Justin Bieber fans can finally comb their fingers through the singer's fabled locks. The second Justin Bieber doll premiered Sunday at the American International Toy Fair in New York City, sporting newly-added nylon strands that represent his fawned-over hair. That one adjustment could be enough to make the doll the hit of the show, which is considered the annual Super Bowl for toys and the place that determines what your kids will be playing with in the year ahead.
The new 12-inch-tall Bieber doll features his carefully coiffed, side-swept shag. (Don't worry, girls, the gel on it is for shipping purposes and can easily be removed.) The doll will retail for $17.99 when it rocks into stores in probably July or August, the distributor said. The previous Bieber doll had stiff, plastic-molded hair because it was rushed out to market before Christmas, leaving the manufacturer with no time to stress over the heartthrob's tresses.But as Toy Industry Association trend watcher Reyne Rice noted, "He's really about the hair and the music."
Perhaps in that order. Bieber merchandiser Jay Foreman of The Bridge Direct expects sales of
5 million to 10 million units for the follicle-enhanced Bieber collectible. The original Bieber doll spent just six weeks on the shelves last holiday season and still managed to sell 1 million units. That was enough to earn The Bridge Direct the Toys R Us 2010 Vendor of the Year. The toy emporium breathlessly presented a plaque to Foreman in the midst of our private interview at the Javits Convention Center.
If the country's most visible plaything retailer is giving you its top award for just 45 days of shelf time, you know you're onto something. The Bridge Direct won the licensing contract in July, and quickly cranked up a marketing and distribution machine. Foreman, the company's 48-year-old president and CEO, doesn't have teen-dream hair and presumably can't sing a lick, but he partially owns something nearly as valuable: the Biebs' likeness.
That has its disadvantages on occasion, like when the girl minions protested the plastic 'do of the original. "Boy did we hear, 'Why can't we comb his hair?'" Foreman said. The new and improved Justin, he said, "gives him a further connection with his fans."
(It should be noted that the $26.99 singing Bieber doll will continue with the molded hair until further notice.)
In the meantime, Bieber's popularity has grown since Christmas. His concert documentary Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, cleared $30 million at the box office in its first weekend. And his prized hair has become such a pop culture icon that he pretended to shave it on Jimmy Kimmel to much viral glee afterward.
Foreman, of Boca Raton, Fla., has made a career of securing the licensing rights to young singers and turning them into figurines. As a toy industry upstart in 1996, he cold-called Simon Fuller (later known as the creator of American Idol) about turning those living dolls the Spice Girls into real dolls, winning out with a smaller bid over toy company behemoths. "Once you get your first, you'll have a pedigree," he said.
He then produced the Britney Spears doll followed by his retail champion, Hannah Montana.
One of the lessons Foreman has learned is that sometimes there isn't enough star power to go around. He once developed a Mandy Moore doll during the reign of Britney "and it didn't resonate," he said. "It was all about Britney. Girls don't need five idols in their lives."
Now that Foreman has yet another teen phenom in the merchandising fold, he figures another teenybop titan like Bieber, who turns 17 on March 1, won't come around for another five years or so. Said Foreman: "He's sucking up all the oxygen right now."
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