind for comparison are Lego and Calico Critters (also known as Sylvanian Families outside of the US).  Both take up a considerable amount of floor space in Toys R Us and no one would accuse either of those lines of making a poor quality product.  Lego has been sold in Toys R Us for at least 25 years, long before they ever built LEGOLAND or started opening stores.

One comment that makes me laugh is “Wellie Wishers must not be doing well for them to do this”.  Obviously this person knows NOTHING about retail.  Wellie Wishers just came out in the spring.  The third quarter for sales just ended, so numbers are just now coming in.  I’m sure this deal with Toys R Us has been in the works for a fair amount of time, perhaps as long as a couple of years.  From what I’ve been reading, this is going to be a niche kind of area within the stores, and it’s going to be in less than 100 stores.  That’s less than 12% of all Toys R Us stores in the United States.  This wasn’t a “here, sell our stuff in every store!” kind of deal, it sounds as though a lot of thought and planning went into it.  And I’m sure a lot of legal wrangling.  That all takes time, and competition for floor space in any retail store is in high demand.  This actually could have been in the works for a very long time, but just a matter of waiting for another line to either go under or a contract to run out.  This sort of thing goes on all the time in retail, but it doesn’t happen overnight.

Personally, I think this is one of the better moves that American Girl has made in recent years.  Brand recognition is everything and creating additional awareness of the brand can only help.  By putting the dolls in a large retail chain like Toys R Us creates that environment, but under strict controls.  If it doesn’t work out, they simply don’t renew the contract when it ends.  But in the meantime, the exposure they get would be beneficial.  As that saying goes “there is no such thing as bad publicity.”  I suspect that is how they are looking at it right now.  With sales going down, what do they have to lose?

There are quite a few benefits too for those who already shop at Toys R Us.  Right off the bat, you aren’t going to be paying for shipping.  Perhaps you need a birthday gift in a hurry for that AG crazy little girl in your family, problem solved.  If you happen to be a member of the Toys R Us rewards program, you will benefit that way too.  And if you are like me, you may be more likely to purchase something if you can see it in front of you as opposed to having to view it on a computer screen.  The roof over my head is a perfect example of that.  On the computer this house didn’t look like what we wanted, but after seeing it on a Saturday, we thought it over on Sunday and by Monday we were contacting the real estate agent because we wanted to make an offer.  Had we gone with that computer screen image, we probably would still be house hunting.  Having the actual item in front of you gives you the ability to make a better judgment about it.  There are still many people out there who think that American Girl products are overpriced and refuse to buy them because they are convinced of that.  Yet they haven’t seen them.  Putting these items out where more people can see them is a great way to increase interest.  And possibly change opinions.

I think this is a step forward for the company and I’m anxious to see how it goes.  Maybe we will see even better ideas come along as a result of this.  How quickly everyone forgets:  American Girl used to have a partnership with QVC!  They also have been known to sell things at Zulily, Costco and Sam’s Club as well.  Some of the Maryellen items are sold on Amazon.  I see nothing wrong with trying to move a brand forward in changing times.  It’s either that or possibly go out of business.  It happens all the time to companies that don’t try new strategies.  Who would have ever thought that a name as big as Kodak would ever hit hard times?  I know I don’t want to see that, and I’m sure none of the rest of you do either.  But a company cannot continue to lose business at the rate they have and still stay in business.  Times change and as a result, business does too.  You can’t continue to run a company with a 1980’s mindset when it’s 2016.  It’s time to move forward.


39 thoughts on “Sidetracked again!!!

  1. I respect all your opinions, but I actually agree with the “going to the AG store makes it more special.” Because it does. I am not an adult yet, but I do feel like a 10 year old going into the American Girl store. I do agree, the dolls, books and accessories are special, but going to the store is not the same as buying the items at a general toy store. It is the experience, along with the doll and other purchases, that make buying your new friend special.

    • So, what you are saying to me is that the doll that I got before ever there were AG stores isn’t as special as yours? Hmmmm…I’ll have to tell my husband that, who bought it for me with a tremendous amount of thought and jumping through a lot of hoops. As a surprise because he loved me.

      • No, I don’t mean that at all! I just mean that the experience of being at the store, chatting with the employees, seeing all the items and displays is very special and really a quite awesome experience. And I have no doubt your dolls are special to you just as mine are.

      • It is a special place, but something that so many people seem to forget is that not everyone gets that opportunity. I can tell you for certain that as a little girl, I would have NEVER gotten to go to someplace like that. EVER. My parents didn’t do any of that kind of thing. And I know a lot of people who are like that. I remember having to beg to get to go to a Children’s Palace store (very similar to Toys R Us) ONE time, and the only reason I think we went is because we were with another family and happened to be close to it. Not everyone has a store close to them, but I can picture a little girl, much like I was, saving up her money for a doll after perhaps seeing one in a Toys R Us, and desperately wanting one. I can vouch for feeling like a 10 year old in Toys R Us as well, I already have to stay away from the Calico Critters section because I need another collection like I need a hole in my head. So the idea that you can only get that feeling over a doll in an AG store doesn’t ring true with me at all.

      • I never said I was opposed to the idea of having American Girl dolls at Toys R Us. I just said that the experience of going to the American Girl store and buying a doll in and of itself is special to me, and I’m sure along with thousands of other girls across the nation.

      • I’m sure it is. My concern is primarily with those who tend to use AG as a way of feeling superior to others. I’ve seen some awful comments on other blogs and it saddens me to think that in a time where we have so many people fighting for equality, there are people using dolls as a way to make others feel inferior. To me, selling these dolls in other places opens the door to children who might not otherwise get the opportunity to see them in person and feel about them the way you and I do. 🙂

  2. I believe that the downturn in AG profit is due to the decline in quality of their product. If they do not change this then the move will be a mistake. If they up the quality again then it will not matter where they sell product.
    I will take this opportunity to tell you what happened with a recent order. I had ordered Maryellens Christmas Cookie set on line because they did not have it at the store. The set came yesterday. I was excited when I opened it and saw that the tray was metal, great start. The glass of milk is adorable, the straw swivels to position it. The apron is cute. That is wear good ends. The cookies are HUGE!!! The more I thought about this, the more it irritated me that they are paying so little attention to important details. I decided to call customer relation. I explained the glaring problem with them, if you put the reindeer cookie and the snowman cookie on the tray, they take up the entire tray (which is suppose to be a lap tray!!!!!). If you put the reindeer cookie on any AG plate that you own it will hang over the plate!!! The reindeer cookie is three times the size of the glass of milk!!!! I told them that I am keeping the set because I do want parts of it, but I won’t display the larger cookies or the cookie cutters of them. The picture on line of this set is very deceiving!!!! The reindeer cookie is not on the tray and the snowman hangs over. I really do not know what their designers are thinking!! They have had sets in the past and even their new regular holiday set that have cookies at decent sizes. AG’s customer service answer was that they are made for children not collectors. In my opinion, this is the wrong answer. I know I started out buying for my granddaughter, but buying this quality because I expected it to be quality to keep and pass down. I then got hooked myself! I do not believe most people would pay AG prices if they only wanted a toy and not have a more important personal meaning as a hobbyist or collector. I think that it is very sad that AG would have this attitude.

    • Now think about what you just said. Had you been able to see it in person before buying it, would you have bought it? Probably not. This is why I think this idea is a good one, it will let people make better judgments about the product as well as perhaps generate more new business. I don’t know how much you have read online but there is a LOT of negative feedback about the AG line and parents who will not buy it because of the price, yet they have never seen it. And while you and I are collectors, we are not the main target audience of this product. It’s for kids. I think a lot of people have forgotten that.

  3. I think the reason AG has lost so much in sales is that the other doll companies such as Walmart’s My Life As (MLA) and Target’s Our Generation (OG) have stepped up the quality of their accessories. I’ve only seen one AG doll in my life and it did not look that much better than the cheaper dolls. MLA dolls are currently $28 with their clothes sets priced at $10-$12. For the difference in price I can buy 3 MLA dolls AND 2 outfits!!!!!! Plus the nearest AG store is 3 1/2 hours each way. Both MLA and OG has awesome accessories that are great quality and the prices can’t be beat. My granddaughters are still only five years old so for now we play with the “cheap” dolls and their accessories. The only thing that I wish was better quality in the off brand dolls was their hair but I can always glue on a good quality doll wig and still have less money in the doll than buying an AG doll.

    P.S. If I were to ask my granddaughters if they wanted an AG doll with no accessories ($115) or a MLA or OG doll (under $30) doll and $85 worth of accessories they would look at me like I was nuts!!!!! This makes me think of the current Yeti cooler cups that’s all the rage. People are paying $40 for ONE CUP but they have them for sale at Walmart and Target for $10 and they work the same exact way!! Some people will just always be brand snobs.

    • I agree, I do think that the competition is really putting the heat on them. As far as quality, I have both and I have to say that the AG dolls definitely are better quality–but not for 3 times the price. But as you pointed out, brand snobbery is part of the problem, people will still pay these ridiculous prices because they think they have something superior. And why I think the TRU introduction is a step in the right direction. It will be an interesting experiment if nothing else.

  4. By the way, the new doll shopping basket (like the ones you carry through the store) at Walmart is great!!! I love the food in it!! Definitely worth looking for!! At one Walmart they had the store tag but no baskets – the tag said $7.97. Today at a different store I bought them and they were $5.00. I was really impressed with the feel of the bread and orange ( a nice weight to it). The basket has 1 soda bottle, 1 banana, 1 water bottle, 1 case mix, 1 macaroni & cheese box, 1 bunch grapes, 1 tomato, 1 pineapple, 1 apple, 1 orange, 1 fruit punch (carton), 1 egg carton, 1 loaf of bread, 1 canned peas, 1 canned green beans!!! What a deal!!!

    • Oh cool! I looked at ours earlier this week, and of course came up empty handed. Our Walmart is the pits. Sounds like I need to make a drive out of town! Our store didn’t even have a tag for that set. SuperWalmart–not!

  5. Maybe if they go back to the original products[especially the books that were so educational with the history of the era in the back of the books] they would have better sales.

  6. My sisters and I have the original dolls. The first mistake American Girl did was to retire the girls that started it all. Second concentrating on the dolls that were not historical. That was the purpose of the company. The third one is changing the books. Historical means showing pictures of the time era. The new books don’t hold a candle to the originals.

    • While I’m not a fan of Mattel, I think we actually should make it down with Pleasant Rowland. She’s the one who sold out. Mattel saw a good business opportunity and she was the one who decided to take it. No one held a gun to her head. She could have said no. But instead she accepted a position with the company.

  7. Has anyone actually thought about WHY AG’s prices are so high? Consider this:

    I have it on good authority, (someone else who founded her own doll company), that it costs about $20 to make an AG doll. Contrary to what people think, the Mattel versions are NOT the carefully crafted dolls and accessories you got when the company was first founded w/ just 3 dolls. American Girl doesn’t just sell dolls and accessories. When you buy an AG doll you are paying for:

    Construction of and rent for their stores
    The employees of those stores
    The food in their restaurants
    The authors and illustrators of their books
    The producers, directors, actors, wardrobe, set designers and builders, and film crew for each movie.
    The printers, photographers and models for the catalogs
    The website designers
    The research and development department

    Get the picture? You are essentially paying for an empire. The experience might be fun, but trust me, most parents just wanna pay for the doll and some accessories.

    As far as what’s hurting sales, I can give you 4 good reasons:

    1) The secondary market and hand me downs. Why pay top prices for something you can get on Ebay or Craigslist? Or you can just wait for older kids in your family to grow out of them, and you have a ready made collection.

    2) Etsy, and other internet store fronts. You can get better quality, one of a kind, (or at least a select few) for lower prices. You also can get many items custom made as I have.

    3) Other 18 inch doll brands. AG isn’t the only game in town anymore. MLA, OG Springfield Collection and Journey Girls are giving AG stiff competition. And they are proving that the dolls and accessories don’t have to cost a lot to be fun.

    4) DIY crafters. YouTube folks like My Froggy Stuff and American Girl Ideas (for example) are showing people how to make the same items in the catalogs CHEAP.

    And as far as you elitists go, American Girl was not created to give parents a banner to wave, or for kids to throw the brand up in the faces of their less fortunate peers. (and you know this happens..just check out some of the blogs and YouTube for those snide comments). It was created to empower girls, help them use their imaginations, and learn about the history (with the help of dolls and books) that made this country great. It’s about helping little girls who are living in the instant gratification, computerized, social media driven world not to grow up so fast, but just have a good time being little girls. I for one LOVE the idea that AG is going more for the “general public” and not so much exclusiveness. I applaud AG (and I seldom do), for having the good sense to reach out to the common man (as it were) to help save their company.

    *steps down off soap box*

  8. I think this is not such a bad idea. I think AG needs to be more accessible. There is SO much competition in the doll market right now it is really not surprising to me at all. I enjoyed reading all the comments!

  9. First of all, you brought back memories of me going to Childrens Palace as a kid. I’m disappointed that the rewards program doesn’t work on merchandise bought at TRU. Only good thing is that I have the shop kick app where you earn points by walking into stores and scanning items. Kicks get turned into gift cards, which includes TRU. I don’t see us buying anymore dolls right now (daughter has 10) but would like to get some accessories. The Columbus store was nice to go to for her birthday, but the three hour drive was rough. I wonder though, if the TRU in Pittsburgh will carry since the pop up store is in the same complex.

    • There are enough other TRU stores in the Pittsburgh area, perhaps one of them will be used instead of Ross Park. I’m assuming that the stores chosen for this will be the bigger stores, not sure where that particular one falls as far as that was concerned though. I do think that the fact there will be a pop up store will affect it too, so perhaps Cranberry, Monroeville or Bethel Park will be selected?

      Another plus if we do get a store near us selling them is that Giant Eagle does sell the TRU gift cards. I’ve yet to find anyone in my area that sells AG ones. So if I know I’m going to be heading to TRU to make a purchase, I’ll go get cards at Giant Eagle and get the fuel perks as well.

    • I hope so for your sake and for all of the AG fans outside of the US. I can’t even imagine what they must charge you for shipping, eeeeekkk!!

  10. I’m in between Monroville and Greensburg TRUs. Greensburg already said they are getting the dolls in the next week or so. It would be great if Giant Eagle sold the gift cards. I will be earning free gas in no time. Lol. My daughter wants to go to Ross Park for the opening on the 17th.

    • Yeah, at 10 cents off for every $50, that would sure add up quickly!! Just the camper alone would have been almost 40 cents off LOL! Hopefully we can do the same with TRU and that we have a store close that will sell the items we are looking for. Evil Twin and I are hopefully going the week after the opening. You’ll have to let me know how it goes if you decide to go on the 17th, I bet it will be mad crazy!

      • Our Giant Eagle is doing 20 cents off for a $50 card until 9-7-16. I love it when they do it!!! We always stock up on what we use.

      • Good to know!!! I don’t shop at ours all that often, but that might be worth going and getting a few for places we eat at to have over the winter months when that’s all there is to do LOL!

  11. I’ll let you know. I told her we have to get up early and wait in line. I figured this will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for her. Making memories is more important than a doll.

  12. Is anyone else surprised that AG isn’t selling Bitty Baby in TRU stores? I think the Bitty Baby dolls and items at TRU would be huge for AG.

    Most people don’t even know that AG makes a baby doll. I never did until I looked for a dark haired, blue eyed baby doll for my then 18m daughter for Christmas. Only AG had such a doll. I balked at the $80 price but purchased it. Bitty Baby was my family’s introduction to AG. I have an original PC Kirsten doll my parents gave me when I was little. But it’s all I had; we could never afford additional outfits or accessories. AG was too expensive. When we started having kids, I ignored AG because it was too expensive. If not for my dark haired, blue eyed daughter I may have ignored AG forever. Bitty Baby changed everything.

    Bitty Baby is amazing. Beautiful, incredibly cuddly and just gets better with time/play/use. Because of Bitty Baby, my family has added quite a lot of AG dolls and products to our home (most on sale), made a special trip to AGP NYC this past winter, we’ve become huge WellieWishers fans, we’re excited to attend an AG Fashion Show this fall, etc.

    Bitty Baby should be in TRU. Once you see Bitty Baby, it blows away any competition. (Most of the competition of baby dolls available in stores are just plain creepy). Bitty Baby is worth every penny of its current $60 price tag. I think Bitty Baby dolls and products would fly off the shelves. Bitty Baby is what AG wants to introduce families to the AG brand.

    Most children’s first doll is a baby doll. I wish instead of cutting back on their Bitty Baby line, AG had first tried increasing exposure through retail stores like TRU. Bitty Baby would do well with the exposure and I really think AG could only benefit from it. If AG put Bitty Baby and WellieWishers in TRU, I don’t think it would need to put the 18 inch doll line in stores.

    • I completely agree with you on that, I was surprised they weren’t going to have Bitty Baby as well. Even if they just did one of the dolls and some of the accessories, I think they would sell well. I’m going to be curious to see exactly what they do have in the stores.

  13. Everything you said was excellent and well thought-out. The only thing I would mention is that there might be another way to look at those who say it takes away the “specialness” of AG. While I won’t deny that there certainly are elitists out there who care about brand names, not beautiful dolls, that might not be the case with everyone. Perhaps what some people mean when they say that TRU will take away the “specialness” of AG is that they enjoy they delayed gratification from ordering from a catalogue or enjoy having to make a road trip to an American Girl store. I know I personally love both of those things about AG since I live four hours from the nearest AGP, but just because of the personal enjoyment it brings me, not because it makes me feel better than other people or makes my dolls better than other brands of dolls. I completely agree that many people would need to see an AG doll before buying one, so I really hope that selling at TRU helps with that. I really really want American Girl to be around forever, so they should do whatever they need to do to boost sales! If American Girl does come to a TRU near me I will certainly be a frequent visitor!

    • I totally agree with you about the delayed gratification of getting a package in the mail. I shop online frequently and I love getting a package in the mail! However, I’ve seen some terrible (and I mean TERRIBLE) comments from people in regards to this subject. The best way I can describe it is the adult version of “I might get cooties”. That the dolls won’t be special anymore if “everyone can get one”. I’ve been appalled at some of the comments by adults in regards to this, and I worry about the message they are passing along to the kids they influence. One comment was so bad that Sharry and I both agreed that it was highly offensive. Yet she had so many people in agreement with her, not a single person called her out on it. That’s where my concern is coming from. And from what I understand from other things I’ve read, this attitude is not all that uncommon and that is a sad commentary on things in general. Not everyone sees the dolls for what they are and their educational value like we do. 😦

  14. I wonder if they will bring it to the Toys R Us in Canada. We were disappointed when we went to the AG store in Vancouver. I can buy a doll online and ship it to my house for the same. Why am I paying the equivalent of the price plus shipping when I’m in the actual store? I can tell that inflated prices are going to be pretty detrimental for the Canadian stores. If they bring them to ToysRUs it will probably be more of the same. $160 CDN they are asking for a doll! We were able to get our Lea online with free shipping. Other than that, it’s eBay for us. It’s just way too expensive.

    • From what I have read, at this point it will only be in the US, and only at select stores for the Truly Me line. I get the impression that the Wellie Wisher line will be a wider release, but again, only US. That’s crazy that they are inflating the prices on them like that. But after my experience with AG over the weekend, can’t say that I am surprised. 😦

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