SIC 3942

This category covers establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing dolls, doll parts, and doll clothing, except doll wigs. Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing stuffed toys are also included in this industry. Doll wigs are classified under SIC 3999: Manufacturing Industries, Not Elsewhere Classified.

NAICS Code(s)

339931 (Doll and Stuffed Toy Manufacturing)

In 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, doll and stuffed toy industry shipments totaled $329 million, down from $343 million in 1999. The total number of industry employees decreased from 3,638 in 1998 to 2,893 in 2000. To counter the market decline attributed to competition from computer and electronic games targeted to girls, manufacturers brought out more interactive dolls and updated their current products.

To contain labor costs, many companies imported branded products or used parts made in developing countries. Mattel, Inc. was among several retailers that came under scrutiny in the mid-1990s, when it was alleged that young Chinese workers earned less than China's minimum wage of $1.99 a day making Barbie dolls. Still, in the late 1990s it was expected that imports would continue to displace domestic production. China, Japan, and Taiwan were major suppliers. Exports were being helped by an increased interest in products made in the United States and the lifting of trade barriers.

The biggest name in doll manufacturing is Mattel, Inc., maker of Barbie, the number one brand targeted toward girls aged three to seven. Two Barbies are sold every second. It has been estimated that, on average, young females in the United States own eight Barbie dolls, and 95 percent of all young females have at least one. Barbie dolls had worldwide annual sales of $1.7 billion in the late 1990s. According to Donna Leccese of Playthings , "Barbie accounts for more than half of all doll sales".

Since her creation in 1959 as a teenage fashion model, Barbie has engaged in various professional roles and has been joined by friends and family. In 1965 she gained her first ethnic friend and, in 1997, a disabled friend. Recognizing some serious competition from a growing collection of ethnic dolls, Mattel introduced an African-American Barbie in 1980, but only the coloring—not the doll's features—was modified. The company later introduced other ethnic dolls, but these only imitated products already being marketed by minority entrepreneurs. Barbie underwent a makeover in 1998 in response to complaints that she was a "self-esteem destroyer;" her figure was given more realistic proportions and her makeup was toned down. Also in 1998, Mattel launched a Web site that let girls design and order their own "Friend of Barbie" doll by choosing from some 15,000 feature combinations (but no shape choices).

In the late 1990s, smaller manufacturers challenged the norm set by Barbie by introducing more life-like dolls. Get Set Club Inc. produced five ethnically diverse dolls that were fully poseable and had naturally shaped bodies, while GP Toys introduced Walking Tanya, which had a human stride.

Barbie is not the only cause of Mattel's strength in this industry. Through licensing agreements and acquisitions, Mattel has brought under its umbrella such hit dolls and stuffed toys as Cabbage Patch Kids, Tickle Me Elmo, Winnie-the-Pooh, and the American Girls Collection. Targeted to girls aged seven to twelve, the American Girls line of historical dolls was the second largest girl's brand in the world in 1999, having sold some four million units between 1986 and 1998. The line's acquisition anchored Mattel's position in the girl's consumer brand market.

Mattel's closest competitor in the dolls and stuffed toys industry is Hasbro, Inc., many of whose products are geared towards boys. Hasbro had sales of $3.3 billion in 1998, compared to Mattel's sales of $4.7 billion. Hasbro sells a doll perhaps equally as famous as Barbie—G.I. Joe, who turned 35 in 1999. Like Mattel, Hasbro has numerous licensing agreements that allow it to offer a variety of brands, including action figures under the Starting Lineup, Star Wars, Batman, Superman, and Pokemon names. In the late 1990s, the company's divisions sold three of the industry's hottest product lines: Teletubbies, Furby, and Pokemon. The Teletubbies plush were offered in many sizes and forms, including an interactive version. The interactive Furby plush toy speaks "Furbish" and other languages and reacts to different conditions. Although Pokemon's most popular product is trading cards, the plush "pocket monsters" are highly demanded as well.

Another strong industry player is Ty Inc., maker of Beanie Babies. These plush-like collectibles have been on the market since 1993, ranging from $6 to hundreds of dollars for "retireds." In September 1999, Ty announced that all Beanies would be retired as of December 31,1999. Ty reported 1998 estimated sales of $1 billion.

Several smaller manufacturers produced interactive dolls in the 1990s. DSI Toys produced a doll that recited a bedtime prayer. Irwin Toy Ltd. implanted moisture-sensitive switches in its Kissy Kissy Baby doll that activated when kissed, causing the doll to kiss and giggle.

Traditional dolls—especially those in the collectible segment—gave interactive dolls competition. Sometimes dolls extended across segments. By giving its collectible Gene doll a bended knee, Bradford Exchange made it popular as a play doll, too. Many manufacturers, such as Alexander Doll Company, Lee Middleton, and Gotz, benefited by serving specialty, or collector, markets.

Further Reading

About Mattel Company History, 1999. Available from .

Baldwin, Kristen. "A Doll's Life: Four Decades Ago, A New Starlet Broke the Mold. Here's Her Story." Entertainment Weekly , 5 March 1999.

Bilzi, Jane. "Beyond the Silicon 'Valley of the Dolls'." Playthings , April 1999.

Bryant, June Smith. "More Dolls of Color." Black Enterprise , December 1991.

Chmielewski, Dawn C. "Mattel's New Web Site Lets Girls Design, Order Own Barbie Dolls." Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News , 26 October 1998.

Cole, Wendy. "Doll With a Past." Time , 19 October 1998.

Doll and Stuffed Toy Manufacturing: 1997 Economic Census. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau, 1999.

Hasbro Corporate Information, 1999. Available from .

Hayden, Thomas. "Fun! Fearless! Furby! (Furby Electronic Doll Could Be Christmas Craze)." Newsweek , 19 October 1998.

Holstein, William J. "Santa's Sweatshop." U.S. News & World Report , 16 December 1996.

Leccese, Donna. "Imitation of Life." Playthings , April 1999.

Miller, Cyndee. "Toy Companies Release 'Ethnically Correct' Dolls." Marketing News , 30 September 1991.

Toy Manufacturers of America, Inc. Research, 1999. Available from .

U.S. Industry and Trade Outlook '99. McGraw-Hill and U.S. Department of Commerce, 1999.

United States Census Bureau. "Statistics for Industries and Industry Groups: 2000." Annual Survey of Manufacturers. February 2002. Available from .

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