Page 2 of 2   <      

Justin Bieber merchandise hits hot holiday toy lists

The 16-year-old pop star has a doll coming out next month, and it has already found a place on this year's hot holiday toy lists.

Foreman has witnessed this phenomenon before. He's the man behind the Spice Girls dolls (11 million sold), the Britney Spears doll (7 million sold) and the wildly successful Hannah Montana doll (17 million sold). Foreman predicted young girls will play with the Bieber doll, a Ken to their Barbie, while older girls like Lynch will display it in their homemade shrines to Bieber.

"The idea of having that experience of going to a store and getting a product, getting a piece of the artist, is all part of building the connection," he said.

Bieber's licensing agent, Bravado, a division of Universal Music Group, granted Foreman's company the rights this summer to Bieber's famous face. The Florida-based toymaker rushed the doll into production - orders are normally placed a year ahead - to make the holiday deadline.

The good news: A factory that Foreman works with in China had a mold for a male body on hand, speeding up the process. The bad news: There wasn't enough time to give Bieber brushable hair instead of molded plastic. Next year, Foreman promised.

Launching the dolls this holiday season was also critical for the business of Bieber. He was discovered through YouTube in 2007 by veteran music executive Scooter Braun and released two platinum albums, but he has yet to turn his fan base into big money. He hasn't cracked Forbes's annual list of 100 top celebrities, in which the lowest paid star is Jennifer Love Hewitt at $6.5 million.

But that could change quickly. Bieber sold nearly 700,000 concert tickets in three months of touring this year, according to Pollstar, raking in more than $33 million in ticket sales - not as strong as Bon Jovi but ahead of John Mayer and Metallica for the year.

Just as important is the rapidly expanding universe of merchandise on sale at his concerts and on the Internet: T-shirts, posters and tote bags that can become just as lucrative for a pop star as the actual music. For this holiday season, he also has lent his name to a nail polish line and is rolling out perfumed dogtags at Wal-Mart. Next year, there is a movie release on the calendar, and Braun hinted at a possible clothing line.

"You gotta plan it like chess," he said. "There's a broader picture, and people, I think, are seeing one thing at a time. We're looking at the grand scheme of an overall career."

How many dolls Bieber can sell is directly related to how long his career will last. Or perhaps it is the other way around. Buzz cuts both ways and can evaporate as quickly as it materializes.

"You and I both don't know what the freshness date is going to be on Justin Bieber," said Richard Gottlieb, an independent toy consultant. "There's a short shelf life in that world."

Case in point: At the Toys R Us in Fair Lakes shopping center on a recent morning, the Bieber dolls were stacked in a double-sided bin in a prominent aisle. In the other half of the bin was last year's hot holiday toy, the Zhu Zhu Pets hamster.

Let the battle begin.

<       2

© 2010 The Washington Post Company