“Frozen” merchandise is the most coveted toy for girls this holiday season, knocking Barbie from the No. 1 position for the first time, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation.
About 20 percent of parents plan to buy “Frozen” gifts for their daughters, the Washington-based trade group found in its annual study. Barbie, which was chosen by 17 percent of parents this year, had been the top pick throughout the list’s 11-year history. Lego toys were the most popular choice for parents of boys, with 14 percent opting for them.
The results mark another setback for Mattel Inc.’s Barbie, which has lost ground to other doll brands and drawn criticism for her unrealistic body proportions. Barbie’s worldwide sales sank 21 percent in the most recent quarter. The popularity of “Frozen”-themed Halloween outfits, meanwhile, may have boosted the brand’s visibility, said Pam Goodfellow, director of Prosper Insights & Analytics, which worked on the survey.
“Barbie has been the top girls’ toy for over a decade, but it is no surprise that Disney’s ‘Frozen’ has taken the top seat as children have had it on the mind,” she said in the statement.
The slide at the Barbie brand, which is the largest toy property in the world with global sales topping $1 billion, hasn’t been good for Mattel’s shareholders. The company’s shares were little changed at $31.19 at the close in New York. The stock has declined 34 percent this year so far, compared with a 12 percent gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.
Even with Barbie losing status, Mattel has benefited from the popularity of “Frozen,” a Walt Disney Co. film about two royal sisters who confront an ice-bound kingdom. The company makes Queen Elsa and Princess Anna dolls, based on characters from the movie.
“Frozen,” released last year, is the most successful animated film of all time. It has generated almost $1.3 billion in worldwide ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo.
In 2016, the doll license for “Frozen” will shift to Hasbro Inc. Still, Mattel has two other brands in the top five of the NRF list: Monster High and American Girl. The list of girls’ toys also included My Little Pony and Doc McStuffins.
The boys’ survey included Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Transformers.
There were a few areas where the two genders’ wishlists overlapped: Lego was the sixth pick for girls, and Apple Inc.’s iPad was on both rankings.
Getting dethroned from the toy list was the latest embarrassment for Barbie this month. Mattel apologized last week for a book that portrayed Barbie as an inept computer engineer after drawing criticism online. The brand also faces fresh competition from a rival product with more realistic looks, spotlighting Barbie’s unattainable physique. The $25 Lammily doll, a crowd-funded project that lets kids add imperfections such as acne and stretch marks, is slated to start shipping later this week.