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Target Is Recruiting Barbie to Promote Swimwear

Mar 01, 2016

Target (tgt) has lined up a new ally in its push to win a bigger piece of the plus-size apparel pie: Barbie.

The iconic Mattel (mat) doll, which is enjoying a renaissance, is seen modeling Target swimwear in a new campaign launched on Tuesday, outfitted in suits for a wider variety of body types, including curvy, and more skin tones.

In a blog post, Target said the campaign was part of an ongoing plan to promote body acceptance and help customers "feel confident and fearless." But more practically, it's partly designed to help Target sell more apparel to segments of the population many retailers, including Target, have long overlooked. (The campaign is part of an over arching effort to promote swimwear in all size categories, not just plus size.)


Photographer Petra Rajnicova /Stytlist Susan Kurtz Stylist ©2016 Mattel. 

Last year, Target launched a plus-size collection for women, Ava & Viv, the first exclusive fashion line it created in over a decade. The retailer gets input from prominent bloggers though the design process to avoid product flops.

The efforts are part of a larger overhaul of Target's fashion offerings that the company admitted have lost a lot of their luster in recent years. The efforts seem to be paying off: Last week, Target reported that comparable sales of its priority categories, including fashion, rose 6% during the holiday quarter, or three times the overall company rate.

The plus-size market is attracting the attention of other retailers too. J.C. Penney (jcp), a leader in clothing for big and tall men, is redoubling its efforts to win a similar position for plus-size women, expanding the assortment of some of its top house brands. But as senior executive Ken Mangone told Fortune recently, making plus-size clothes is much more involved that just using more fabric—it's about cut and fit, and not just larger versions of a current assortment.

As for Barbie, she was introduced in three body types in January, tall, curvy, and petite, in a bid to maintain her relevance. The classic doll seems to be hanging on: Barbie sales during the holiday season rose for the first time in four years.

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