Monday, August 13, 2007

Essay 4304

From nationwide news sources…


Kmart promises to be more ‘relevant’ with ethnic dolls


Toy store aisles are getting a multicultural makeover.

Bolstered by the success of Nickelodeon's bilingual kids’ character Dora the Explorer and the growing spending power of minorities, toy retailers are filling their shelves with dolls whose skin colors and facial features reflect the children who play with them.

Now, Kmart hopes to cash in on a growing appetite. The discount retailer is launching its own initiative this month, putting dozens of multicultural dolls in each of its 1,400 stores.

Kmart says it’s the first mass-marketer to have such a wide selection in every store. When the rollout is completed next week, Kmart stores will sell nearly four dozen types of ethnic dolls.

“We needed to be relevant,” said Philipp Elliott at Kmart, a subsidiary of Sears Holdings Corp. in Hoffman Estates.

Becoming relevant to minority shoppers can reap big benefits. Between 2006 and 2011, the spending power of blacks, Asians, Native Americans and multiracial shoppers is expected to grow 38 percent, to $1.9 trillion.

Kmart will offer brands such as Baby Abuelita and Mattel Inc.’s Rebelde dolls, as well as the proprietary Just Girlz. But the retailer likely faces an uphill battle against Wal-Mart and Toys R Us, which carry large selections of Barbie and Bratz dolls. “I think they’re going down a very tough road,” said Jim Silver, editor of Toy Wishes magazine.

Just ask Marie Jones, 27, of Calumet Park, whose daughters eyed the new dolls last week.

“They picked up the black ones; they picked up the white ones,” said Jones after watching Jade Lynch, 8, and Imani Simmons, 6, play with the new dolls. “They look at the things that they come with. If they can comb their hair, that’s the doll they want.”

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