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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

American Girl: A changing brand?

Hi, everyone! It's Talolili (Ternessa). I apologize for not posting in such a long time. I suppose the simplest reason for my absence would be life. I've had a lot happen to me in 2016. So many changes with my personal life and doll life. I want 2017 to be different for myself and I'm glad to be back! I want to start off my first post of the year about a company I've been a fan of since I was in elementary school. American Girl. I think most of us are familiar with them. They make some of the most popular 18" dolls, clothes and accessories around. After a 6+ year break I returned to the brand by purchasing their 2014 Girl Of The Year doll: Isabelle Palmer. She was a blonde and pink haired ballet dancer. I found her just adorable. Since then I've sold my Isabelle doll but I did purchase the 2016 GOTY Lea Clark as a birthday present for myself last October. She's also a cutie and I love her adorable caramel hair and hazel eyes. In short, I'm trying to say that I've been a fan of AG and I hope I will continue to be one for a long time. That brings me to the main topic of this post. American Girl's changing business strategy.

A lot has been going on with the brand starting way back in 1998 when Mattel took acquisition of the Pleasant Company. I wasn't around for the original PC run of dolls so I've always known the Mattel side of them. I have seen some of the PC fans post comments about Mattel ruining the brand and "cheapening out" but I usually just attributed most of that to them being afraid of change and/or living in the past. Things change and I understand that. Most things, especially businesses have to adjust to changing markets. Now I feel myself echoing some of the thoughts of some of those original PC doll collectors and I also understand some of their complaints.

So lately American Girl/Mattel has been making their products more widely available by selling certain lines like Truly Me and Wellie Wishers at Toys R Us and The Girl Of The Year line and Wellie Wishers at Kohl's. This was a positive move in my opinion, as I know from personal experience, not everyone can make it to a American Girl store easily and shipping fees can really add up for large purchases. My last small order from AG consisting of just a few socks and a shirt was over $8, a full doll can easily go over $20.

I was also happy to see that more children would be exposed to the dolls. So I didn't see hardly any drawbacks to expanding to select retailers. Next, we learned late last year right after the 2017 GOTY doll, Gabriela McBride (also the first GOTY doll of color!) was introduced that AG would be changing their box designs to make them easier to display the dolls and outfits/accessories. Right off the bat, backlash was everywhere. People claimed the new packaging made the products look cheap, ruined the clothes with tags and other security measures to keep the products in place and many also assumed the new packaging was to curb possible theft from retailers.

In my opinion the new packaging isn't my favorite from AG, but I usually just store the boxes in a closet so they don't really have much value or use to me. My main concern is removing the clothes safely. I've had many a Barbie or other fashion doll outfits get holes in them trying to remove them from the packaging. I was also hoping that Mattel would do everything they could to prevent this issue, but after seeing feedback from customers on the official AG website, it seems that the clothes are indeed being damaged while being removed. Reviews for Gabriela's pjs in the new packaging

Now that brings me to latest update that American Girl announced today on their Facebook page. Non removable underwear. Yes, there is no way to remove them, they're apart of the doll's main body. Now this announcement had me livid... ever since I was a kid I've always disliked painted on or any other kind of attached underwear on my dolls. It just always bugged me and made me think the companies were being cheap. After seeing pics of the new attached underwear and discussing them with my fellow doll collectors I decided to sign a petition on Change.org to get Mattel to possibly rethink their decision.

Left: Old panty design  Middle:New attached panties  Right:New panties with a swim bottom over them

I realize that a lot of people think that we fans are overreacting to the change but this is our hobby and it's very important to us. I think that Mattel also needs to listen more to their consumers. Selling the dolls at Toys R Us, Kohl's and other stores doesn't really change the main doll. Neither does the packaging. It's still an AG brand doll, but attached underwear? That just doesn't seem like something I'd ever expect from the AG brand that promotes creativity, play and imagination.

How can a child be imaginative when they can't choose their favorite color for their doll's undies or even remove them if they get dirty? American Girl stated on Facebook that one reason for the change was because customers complained that their children had trouble putting on the underwear or ended up losing them. I honestly think that is ridiculous. If the child does have trouble putting them on just give them some time, they'll get the hang of it! I'm sure of it. I had to learn, too, as we all did. And if a set gets lost, it's super easy to find replacement panties. Either directly from AG or through eBay, Amazon or other 18" doll companies.

I really hope Mattel will take customer feedback into consideration and either stop the change over to attached underwear or offer up the option of getting them attached or having them left separate from the doll. I think this would be the best way to go about it. What is your opinion? Do you think this a good decision on Mattel's part or do you not like this new design? What do you think of the other changes to the brand? Please share your views below in the comment section. I've also attached a link to the petition here: Petition Link

Thank you for reading and happy doll collecting!!!


  1. Pleasant Company designed American Girl dolls as keepsake dolls for older girls. Then Bitty Baby was created for the younger girls, say five and six year olds, so they would also have a doll. Like seemingly every other doll on the market, AG dolls seem to have become the province of the younger set. Some of this age group takes good care of their dolls; a lot of them will not.

    I'm one of the original Pleasant Company collectors of which you speak, and as I said above, American Girl dolls were originally designed as keepsake dolls, with amazing, historically correct clothes and accessories. If you can find a Pleasant Company catalog, check out what was on offer back then and compare it to today's merchandise. Yes, the economy has been terrible, so maybe a high-end doll company might not be able to make it at this time. That doesn't mean that we PC collectors didn't have the right to mourn what was lost. Now that changes have begun for economizing and mass market appeal to little girls, there is no going back. Like Barbie, adult collectors are *not* the main consumers of these dolls, and they won't pay the bills. It may very well be that the majority of little girls, and their mothers, will be fine with this change, and Mattel's market research probably showed that they will.

    1. My reply is deeply late I apologize in advance. You bring up some good points. The companies have to change with the times. I'm just happy to see little girls who still want to play with dolls but Mattel does need to listen to their older customers as well and I'm glad they did in this case. The "perma panties" are no more.

  2. Excellent post, my dear friend! I also think permanently attached drawers are a dumb idea, particularly with Felicity's reboot drawing so close. Colonists didn't wear underpants, period. If the new Felicity has sewn on drawers that will not only be historically inaccurate, but it'll also look dumb! I wish this were an option rather than the norm.

  3. Great article, Mattel has ruined the company and cheapened the doll. They have made her smaller, done away with the ethnic dolls, trivialized the stories attached to the newer dolls. I hate what they have done, as these dolls were originally meant as a keepsake, a doll that you would pass down to your daughter. I make 18" doll clothes as a hobby and sell very cheap, so that little girls can have clothes for their doll that don't cost the price of AG stores. I'm sick of what Mattel has done, and afraid this may be the end of the AG doll. Thanks for your post, I appreciate it greatly.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! I've been thinking about AG again recently. I do like that Mattel has tried to include more diverse dolls to their lines. We used to only have Addy. Then later Josefina. The new GOTY or whatever they have now branded her is Latino and is interested in STEM and space travel. So they're trying to branch ouch. Not just dancers etc like it was. I still think that a lot of changes aren't for the better but they know that we as consumers won't stand for too much change. Like with the "perma panties" Fans were outraged. It made the dolls seem like they were aimed at a much younger crowd. I will try to continue to support them in 2018 as I do want AG to flourish. The toy market in general is in deep trouble these days.