Death knell sounds for Hasbro’s Sindy doll line

Hasbro withdraws 5.5m ad support from its Sindy range

Hasbro is axing Sindy. The company has withdrawn its 5.5m advertising support from the 35-year-old doll leaving it to suffer a “slow death”. The axe has fallen amid rumours that some major multiple retailers are preparing to delist the doll. Woolworths says it has dropped the range from all stores for the immediate future.

The killing-off of one of the UK’s most famous toys is the result of the punishing battle with Mattel, which has seen its Barbie doll double its market share to 30 per cent of the 80m market in the past two years. Although Sindy increased its share by value of the UK market to eight per cent in 1996, it was only a small reversal and, as a result, Hasbro is shifting the emphasis of its business to boys’ toys – Action Man is the best-selling toy in the UK.

Hasbro will turn the brand into what is described as an FoB – “Free on Board” – product, which means it will stop stocking dolls in the UK. Any retailer wanting to buy Sindy will have to order in bulk from the manufacturer in Hong Kong, although Hasbro will still take orders.

Hasbro denies it is the demise of Sindy, claiming the brand will grow through bulk sales. “By going FoB, retailers can still order dolls and can make higher margins on sales because they will be cheaper,” says a spokeswoman. “They will also be cheaper for the consumer.”

She claims money will be put into research and development in the Far East. But without advertising support it will be virtually impossible to increase Sindy’s market share.

Mattel group marketing director Melanie Stubbing says although Mattel has a significant FoB business on the less expensive, older Barbie lines, without TV advertising the new Barbie dolls would not survive. Mattel spends 5m on the brand through Ogilvy & Mather.

It is a battle Sindy has been losing for several years. According to retail data analyst NPD, it had a seven per cent share by value of the 70m doll market in 1994. At that time, Barbie held 16 per cent of the market. By last year, Barbie’s share had leapt to 30 per cent and Mattel estimates that when licensing deals are included, the brand is worth 100m a year.

Sindy has also been overtaken by Polly Pocket – launched nine years ago – making it the number three brand in the UK doll market. One explanation for the large discrepancy in market share is that in the mid-Eighties, the doll was given a more “American” image, closer to that of Barbie, which never caught on.

UK Toy News editor Jon Salisbury says: “This is Hasbro taking Sindy out of its main range. But she is running so far behind Barbie it is almost a non-issue. If delisted by bigger retailers, which seems to be happening, then the brand will lose momentum.”

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