Sindy eyes a comeback on the mainland

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 July, 2012, 12:00am


Fun-loving, fashionable British girl (with roots in Hong Kong) seeks long-term partner for travel - and making money - on the mainland.

Sindy (pictured), Britain's Hong Kong-made answer to the Barbie doll, turns 50 next year.

And while the toy's popularity in the UK and Europe has dwindled in recent years, its owner is hoping to crack the mainland market by partnering with a new licensee or equity partner.

UK-based Pedigree Group owns the rights to Sindy and has put a call out to anyone who would like to revive the brand.

Henry Hu Hai-lin, the Hong Kong-based director of Pedigree's toy and dolls division, said there was growth potential for a fashion doll with a strong British brand history to expand into the mainland.

'Younger girls in China don't have a lot of good toys because most of the toys are for boys,' he said.

'Their parents will be in their late-30s - the highest income group - and willing to spend money on their kids, contrary to the older generation which was more conservative and didn't spend as much.

'Girls of about eight to 12 years are probably the first generation where their parents are going to spoil them, so there is a market for a far-sighted manufacturer who wants to market a doll and a whole lot of merchandise.'

Hu said a potential licensee could also develop a fashion doll with Chinese characteristics under the Sindy brand.

He added: 'As a licensor, we encourage a more diverse and expanded thinking of how the licence could be exploited.'

More than 150 million Sindy dolls have been sold since she burst onto the scene in 1963, four years after Barbie. For decades she dominated the fashion doll market in Britain before her more glamorous rival entered the UK in the 1980s.

In 1986, Hasbro took over the licence and changed Sindy to look more like Mattel's Barbie. The move lifted sales but also attracted a lawsuit over copyright issues, won by Mattel.

Hasbro quit the brand in the mid-90s and a 2006 partnership with Woolworths in the UK which was intended to revive the brand failed when the British offshoot of the US retail giant collapsed in 2008.

Jerry Reynolds, chief executive of Pedigree Group, said part of Sindy's appeal was her 'demure girl-next- door' image. Hu said this could be a key to cracking the mainland toy market. 'If a Chinese manufacturer decided that they would like a doll of good virtue, as perceived by parents, they can then capture the spirit but interpret the values,' he explained.

A Sindy doll for mainland children also may not wear Chanel and Gucci dresses. Instead 'she will wear T-shirts and jeans', he said.

Hu, 67, has had a long relationship with the British fashion doll icon as he started making the product at a Quarry Bay factory in 1975.

Hu opened his own factory in Chai Wan during the height of Hong Kong's toy manufacturing boom and continued to make the doll along with many other toys before retiring from the business in 1990.

'Hong Kong was in the right time and place in the 60s, 70s and 80s to emerge as the manufacturing centre for the toys of the world,' he said.

'Even as we speak today, the largest toy manufactures are still in southern China for top brand names such as Mattel and Hasbro.'