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Frozen Products Boost Stagnant Dress-Up Category

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Damian Shore Bio

“Elsa” dresses seem to be the must-have present for many little girls this Christmas, helping to boost value sales in the dressing-up and role play category – particularly in North America.

More than three million costumes sold in less than a year

Released in US cinemas during late November 2013, The Walt Disney Co’s animated children’s film Frozen has snowballed into a phenomenon among tweens, becoming the fifth-highest-grossing film in history after taking US$1.3 billion at the global box office. Frozen dolls are very popular, particularly Princess Snow Glow Elsa, more than 800 books are currently in print worldwide and The Disney Karaoke: Frozen App has reached number one in the iPad Entertainment Downloads category in over 100 countries, but it is in dressing-up and role-play in traditional toys and games where the brand is perhaps having the greatest resonance.

Frozen Dolls, Dressing-Up and Role Play and Plush Toys at Hamleys, London


% Value Growth of Dressing-Up and Role Play in North America and Worldwide: 2009-2014*

Dress-up toy growth

Source: Euromonitor International

Note:  *Year 2014 figures are forecast

In early November 2014, Disney Consumer Products reported that more than three million Frozen Elsa and Anna (her sister) dress-up costumes had been sold at Disney Stores across the US in less than a year. It added that the Frozen phenomenon “shows no signs of abating”, with Elsa and Anna leading costume sales at North American Disney store locations by double-digits. Writing on a comment thread on the Wall Street Journal website, one poster observed, “I was at Disneyland for Mickey's Halloween Party and would estimate that 70% of the little girls were dressed as Elsa and 10% as Anna.”

The National Retail Federation’s 2014 Halloween Consumer Top Costumes Survey, which was conducted during autumn this year, found that 2.6 million American children were planning to dress up as one of the characters form Frozen this Halloween. New York City-based wedding-dress maker Alfred Angelo even unveiled a Frozen-inspired wedding dress in October. “I get the ‘I want to look like a princess’ request all the time” designer Jason Gillen told the New York Daily News newspaper. This suggests that there may even be scope for Disney to launch Frozen adult dressing-up costumes.

Global appeal

The brand’s popularity extends beyond North America – it is the third-biggest film ever at the Japanese box office, for example. The film’s central dynamic – the turbulent, but ultimately loving, relationship between two sisters – seems to have significant cross-cultural appeal.

UK-based website Parentish recently noted that “Nobody was prepared for the frenzy… as children swept up by the magic of the icy-fairy tale began to clamour for THAT Elsa dress and dolls with which to recreate the adventures for themselves.” In neighbouring Ireland, Patrick O’Sullivan of the Christmas Toy Show (an event held in Dublin during late November), told the Irish Independent newspaper: “The merchandising has been phenomenal. It’s the songs… the main song, Let it Go, has resonated with under-tens.”

A fillip for dressing-up and role play

This is having a significant impact on real sales in dressing-up and role play toys, which are forecast to see their best performance in five years in 2014, with global sales set to expand by 2%, to US$3.5 Tweet-Thisbillion. Unsurprisingly, its impact is particularly notable in North America, where value sales are forecast to benefit from the surge in demand caused by Frozen, to the extent it is now offsetting years of decline. Disney, which accounted for 11% of value sales in dressing-up and role play in 2013, will inevitably enjoy a significant bump in its market share.


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