Despite that sales were down 22% in 2023, Barbie is trending again.
Warner Bros. made the Barbie movie announcement in July 2019, and by the following day, audiences everywhere were weighing in on the toy’s complicated reputation across social media.
“We of course would want to honor the 60-year legacy that this brand has. But we have to acknowledge that there are a lot of people who aren’t fans of Barbie. And in fact, aren’t just indifferent to Barbie. They actively hate Barbie. And have a real issue with Barbie. We need to find a way to acknowledge that,” said Margo Robbie, leading actress of the film, referring to what her production team told Mattel when they pitched the idea.
From a film industry perspective, the movie had a very successful opening weekend, earning $162 million over its first three days in domestic theaters, making it the highest-grossing opening for a female director in the history of cinema. However, that hasn’t stopped the cyclical nature of Barbiecore, nor has it halted how quickly trends change. It makes one wonder how long the trend will stick around after the film buzz has worn off.
Before photos from the set of Gerwig’s “Barbie” broke the internet, hot pink made headlines for high-end fashion brands. In July 2021, actresses like Florence Pugh dressed in hot pink Versace dresses and matching platform heels for fashion week. Valentino made headlines during their 2022/2023 couture show last July, with attendees posed in color-coordinated pink ensembles from the previous collection. Now, those same high-end designers are already “off” Barbiecore, but the lower-end stores are capitalizing on the brand’s newfound popularity.
However, it wasn’t too long ago that Barbie’s popularity, and sales, were plummeting. A 2018 New York Times article shared, “the trouble in toyland is particularly severe for Mattel. Revenue has plunged from $6.5 billion in 2013 to a projected $4.5 billion this year, and a profit of more than $913 million has become an expected loss of $418 million. The company’s stock is down 73% in that time and near a 10-year low.” This reflects the very cyclical nature of the business.
As a toy that 90% of girls own, and one that transcends generations, Barbie can ride the trends a little better than other types of toys, especially with Mattel’s expansive Barbie licensing, merchandising for computer games, theme parks, movies, and more. But Mattel did not invent this. Marvel, Hasbro and Lego have all the licensing as well. Mattel is simply hopping on that trend and happens to be doing it well at the moment, but in terms of how long-lasting this successful trend will be, we will have to wait and see.