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American Girl Doll Store Sells Innocence and Mothers Are Buying

  • Laurel Bowman

This week Americans charge into one of the busiest shopping weeks of the year, picking up final Christmas gifts as the December 25 holiday fast approaches. Reports about retail sales have been mixed this holiday season, but American Girl, which sells dolls, books and accessories, does not seem to be feeling the pinch of a tight economy. Our reporter visited the company’s store in suburban Washington.

Meet Kaeli… and her doll that looks just like her … also named Kaeli.

“We got matching outfits and I love to match with my doll," said Kaeli. "It makes me feel kind of cool because I have a friend just like me.”

We caught up with Kaeli Chang and her mother Liane Whalen-Chang at the American Girl store in Tysons Corner, Virginia. Kaeli is choosing final Christmas gifts she hopes to receive.

After browsing a bit, she decides to take her doll to the store’s doll hair salon.

Kaeli got her first American Girl doll just after she was born, and her collection has grown steadily ever since.

“I have nine American Girl dolls all together because my mom is an awesome shopper," she said.

“What I like about it … it kind of brings back the innocence of the kids," said Kaeli's mother. "They grow up too fast. So American Girl allows her to just be a little girl a little bit longer."

American Girl, the store, sells dolls representing periods in American history, alongside books that tell each doll’s story. This doll, Kit Kittredge, grew up in the 1930s during the Great Depression.

Also for sale: dolls that look just like your daughter, with accessories matching her interests. But it costs. The doll itself is $100. Add accessories to that and the bill can quickly add up.

Shoppers here are not complaining.

This granddaughter, grandmother and mother shop together.

"I like the historical aspects and the quality of the products," said shopper Michelle Saville.

“We wanted to speak to girls who were 8, 9, 10 years old and say whatever your passion is whatever you are interested in right now hang onto that," said shopper Valerie Tripp.

Valerie Tripp has authored more than 30 American Girl books. She loves writing for 8-year-olds, she says, because most are reading independently for the first time.

“The ability to walk into someone else’s shoes is a wonderful life skill," she said. "If you can read about someone who lived in a different time and kind of walk into her world. Isn’t that a wonderful way of learning.”

Kaeli Chang loves the books. But she doesn't think she'll buy the dolls for her daughters.

“I don’t think I am going to have daughters," she said. "I want to be single and a doctor.”

So the company may lose Kaeli, but there are many other pint-sized customers right behind her.

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