Mattel to Sell 'Holiday Barbie' Vouchers as Demand Outstrips Supply
Dec. 05, 1995
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Demand for the 1995 Happy Holidays Barbie is so high that consumers who can't find them during the holiday rush will be offered vouchers promising home delivery next year, Mattel Inc. said Tuesday.
With the voucher comes a photograph of Barbie wearing a glittery emerald green gown with a white Victorian collar sporting appliqued holly berries.
The vouchers go on sale Dec. 16 and the dolls are to be delivered by April 30, 1996, said Mattel spokeswoman Karen Stewart.
``This is an opportunity to give people who would like to give it as a gift something tangible under the tree. It's not the same as getting the doll itself, but the photograph will say this is what it will look like,'' Stewart said.
The doll is the eighth in an annual series, but is the first to get a second run of production or to be sold through vouchers, she said.
Shoppers nationwide were searching for the doll on the Internet, posting at least 150 messages about long lines outside of toy stores and empty shelves inside since Thanksgiving.
Messages offered from $35 to $175 for the doll, which is priced in the mid-$30 range retail.
The Internet is also overflowing with speculation and rumors as to why the dolls are unavailable. Some customers suspect Mattel made fewer holiday dolls than in previous years in order to increase demand. Others said they heard the shortage was due to natural disasters and manufacturing plant problems.
Stewart denied any strategy was involved. She said the company made the same amount of dolls this year as it did last year. However, the company won't say how many dolls were made because it keeps secret Special Edition production numbers.
``I've heard all of (the rumors). There was supposedly a fire at a plant, a train derailment and a typhoon. But the fact of the matter is, ... demand is simply greater than we had anticipated,'' she said.
Mattel expects to begin delivering the dolls in early April, after the custom fabric and hand-beaded accessories are available for the resumption of production.
The dolls are a near sellout in a season with no new smash toys.
In downtown San Antonio, Texas, Toys Etc. owner Diane Weakley said she had gotten her full order of 24 dolls but they were sold in two weeks.
As for the vouchers, Weakley didn't plan to sell them.
``I'm not bothering with it,'' she said. ``A kid wants to see something under the tree, not in March.''
With hundreds of boxed Barbies surrounding her in FAO Schwarz's Barbie wing in Seattle, Virginia Anderson couldn't find the holiday version of the doll for her 7-year-old granddaughter.
It was her second strikeout, but she didn't let it phase her. Instead, she picked up Whitney, a juvenile version of Barbie.
``Children can't get everything they want, so I am not going to look any more,'' Anderson confided with a giggle.
Collectors snapped up the store's 48 Happy Holidays Barbies before the dolls even made it to the shelves, said manager Jeff Bryant.
``Now everybody's looking for them,'' he said, estimating the store gets 10 to 15 calls per day.
In Johnson City, Tenn., doll collectors were buying the Barbies in a manner reminiscent of the days of Cabbage Patch dolls and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figures.
Some shoppers have waited overnight for stores to let them in. In Knoxville, Tenn., police were called to break up a fight for dolls when a Wal-Mart didn't have enough for 200 waiting customers.
El Segundo, Calif.-based Mattel has offices and facilities in 36 countries and sells its products in more than 140 nations.