Bloomingdale’s, Hole and Aldo are betting on pink items

Bloomingdale’s is just one of the retailers and brands trying to capitalize on the Barbie trend. There’s a pop-up with exclusive Barbie-inspired clothing and accessories, as well as a life-size Barbie box for shoppers to strike a pose in.


NEW YORK CITY – In the heart of Manhattan, shoppers can enter a life-size Barbie box; Strike a pose next to a pink slide. Discover earrings, dresses and candles inspired by the iconic plastic doll.

The pop-up shop at Bloomingdale’s flagship store is just one example of how retailers are trying to capitalize on the pre-Friday craze Release of Barbie Warner Bros. Discovery.

100+ brands including Bloomingdale’s, cabbage, Crocs And gapHave license agreements or other agreements with toy manufacturers mattel to sell Barbie style fashion, beauty, accessories and more. Many of these items are aimed at adults who want to evoke childhood memories by donning bright pink heels or lounging on a pool floatie that looks like it came from a Barbie dream house.

Bloomingdale’s offers an exclusive collection of Barbie-inspired women’s clothing and accessories for its own brand Aqua. It also hopes to attract shoppers with Barbie-style window displays on Lexington Avenue, special events and free hairstyling.

With a touch of pink, retailers are hoping to banish the summer doldrums and inflation blues. The Barbie merchandise, which was developed months ago leading up to the film, shows that retailers had to work harder and get creative to grab shoppers’ attention and convince them to pay full price. companies, including Bloomingdale’s parent company Macy’swholesaler Goal and coach parent tapestry have warned of weaker sales of essentials and high-priced items in the US as consumers pay more for groceries and spend more on services such as dining out and travel.

Additionally, millions of Americans will have another expense to pay back this fall: Student loan payments will resume after a more than three-year pandemic-related hiatus.

Daianara Grullon Amalfitano, Aldo’s chief brand and product officer, said a bit of glitter and pink could help tease shoppers out of their practical, budget-minded mindset.

“This Barbie/Aldo collab is one of those ones where maybe rational thinking just slips away and you’re like, ‘Ah, this makes me so happy. So good. I have to have that,'” she said.

About half of Aldo’s Barbie collection sold out in the first week. The company said it is working to replenish stock for the limited collection, which includes 19 items ranging from crossbody bags to pumps.

About half of Aldo’s 317 North American stores carry the line along with the website. Aldo products are also available in select Macy’s stores and on the Macy’s website.

Aldo has a collection of Barbie shoes and handbags. Some of the items, such as the Barbie platform sandals, sell out within 24 hours, the company said.


Macy’s upscale department store, Bloomingdale’s, carries the Barbie the Movie x Aqua line in nine stores and online, as well as mixed with merchandise from other brands. So far, Barbie merchandise has been selling “incredibly well” and has been popular with customers across generations, said Frank Berman, the department store’s chief marketing officer.

Berman said the retailer intentionally included items of all price points in the Barbie-inspired collection, from a $24 pink candle to $8,350 rose gold heart studs.

“We have a few things that are a little over the top, but they’re put together so everyone can have a piece,” he said.

Many items from Gap’s Barbie collection are sold out. This includes adult square pink sunglasses and a t-shirt with “Ken” written in big pink capital letters, both $39.95.

Gap has sold out some of its popular Barbie items, including square pink sunglasses. The pink denim jacket is also a hit in stores and on the website.


Barbie to the rescue?

Barbie might not just shake up the sluggish box office in 2023. The craze could also lead to a surge in spending on non-essentials, which have slumped following the Covid-19 spending frenzy.

Retailers will likely need to continue offering unique and on-trend merchandise to entice shoppers to consider their wants, not their needs, as they prepare for the all-important holiday season.

According to market researcher Circana, the combined company formerly known as The NPD Group and IRI, sales of discretionary general merchandise fell 4% in US dollars in June compared to the year-ago period. Sales in this category fell by 9% during this period.

Last week, Amazon, Walmart, Target and other retailers increased sales by offering bigger discounts with Amazon Prime Day and other competing promotions. According to Adobe Analytics, consumers spent $12.7 billion during the two-day online sales event in the United States, which represented year-over-year growth of 6.1% and a new record.

Barbie became a popular search term last week. According to initial data from Numerator, it jumped from 85th to 49th place among the top brands this Prime Day compared to last year. The best-selling Barbie item during the sales event was leading actress Margot Robbie’s “Barbie” collectible doll.

As Americans hunt for bargains, Barbie is just one of the ways retailers are convincing them to look beyond the essentials.

How the Barbie film changed Mattel's business

Oliver Chen, retail analyst at Cowen, said brands have benefited from trends such as the shift toward looser-fitting denim, the return to dressier and more tailored outfits for special occasions, and increased interest in innovative makeup and skincare products.

“Every brand loves new things because new things create desire,” said Chen.

Barbie is “another floating life jacket” for retailers to snag, said Susan Fournier, professor of marketing and dean of Boston University’s business school. The brand has built-in recognition, nostalgia that reverberates through generations, and built-in free marketing based on the film.

Unlike other movie-themed merchandise, Barbie isn’t just a logo to stick on t-shirts and backpacks, it’s an aesthetic that extends across homewares, makeup and clothing, conveying the optimism which many buyers might be longing for, she said.

“We live in a pretty chaotic world,” she said. “We are in the post-Covid world, which brings with it a lot of baggage. There’s a lot of fear. And then you get Barbie and everything is pink. And I think there’s something very deep about the hunger for it.”

She said part of the brand’s strength lies in its complicated heritage. Barbie is closely associated with perfection, with her tiny waist, beautiful home and handsome boyfriend. However, Barbie was also unmarried and became an astronaut before the first moon landing.

“There’s something culturally powerful about living in this contradictory space,” said Fournier.

At Bloomingdale’s New York City pop-up shop, shoppers will find an exclusive Barbie collection of Aqua own-brand clothing and accessories. The retailer’s website and nine stores carry the collection.


On the hunt for the Barbie tree and beyond

Other retailers have run a similar playbook with pop culture-inspired branding.

tapestryCoach has worked with popular brands and celebrities including Disney and the Peanuts comic series. There was a collection of clothing and accessories inspired by Jean-Michel Basquiat, the late New York artist who became famous for his offbeat and graffiti-inspired designs in the 1980s. Coach recently released a new collection starring actress Kirsten Dunst.

Coach CEO Todd Kahn said the company carefully chooses which partnerships make sense. He said he enjoyed seeing other brands’ Barbie collaborations, but Coach decided against partnering.

“So often people use co-ops for a quick surge,” he said. “We are interested in long-term sustainability. That’s why we’ve become very selective about our collaborations. We use them to bring a new audience to the table. And then we measure how sticky they are after that is super important.”

For example, he said that Coach’s Basquiat items attracted new and more engaged customers, attracted around 10% more Gen Z and Millennial customers than the mainline collections, and enticed them to pay some of Coach’s highest prices.

Some brands appear to be getting a Barbie boom, but it remains to be seen if those customers will stick around.

Berman, Bloomingdale’s longtime chief marketing officer, said the chain is seeing an increase in store and website traffic through collaborations. That’s why the company’s flagship has The Carousel, a dedicated pop-up section that also offers online shopping.

The retailer has often combined fashion, a well-known brand and an unforgettable experience. There was a pop-up inspired by the hit Netflix series Bridgerton. Many years ago there was a Moulin Rouge themed pop-up complete with can-can dancers and a performance by movie star Nicole Kidman.

Aldo’s Amalfitano declined to release actual sales figures or its forecast for the year. But similar to other retailers, the footwear and accessories brand has felt the drop in discretionary spending, she said.

She hopes the sales and engagement of buyers will continue even after the Barbie items are no longer available.

“That’s a burning question,” she said.

– CNBC’s Caitlin Freda and Courtney Reagan contributed to this report.

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