My 8-year-old self would have jumped for joy if I could pop over to the nearest strip mall by my childhood home in suburban Maryland to browse a selection of American Girl dolls and corresponding accessories, with convincing a parent to take me my only barrier. Instead, I flipped through catalogs which became tattered from so much dog-earing and obsessed over which piece I wanted to save up for (or, add to my Christmas list) next. Those were the days. But that’s just what the brand is doing more than 20 years after I was American Girl-obsessed.
The company recently announced a partnership with 97 Toys “R” US locations, exclusively, in what looks like a clear effort to expand its customer reach. Until now, AG fanatics (or their parents) have been ordering directly through American Girl or have had the glorious opportunity to go to one of their experiential stores in select major cities. I didn’t have the opportunity to go see one of these stores until I was 22 and working my first job in NYC: my boss needed me to pick something up there for her daughter’s Christmas gift. Oh, the irony.
To understand how this change will affect sales, we ran the following question:
Let’s focus first on the 7% of respondents who say they are more likely to purchase from the brand due to the Toys “R” Us availability.
- The majority of these respondents are women, 19% of them between the ages of 35 – 44 and 22% make between $75,001-$100,000 annually—only 15% of the general population make up this income bracket.
- The majority of them also live in the suburbs or a rural area (74%) — they are 6% more likely to live in those areas compared to the general population.
- 39% are a parent and almost the same number (35%) are both parents and grandparents
I was able to find some more insights:
- Active Pinterest users are more than twice as likely to answer I am more likely to purchase them now.
- Regular fast casual restaurant diners are more likely to answer I am more likely to purchase them now.
- People who choose personal electronics based on social media influence are more likely to answer I am more likely to purchase them now.
To me, those who are more likely to buy because of the Toys “R” Us access highly value experiences. They are out and about at restaurants, and value others’ opinions.
What about those who will keep buying them directly from the company? 4% of those polled said they would stick with status quo. What’s interesting is the majority of these respondents are 45 and older and more likely to be grandparents than those who would convert to the Toys “R” Us experience. They tend to be at home more, and are more likely to be unemployed/retired. Here are the other insights:
- People who enjoy cooking are more likely to answer I will continue to buy them from the catalog / online / in their own stores.
- People who regularly search for recipes online are more likely to answer I will continue to buy them from the catalog / online / in their own stores.
- Active Facebook users are more likely to answer I will continue to buy them from the catalog / online / in their own stores.
I’d say they are in the know, but also like to stick with what they know. They are more focused on their home life than going out.
And, for whatever reason, 3% of respondents say they are less likely to buy now. Perhaps it’s the dilution of the brand that will hold them back? Is Toys “R” Us too mainstream? It’s tough to say. But it’s good to be mindful of everyone’s opinion. It could take away from the exclusivity of ordering direct. Maybe in today’s age, the rareness of the American Girl experience is part of the allure to some.
My thoughts on all of this?
It’s about Experience vs. Convenience.
The direct-to-consumer model certainly has its merits, but I suspect it’s a bit outdated, even with online purchasing being so easy, and could hold sales back. Maybe some want the opposite of what some companies are now: they may want to see things in person. Especially when it’s toys.
It looks like some parents want the experience of seeing American Girl doll items in person, and the Toys “R” Us collab is the ticket. Since these people are on Pinterest, which is about creating ideal experiences, maybe that’s what it’s all about. I’d say American Girl can think about similar experiential situations as their own stores provide for the Toys “R” Us mini shops. Grandparents want to do what they know and trust, and will continue as-is. Seems like in-store events for the launch will draw awareness and moreover, excitement for this partnership, and hopefully, drive sales up. It will be important for the brand to remember both types of shopper moving forward.