Princess Mania

Posted by Rob Walker on December 29, 2006
Posted Under: Consumer Behavior

I think that this story was pretty widely circulated & read, but just in case: I hereby note that I really enjoyed reading What’s Wrong With Cinderella, by Peggy Orenstein, in the New York Times Magazine. It’s about Princess mania. Here is a no-registration-required link. Here’s a quick sample:

To call princesses a “trend” among girls is like calling Harry Potter a book. Sales at Disney Consumer Products, which started the craze six years ago by packaging nine of its female characters under one royal rubric, have shot up to $3 billion, globally, this year, from $300 million in 2001. There are now more than 25,000 Disney Princess items. “Princess,” as some Disney execs call it, is not only the fastest-growing brand the company has ever created; they say it is on its way to becoming the largest girls’ franchise on the planet.

Meanwhile in 2001, Mattel brought out its own “world of girl” line of princess Barbie dolls, DVDs, toys, clothing, home décor and myriad other products. At a time when Barbie sales were declining domestically, they became instant best sellers. Shortly before that, Mary Drolet, a Chicago-area mother and former Claire’s and Montgomery Ward executive, opened Club Libby Lu, now a chain of mall stores based largely in the suburbs in which girls ages 4 to 12 can shop for “Princess Phones” covered in faux fur and attend “Princess-Makeover Birthday Parties.” Saks bought Club Libby Lu in 2003 for $12 million and has since expanded it to 87 outlets; by 2005, with only scant local advertising, revenues hovered around the $46 million mark, a 53 percent jump from the previous year.

It’s a really interesting read, very thoughtfully done.

A couple of side notes about this.

First, yes, I also write for the New York Times Magazine, so maybe this is a biased recommendation; on the other hand, I’ve never met Orenstein.

Second, I’ve been gradually adding a few old Consumed columns to this site that aren’t really available anywhere else for free, so after reading this I put up an old column about Club Libby Lu, right here.

Third, yet another Times Magazine contributor, Stephen Dubner (who I did meet, years ago, but have no particular contact with these days), happened to note on his Freakonomics blog that “Princess” is not only among the top three names for dogs — it’s also among the top 750 or so names for babies!

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

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