Top 10 Biggest Reasons Why American Girl is in Decline

American Girl has been one of the biggest and most legendary toy franchises. This includes dolls, accessories, magazines, musicals, and movies. However, it isn't what it used to be. It's approaching its dark age.
The Top Ten
1 Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted U.S. marketing, leading to a decline in many businesses, with American Girl being no exception. Even Mattel is facing declines across all their brands, including American Girl. With economic inflation, it has become harder to afford anything, including American Girl.

Furthermore, the headquarters are set to close in Spring 2024 and relocate to California, where Mattel's headquarters is located. Such a move would potentially affect the quality and cost of the dolls and accessories.

2 Release of BeForever

In 2014, American Girl underwent a rebranding of their dolls to modern forms known as BeForever. This took away the raw and historical essence of American Girl dolls and made them more generic and modern. The cotton outfits were replaced with polyester ones, and the bodies and faces appeared simpler. It was a great decision to shut down the BeForever line and refocus on history.

3 Discontinuation of American Girl Magazines

The American Girl magazines were popular from 1992 until the 2019 issue. Their magazine, Dolls of Our Lives, was unforgettable.

4 Effects of Economic Inflation

The U.S. economy has been in an inflation phase since the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to rising prices for many items. American Girl is not exempt from this trend.

In 1986, the dolls were priced at around $65. While not insignificant, this is $50 less than their current price. Although an effort to balance the pricing for the dolls has been made since the Mattel ownership, it doesn't completely address the issue.

The price of dolls increased from $87 to $100 from the late 2000s to the early 2010s, and now they cost $115. It's a large amount (leading to criticism toward the brand). Although this price is better than if they had maintained their original quality, which would have resulted in $182 when adjusted for economic inflation, making them investments rather than everyday items.

Unless you buy used dolls at thrift stores for little money and refurbish them (which are best done by specially trained nurses at American Girl locations), the cost remains high. Furthermore, the cost to create your own dolls nowadays comes with a whopping $220 offer when adjusted for inflation.

High-quality materials and strong demand, along with economic inflation, have significantly contributed to the high prices of these dolls and other products in general. In the meantime, inflation has adversely affected businesses, and American Girl is not alone in this challenge. Some stores haven't survived, leading to the closure of numerous American Girl locations as they work to cut expenses in the midst of a decline in sales during periods of inflation.

5 Insufficient Diversity

Many of the dolls share the same face molds, with only a few different styles available. Such lack of diversity is apparent. Moreover, they maintain their 18-inch sizes with minimal exceptions, such as the mini dolls, which are 6 1/2 inches tall. Introducing more diversity would come at a cost, but it would undoubtedly be an improvement for American Girl.

6 Closure of American Girl Place Stores

The American Girl Place stores were once some of the most original stores. They included cafes and hospitals in addition. However, due to things such as declining sales, budget cuts, and COVID-19 as well as the resulting inflation and lack of lease renewals - and mainly our focus on online shopping - numerous stores have been closing from time to time. While some are being relocated, others are shutting down permanently.

Without the stores, there won't be doll hospitals in case the dolls are broken. Additionally, there would be no more cafes for those who want to have American Girl-themed eat-outs. This is really bad news for American Girl, and it's a reminder we should focus more on physical shopping like we did more often back in the 2000s and earlier.

7 Closure of American Girl Place Theaters

The American Girl Place originally opened in Chicago in 1998 and included a 150-seat theater. This was a piece of history in marketing, as American Girl stores became the definition of stores with revues, setting musical theater as a marketing trend.

As more stores were being installed with their own theaters, however, the New York location became the subject of a labor dispute by the Actors' Equity Association (AEA). Fourteen out of 18 actors went on strike, leading to a contract that went into effect until April 1, 2008. Once that contract expired, all theaters were closed forever, making the chances of seeing an American Girl-themed musical show anywhere in your lifetime much less likely.

This was a massive loss for the stores as well as for marketing. And all this was when their downfall started. You're also adding the fact that this means there's less demand in the stores. Therefore, they've been making less money as a result, putting them at greater risk of closing.

8 End of Annual Benefit Sales

Wisconsin used to hold an annual benefit sale, allowing people to purchase American Girl dolls at more reasonable prices. However, due to COVID-19 and fan demand, the benefit sale ended in 2023 after 36 years.

Nowadays, it's more difficult to afford American Girl dolls. Not every thrift store carries them, and while they may be cheaper, they are also used. Many people long for these dolls, but unfortunately, things have changed.

9 Retirement of Felicity Merriman

Felicity Merriman was the most iconic character outside of the original three (Samantha Parkington, Molly McIntire, and Kirsten Larson). She was retired in 2011 in her historical form and again in 2019 in the BeForever form. To this day, she has not been re-released and was never named Girl of the Year. Her impact on American Girl, through her own story, game, and movie, should not be forgotten.

10 Sale of American Girl to Mattel by Pleasant Company

In 1998, Pleasant Company, co-founded by Pleasant Rowland, sold the iconic brand to Mattel. As it was competing with Barbie in popularity, everything changed. The dolls ended up being slightly thinner and simpler. American Girl became the name in 2003, as well as the trademark. Mattel sold the brand for $700,000,000.

While the popularity kept expanding at the time, with more dolls along with movie adaptations of them and more American Girl Place stores being added in the U.S., that trend didn't stay up to level for much longer. Contracts regarding the revues were in effect until 2008, and economic changes affected the marketing of the brand.

The prices were never small, but they aren't what they used to be. Toward 2015, they hit a new low with the BeForever release. This took away the realistic value of many aspects and made the dresses simpler and modern.

If Pleasant Company ever bought it back, it would possibly save the company. The original headquarters might've still been active, though the restoration of the original quality would most likely rack up the prices. This seemed like a smart move in the short term, but the opposite in the long term.

The Contenders
11 Oversaturation of the Girl of the Year Dolls

Pretty much every new doll nowadays is a Girl of the Year doll, meaning they only last around one year (or sometimes two years) before retiring.

It's not a problem in itself, but it becomes a problem when they don't introduce new characters that last as long as possible. It's worse when you add the fact that the prices for these dolls further limit the number of people buying them.

Many people, years later, who wish to have these dolls are out of time.

12 American Girl Products are Made in China

The original three dolls and accessories were made in Middleton, Wisconsin, which is in America. Once Pleasant sold the brand to Mattel, the manufacturing moved to Germany and then to China, where they are now being made. This is apparently discrimination against America, as American Girl is about American history.

Plus, China doesn't limit the use of toxicity in products. Therefore, there's always the possibility that any number of such products could contain higher levels of hazardous additives (such as phthalates) than American products, leading to health issues. Pleasant always had the opportunity to buy it back, but she chose to stay off the radar.

Now, the original headquarters is closing this spring to be relocated to California to merge with Mattel. No wonder it's losing popularity.

13 Lack of Store Lease Renewals

This is a major reason for its decline, as numerous stores haven't renewed their leases, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Not only is this impacting American Girl, but all marketing brands. This is a big reason for the closures of such stores.

14 More People are Shopping Online

Due to the development of electronic devices, along with the effects of the COVID-19 restrictions, economic inflation resulting from such, and people's laziness, more people continue to shop online (for anything in general). This means stores such as the American Girl Places can't make as much money and are less likely to renew their leases, leading to closures.

In fact, this is the biggest reason for store closures lately (which usually involves bankruptcy in companies). No American Girl Place stores means no eating out at American Girl cafes, no fixing broken/used dolls, nor making custom dolls.

The nurses there are specially trained to take the risks involved in fixing dolls. And without anyone properly skilled enough to fix the dolls, they stay in poor shape, meaning the prices for new dolls could climb at a brisk pace. It's a reminder we need to focus more on physical shopping like we used to. A world without brick-and-mortar stores of any kind isn't right.

15 Retirement of Kirsten Larson

Kirsten Larson was one of the original three characters (besides Samantha Parkington and Molly McIntire) and was around until 2010. A special edition (along with Felicity) was released for one day in 2021 before retiring. There were rumors of whether or not she would come back, but toward early 2024, there were plans to bring her back by spring. However, a later update from the source stated that there were no plans and that only some of her accessories would come back.

Thankfully, on May 2024, she made a miraculous return, which's we've waited a long time for, and hopefully, they do the same with Felicity.

16 Discontinuation of the Mini Girl of the Year Dolls

This was a huge reason for AG's decline. The Girl of the Year trend stopped including mini dolls. Many wanted the mini dolls even for GOTY, since they're much cheaper than the standard dolls. GOTY dolls only last for around a year (and rarely over 2 years).

The mini dolls were discontinued after the release of Luciana Vega. They actually helped children buy GOTY dolls for a bargain. Minis are only $24.99, while the standards are $115.

17 American Girl Place Bistros and Cafes Require Reservations

Back then, you could simply walk into the bistros and cafes at the American Girl places. All that changed when the lockdowns associated with COVID-19 restrictions came. Now the bistros and cafes are less accessible for being reservation-only like normal establishment restaurants, and this is even after the global COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. As of May 2024, they're starting to accept walk-ins again, but food servings still require reservations.

18 Relocation of American Girl Headquarters

In 2024, it was announced that the American Girl headquarters (where the original 3 dolls were made) would move to California by Spring to merge with Mattel headquarters.
If only we learned back from Magic Attic's fate and the fact that the Ideal Toy Company went defunct after merging with Mattel.
R.I.P. to the American Girl we originally knew.

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