Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Journey Girls Dolls Vs American Girls

Journey Girls Dolls...a Little Rant


I am going to start off by apologizing for the length of this post and also warn you that it is a bit of a rant on the state of the Journey Girls.  That being said...I would love you comments on how you fell about the Journey Girls and what could be improved.  You may now continue reading...

As I was discussing when the new Journey Girls would be coming out with one of the local store employees, they mentioned that the Journey Girls are not a real hot seller.  I wondered about this, especially how it may relate to the release of the new Journey Girl dolls.

Journey Girls sales are very different than American Girl sales.  Since American Girl started in 1986 they have sold over 153 million dolls!!!  That is 5.1 million dolls per year for 30 years.  In contrast Journey Girls hit their 1 millionth doll sold this past year.  That means that Toys R Us sells about 200,000 dolls per year.  Comparing the two brands is not really that fair since they are not on the same spectrum, but I would hope that Toys R Us is striving for numbers similar to American Girls.

Ce;ebration of the one millionth Journey Girls doll sold!
Toys R Us made a huge, no gigantic, push this past holiday season to increase Journey Girls sales.  They released more outfits, many more accessories, and had a celebration in New York to introduce some of the new items. Along with the release of new products they also encouraged children and their parents to post photos of their Journey Girls traveling around the world with them on Facebook and Instagram with #JourneyGirls.  As well, TRU created a Pinterest account that would showcase designs and food inspired by the Journey Girls travels.

None of the social media took off the way it was hoped it would.  Instagram has 2,200 some posts under #JourneyGirls.   1/4 of the photos with that tag have nothing to do with the Journey Girls.  And only a few of them are from Toys R Us.  Most are fan photos (which is awesome).  For reference, #AGIG (stands for American Girl Insta Gram) has over 600,000 posts and American Girls official hashtag #Joy2EveryGirl has 60,000 posts.  Granted American Girls account has been around longer, but it gives an idea of Journey Girls popularity.  Maybe a better comparison though, would be to Our Generation dolls, which has 1,800 posts for their #ogdolls.

Who cares though?  Well, Toys R Us probably does, as well as their investors.  And why should that matter?  They determine whether or not, we the collectors, will have Journey Girls to collect and play with.  If there are not enough sales, or if the sales don't increase by the percentages they hope they will, the company may not produce the dolls anymore.  There is no indication that Toys R Us is stopping production of the Journey Girls, but there are suggestions that the line is struggling.

Since it's introduction, the Journey Girls usually have two releases each year; one in February or March, and another closer to August or September.  So far this year, there has been no introduction of new dolls.  New outfits have come out, as well as accessory packs, and "new" furniture (in reality most of the furniture is the same, just new colors or less accessories with the furniture), but no new dolls.

Set is being clearance out.  It's being replaced by the amazingly different set seen below.

Huge improvements! Wait wasn't there an area rug in this set last year?

Also, for the last three years the Journey Girls have traveled to a new city with the beginning of the new year.  In past years the city has been changed as the new dolls come out in spring.  The box art on the front and back change depending on where they are traveling that year.  However, there is no indication that the Girls will be leaving Italy this year, if the box art is any indication.

Kyla is visiting London (as you can see from her box).

Mikaela is traveling to Italy.  Will she ever leave?
The final factor suggesting that the Journey Girls may be struggling is the fact that items are on clearance.  In years past very few Journey Girls accessories or dolls ever make it to the clearance sales.  I still find London dolls in store, every once in awhile, and they are full price.  Toys R Us has clearenced the Journey Girls Travel Trunk (which was retired and replaced by the Endless Journeys Doll Carrier) and Mikaella, the 2014 Holiday doll, which was overproduced due to the success of Jordanna.  This year, not only is Giovanna on clearance, but so are many accessory packs and furniture items.

More items then normal are being clearanced out this year.

Not as bad as with Mikaela, but still Toys R Us had too many Giovannas.
Do these three indicators really suggest that the Journey Girls are struggling?  I don't really know.  I'm only speculating.  What I do know is that usually there are new dolls by this time of the year, and this year there are none.  My hope is that Toys R Us is taking some time to make improvements to the line and that the Journey Girls will be back later this year better than ever!

In that spirit, I thought, "What would I change if I ran the Journey Girl line?"  So here are my thoughts:

Make the dolls higher quality

The Journey Girls are good dolls.  They have beautiful faces, with gorgeous eyes.   The body style, with the 1/2 vinyl chest piece, is a wonderful design.  But the dolls have some issues.  The arm and leg joints are not amazing. It would be great to have more articulation in the shoulder, allowing the arms to go out to the side more.  The leg joints cause the legs to splay out in the splits because of the way they are situated.  And both the arm and leg joints have issues with breaking.  The joints could be better if they were similar to American Girl joints or Adora Friends dolls.  Both have cup and string joints.

Issues with joints breaking or coming apart sometimes occur with the Journey Girls.

The vinyl itself has had issue with discoloration.  A whole batch of dolls came off of the assembly line and made it to stores with dark vinyl mixed into the peach colored vinyl.  My Kelsey has this issue.  She has spots, some that look like freckles, others that look like bruises.  The spots that look like freckles I made look like freckles and added more freckles.  But the bruises will not come off, even with vinyl doll stain remover.  The issue showed up in the London line in Callie, Dana, and Kelsey.  There is also an issue with color transfer to the vinyl.  Although the color transfer is really a problem with the clothing dye, Journey Girls are more susceptible to the color transfer because of the vinyl that is used.  Use of a higher quality vinyl would alleviate most of the color issues.

Black marks left buy the houndstooth skirt on Giovanna.

Paris Chavonne came with these lovely marks on her from her dark blue dress.
After wearing the purple Celebrate dress Callie had marks on her back and across her chest.
Some people do not like the fact that the Journey Girls have rooted hair.  I love the rooted hair!  I like the look of the hairline much better than with a wig.  However, the amount of hair on the Journey Girls leaves a bit to be desired.  The hair is thin in spots.  Parting it will reveal the scalp below it.  as well as the hair not being very abundant, it is also not super quality.  The new dolls seem to actually have a different type of hair than the older dolls.  Toys R Us needs to give the Journey Girls high quality hair, with more roots to make the hair thicker.  Again, Adora does a great job with their rooted hair on their 18" doll.

Although the rooted hair is nice, it could be improved with a little more of it.
Toys R Us has made improvements to the cloth body with the new sculpts, like Mikaela, Kyla, and Meredith.  The bodies are stuffed more, creating a stiffer lower body.  This helps the legs stay straight and keep the doll standing up straight.  Even with the improvements, it would be nice if the body was consistently stuffed well.

And that is the last thing that Toys R Us needs to improve on for the dolls; consistency.  Each dolls joints are different feeling; some are tight, others are loose, others have one tight and one loose.  Some dolls have their eyes perfectly straight in their sockets, others are cross eyed (although, American Girl has the same issue, just not quite as bad).  The sewn seam in the back is sometimes straight, sometimes crooked.  On one of my dolls there was actually stuffing popping out of the seam! I have had two of my dolls come to me with marks on them.

American Girl dolls are great, but in my opinion are not perfect.  The Adora Friends doll are much closer to perfect.  The joints are better, the hair is rooted and there is more of it, and the vinyl is great (they even have painted nails and shading). I don't like the face sculpt as much as the Journey Girls, I am not a huge fan of the blinky eyes, and I prefer the Journey Girls neck joint.  That being said, if Toys R Us mimics any doll, The Adora Friends doll is who I feel they should mimic.  And at $69.99, they are a decent price.

One of the best made 18" dolls (In My Opinion) are the Adora Friends dolls.  This is Alyssa

Not only are her toes painted, but she had blush on the tops of her feet.
Look how cute her hands are...although I do like the definition in the Journey Girls hands better.


Make the clothes higher quality

I have had three Journey Girl outfits transfer color to a Journey Girl doll straight out of the box.  Because of this I usually soak all of the clothes I buy for the Journey Girls.  I recently bought a new dress from Journey Girls and did not soak it, believing that Toys R US had solved the issue with color transfer.  I was severely disappointed when I found black marks on Giovanna because of a skirt I had put on her.  The dye issue has obviously not been resolved.

Marks from the purple Celebrate dress.  All Journey Girls clothes should be washed before they are put on your dolls.

Consistence is also an issue with the Journey Girls clothing.  Stitching is not always great.  Size can vary wildly from outfit to outfit; even two of the same outfit can have a different fit on the same doll.  Materials on some outfits are high quality and on others are not very good.  Outfits at the same price range are drastically different in quality.

Although very cute, this outfit is much more simple and has less to it then the outfit below.
And both outfits cost the same amount.
One of the biggest issues with the clothing, is not the clothing itself, but the shoes that come in the set.  Toys R Us needs to give the Journey Girls some amazing shoes!!!  Even if the Girls come with the plastic shoes, at least give us the option of buying some quality shoes.  The better thing would be to include quality shoes with the outfits in the first place.

Ooo...lots of shoes!  But all the same. 
Toys R Us...I need some different styles of shoes!
The clothes are on par with clothes from Our Generation and Sophie's.  In some cases Journey Girls clothes are even higher quality than these other brands, but not always.  The variation in quality and the worry that the Journey Girls outfits may stain my doll needs to be fixed if Toys R Us hopes to further the brand.

Variety

For some of you that have been collecting the Journey Girls for the whole five years that they have been out, you may have seen outfits that seem familiar.  There have been a few outfits that have shown back up, in a little different form, a few years later.  Also in many of the smaller accessory packs there will be a new scarf and mittens, but the hat is the same one that comes in another set.  And I won't mention the shoes.  The only real variety in the shoes is the color.

Those glasses look suspiciously similar.  And I think I have 4 iPhones with Meredith on them...at least put a picture of a different girl on the phone.
Even larger accessories, like the luggage set, get rereleased every year with no changes other than color.  I love that Journey Girls has a theme, but I also feel overwhelmed by the color scheme of pink and blue.  How many of the items can we have in these colors?   It's puzzling that there is such monochrome coloring in the accessories, when the outfits themselves have a good variety of colors.

Pink and blue.
Pink and blue.
Pink and blue...oh and lavender!
I appreciate the amount of outfits that were put out for this past holiday season.  It was amazing, but it still doesn't compete with the amount of outfits out from American Girl or Our Generation.  If Toys R Us continues with the way they are releasing outfits lately, it may work out wonderfully.  After the 22 outfits were released in July, there was a hiatus, until just a few weeks ago, when 6 more outfits were released.  If every 3 months 6 outfits were released, that would make for a great collection.  Maybe have 12 outfits released before the holiday rush, make it a nice even 30 outfits a year!   The hard part is that the outfits really only fit the Journey Girls (and a few other smaller brand dolls - Kidz N Cats, Via-E) so if there aren't the doll sales...it will be difficult to sell the clothing.

Love the variety of clothing, but wish there was even more.


Marketing

I am not a marketing guru.  I am not in sales.  I have no knowledge of how a company's advertisement for a product translate into sales.  I do know that social media is a huge avenue of free advertising (or complaining) for products.  I have also seen how other products I buy pull me in to want to purchase them.

When I began this blog and subsequently the Journey Girl Facebook page, I was disappointed with the lack of information out there about the Journey Girls.  I was a bit surprised that there wasn't a Journey Girls Facebook page.  I am still a little surprised at how little activity there is with the Journey Girls on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest (I have Twitter account too, but haven't used that yet).  It's understandable though in the sense that Toys R Us is a toy store selling many brands of toys.  Journey Girls is one of there exclusives, but it's not their only product.  And from the sales information I shared before, The Journey Girls are not a high income product (I would assume).  That being said, it would be great to see a little more support for the community of fans that the Journey Girls have created.

So, here is my two cents on what may help the Journey Girls along on the road towards American Girl like sales: Release Dates, Global Releases, and Support (and the aforementioned quality improvements).

There are sites that start talking about the new Girl of the Year (American Girl doll) 6 months ahead of time!  Excitement is generated by anticipation.  Without knowing when something will be released, there can be no chatter about what the new items will look like, what people will buy, there is no anticipatory excitement.  The only "wow" factor is when you walk into the store and see the product.  "Wow!  I didn't know they were coming out with that."   Release dates don't have to be the same time each year, and they can be pushed back, if need be.  Having releases narrowed down to the month is still better than guessing if a product will ever be out.

Along with release dates is the need for releases around the globe to be similar.  It is disheartening to see Chavonne on the back of the box in Australia and yet never be able to purchase her!  Now, not everything needs to be distributed to every market that Toys R Us services, but not having the main dolls out in all the countries is a shame.  Especially when they are all on the back of the box.  Chavone and Callie are great examples of this issue, but so is Kelsey.  When the first wave a Italy Journey Girls was released, Kelsey was shown on the back of the box with a beautiful stripped maxi skirt on.  At one point I found her online in Canada.  I went every week to at least two Toys R Us's hoping to find Kelsey in her maxi dress, only to find out months later that she was a special edition, only released in Canada.  Not cool!

Why can't Chavonne go to Australia?

Why is Kelsey wearing an outfit that was never available?
Finally, there needs to be some support for these dolls.  I love that American Girl has a doll hospital.  I love that you can contact them about their dolls.  It's awesome that their website has tips on how to care for their dolls!  Finding out what kind of brush to use on the Journey Girls is impossible, let along finding help with broken limbs or stains.  That's a large part of why this blog came to be.  I wanted to try and help some of the people looking for information on how to fix their beloved Journey Girls.  Again, I understand that Journey Girls is one brand out of thousands that Toys R Us sells, but if they want it to become a great brand, they have to support it more.  At least have an area on the TRU website that has helpful tips on how to care for the dolls.


So there you have it!


One of my favorite photos of Kelsey!
I love the Journey Girls!  They are super cute dolls, that have great stories, and good accessories (most of them).  Even with their flaws they are still my favorite doll line out in the mass market.  Because I enjoy them, I want them to be the best that they can.  I want more children around the world to enjoy them for years to come.  For that to happen I think Toys R Us may need to change the product they have out right now, not start over, just improve a great product that they already have.

Now it's your turn.  What do you think will make Journey Girls better?  How can they become an amazing doll?  Would you be willing to pay more if the doll was better?  Comment below...or join the discussion on Facebook.

9 comments:

Farrah Lily said...

Hi JGK,
What a fantastic post you've written and I hope the right people in this doll line become aware of it! I agree with all of your points and think you have some really good ideas. To be honest, it was your blog and your stunning photography that drew me to the JG line and subsequently led me to purchase my JG London Meredith. I love their chest plate as they look so much better (to me) in lower cut necklines. I prefer their sweet faces a little more over AG. I think you're right in the idea that they have to engage the audience a bit more in terms of going beyond just "play." AGIG is HUGE and there are so many people that enjoy sewing for AG, buying from Etsy for AG, doing customs with AG, etc that it's almost this exclusive group you get to be a part of. I think if people like you (and me!) can continue to share beautiful photos and even start sewing or finding other JG collectors to form groups it may take off. It needs to just start becoming "cool" to have a JG doll. I don't really how to make that happen, but there needs to be some sort of drive that makes girls/boys or collectors notice these dolls and seek them out a little more! Great post.

Sharon said...

What a fantastic post, I agree with all you've said and also the comments made by Farrah Lily above. It was your blog and Farrah's that made me want to buy a Journey Girl. I remember having seen one a few years back on 'special' at our Toys R Us in Sevilla, Spain, but she was a bit 'tatty' and I decided to leave her there. I didn't know anything about the JGs then but once I'd found out about them I wanted one...or two...and that's when the problems started. They weren't available any longer on the Iberian Peninsula, so nothing in Spain or Portugal. Until recently that is, when suddenly there they were back in the Toys R Us in Malaga, Spain. However, the range in the store is so limited, there is only a small selection of dolls, Meredith, Mikaella, Kyla and another who's name escapes me. No outfits. Nothing. No accessories, no furniture. But ahha, I found an outfit one day here in Malaga, a beige raincoat edged in pink with blue leggings and flowery vinyl boots....and also found out it had been released years ago! But it was something so I got it. But nothing more. I would love Chevonne, but I cannot chance buying her from the US and paying 50% more in charges to Spanish customs, never mind the complicated paperwork that goes with it....all in Spanish. So yes, it would be wonderful if Toys r Us worldwide had a better range of items available to purchase. I would be more than happy to pay a bit more for good quality too, although I have to say that I have been fortunate in that my three girls have no faults. I'd definitely promote them more on my blog!!
I just checked out the Toys R Us Spanish website and all they have on there are three dolls, nothing else, Mikaella, Kyla and Meredith. No outfits, nothing. Boring.
Thanks again for such a great post, I'm off to bed!
x

Canadian Doll Notebook said...

This post is the perfect example of why I love your blog! You do your research and share it with the rest of us along with your insightful opinions. Does TRU know about you? Your blog and your Facebook page are fabulous! I was so impressed with the quality of your Facebook page (that's where I first found you) I assumed it was an official TRU page! I loved all your tips and advice with doll repair. Regarding the doll hospital, as far as I know AG is the only doll company to offers this service. I guess in this modern age it is more cost effective to simply replace the doll, rather than repair it. Even trying to find someone privately to fix your doll is difficult. I am just grateful for great bloggers like yourself that have given me plenty of tips of how to solve any doll problems I come across.

About your frustration with the maxi skirt doll only being available in Canada, sadly I was actually excited to read this, finally something just for us! I feel so sad when I visit the American TRU website and look at all the play sets available that we can't get here. However, after reading Sharon's comment I have nothing to complain about in Canada.
Love your blog JG Kelsey!
~Meg~

Michelle Doyle said...

How would you compare the quality or Journey girls to Our Generation dolls?

scotiasplace said...

Love your blogs!

I just bought my daughter her first journey girl and I am hooked! (She doesn't even have it yet, her birthday is next month, I'm going crazy waiting)!

I've been on Facebook, Pinterest, and Google searching for anything on journey girls. Sad to see there isn't much out there.

Your blog has become my main source of info.

When we finally open her dolls in September I will be posting tons online!

Keep this up, I love it! xxx

RobbieSue said...

I just love this blog. Your pictures are truly incredible and your imagination just truly wonderful. I am 66 years old and still have the very first doll brought to me (Raynal baby doll) by an aunt as a birth gift in 1950 :). I have just started collecting Journey Girls. So far I have Chavonne, Dana, Mikella and just got gorgeous Ilee (I am from New York) at my TRU at 20% off sale this morning. My mom who turned 90 in June as well as my husband gave me birthday money (that never gets old :) and I spent it all. I want to be embarrassed, but I'm not, lol. I have loved so many dolls over my lifetime. Anyway, please on posting and I will keep on reading. And btw, also bought the playscape also today after seeing it on your facebook page. My doll room needs more room!!!!!!

Nonna @ mommysdollclub.com said...

I came back and re-read this now after the fall release. I have to say that you are SPOT ON once again and their fall release has made that even more evident. I will add too that they do hear you so keep speaking up! I emailed Battat for three years for an Asian face mold and more than one dark skinned face mold and finally, we got them!

I get the sense that JG is a little lost and just goes along with what Lotus offers rather than a driving selection of inspired collections.

I think the best comparison with JG is still espari and Newberry who are TINY in comparison. It will be interesting to see what happens when AG Truly Me and Wellie Wishers hit TRU...

Anonymous said...

Hello Kelsey, I totally agree with you on the most things. I´s really, really disappointing for me, that TRU Germany doesn´t stock Cavonne and Callie.
I refuse to buy them online, because I prefer buying dolls only in the store (to check hair, make-up and position of eyes- you will know this....).
Plus the horrible shipping costs and customs, for delivery to Germany.
So I wait, wait, and wait longer "sigh" for Callie and Chavonne being included into the german TRU stock. I really love the look and the quality of these awesome dolls, that I´ve discovered by chance in my local store. Given the low price (the AG dolls are around 200$, and I really don´t think they`re worth THIS Money...), the quality is, IMHO, amazing. The Hair is good, also the clothes and the wonderful eyes. And I really love the long, elegant Arms and Legs. Also they don`t have these strange, broad shoulders that AG Dolls have.
Love these dolls!! But here in Germany: also no Marketing for these dolls.
I really don´t understand this at all. The Girls would be a huge hit with proper advertising and Marketing.
I really hope that many, many Girls and their Moms look at your blog and fall in love with the Journey Girls. They so deserve it!!!
Again, kind regards, and thx so much for your helpful blog,
from Anna from Germany!

Unknown said...

Hello from Ithaca NY. I visited the TRU in Sacramento California on Wednesday September 21, to see the new JG clothes. No JG were to be found in the whole store. There were Wellie Wishers in the JG spot. The cashier confirmed that Journey Girls are gone.