Ribbon-cutting ceremony for American Girl doll in Columbus, OH

OMG: American Girl opens destination store in Columbus

June 21st, 2013

Dan Eaton, Columbus Business First
June 21, 2013

If you’re a parent to a young girl, chances are you know American Girl is opening at Easton Town Center this weekend.

If not, just know it’s a big deal.

Middleton, Wisc.-based American Girl, which is a division of toy giant Mattel Inc. (NASDAQ:MAT), is opening just its 15th store this weekend at Easton. The brand generated $567 million in sales last year split evenly between online and its handful of destination shops.

Wade Opland, vice president of retail, told me the store expects as many as 12,000 visitors in its first days, which will be a ticketed event just to keep the crowd controlled. The 11,400-square-foot Easton shop is projected to attract up to 800,000 visitors a year from a 250-mile radius.

“This has been three years in the making,” Opland said.

The 27-year-old company started as a direct selling business with three history-based dolls. The first brick-and-mortar American Girl store opened in 1998. In 2007, the company began rolling out a scaled-down shop such as the style here in Columbus.

Opland said those direct selling roots give the company a good read on where its customers are and Central Ohio, especially with a destination center like Easton, made sense for a store site.

“We expect to draw from Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit,” he said.

The shop, in addition to its intricate displays of dolls and their related books and movies, includes a bistro for family and doll dining and a salon where dolls can get a new hairdo and even get their ears pierced.

Spokeswoman Julie Parks said the average visit to American Girl is between one-and-a-half and two hours. The current product offering includes 10 historic characters spanning 1764 to 1974, more than 40 options of contemporary dolls, the Bitty Baby line of smaller dolls and the Girl of the Year, a special character offered only for one year.

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