Strawberry Shortcake dolls, profitable dessert for retailers

Strawberry Shortcake, Blueberry Muffin, Apricot and Hopsalot, Plum Puddin', Huckleberry Pie, Lemon Meringue, Raspberry Tart, Orange Blossom, Apple Dumpling, and Purple Pieman. These don't sound like the names behind a multimillion-dollar business.

Yet sales on the 10 little dolls and their accessories are expected to exceed Characters From Cleveland, an American Greetings Company subsidiary. In 1982 that figure could near $1 billion. These sales figures represent sales of all the Shortcake dolls licensed by many retailers. American Greetings treasurer, Eugene Scherry, says the company gets a relatively small portion of that figure in royalties.

The dolls may be one of the biggest sensations ever to hit the shelves of toy stores around the country - if they ever stay on the shelves. Most major stores, including Macy's, Toys 'R' Us, Child World, and Children's Palace, report the dolls are gone 20 minutes after the shelves are stocked.

The Strawberry Shortcake design was originally a greeting card, but ''when the executives at General Mills (of which American Greetings is a division) saw her, they decided to pour in a lot of advertising revenue and make her a star,'' says Mrs. Manfredi.

So far this year more than $7 million has been spent on Saturday morning commercials and advertisements in magazines - mostly those geared for women readers.

The colorful plastic dolls are 51/2 inches tall and wear large, floppy hats that are scented according to their names. ''These smells make them easy for the child to relate to. It's candy, lollipops, and ice cream,'' continued Mrs. Manfredi.

Strawberry Shortcake is a carefully planned sales phenomenon. For instance, six television specials are on the agenda for the coming years, including ''The Strawberry Pet Parade'' and ''Strawberry Shortcake in Big Apple City.'' The dolls are also part of a national media tour and were featured in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Licenses to reproduce the dolls or the strawberry motif that symbolizes them are granted through American Greetings, says Mrs. Manfredi. So far, 63 companies , manufacturing close to 1,500 products, have contracted to use the design.

The executives at General Mills Group clearly intend to keep Strawberry Shortcake and her pals around for good. She is not a fad, claims John Beck, manager of the consumer relations department at Kenner Products, also a division of General Mills.

''She is one of the few popular toys this year that is not a spin-off from a television series or a movie,'' he adds. The other toy hits this holiday season were Star Wars, the Dukes of Hazzard, and The Muppets.

She is so popular that advertising has been curtailed in some areas of the country due to shortages. ''I'll get calls from some places where they say they can't find Blueberry Muffin anywhere. Other areas are short on some of the accessories,'' he says.

For almost a year, the dolls have topped the Toy Hit Parade, a list of the most popular and imaginative toys published by Toy & Hobby World, a trade magazine, says Penny Richmond. Ms. Richmond is a spokeswoman for the Toy Manufacturers of America.

''Strawberry Shortcake is a licensing phenomenon. She is selling well every single month of the year,'' she adds.

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