Aaryn Costello is searching for the perfect dress, a 30-inch-long light-blue number with a sparkly bodice and a detachable white cape.
That would be the Princess Elsa dress from the Walt Disney Co. hit “Frozen,” the most sought-after fashion item among the kindergarten set. Stores nationwide are sold out, and originals are being offered for as much as $1,600 on eBay. Desperate parents are sewing their own or shelling out up to $225 for replicas on craft sites like Etsy.com.
“Every mom in the world is dying for this dress,” said Costello, a Los Angeles marketing consultant with a “Frozen”-obsessed 4-year-old. “The lucky moms who have found this dress for their daughters brag about their success and unanimously proclaim how their kid can’t stop wearing it.”
Toys, dolls and clothes are a big part of the strategy at Disney, which happens to be the world’s largest licensing company. And it has hit a merchandise-sales jackpot with Elsa, also known as the Snow Queen of Arendelle, and her ice gown.
“The property is hot,” said Sean McGowan, a toy industry analyst at Needham & Co. in New York.
Retailers didn’t order enough of the gowns, said Dena O’Loughlin, director of marketing for Disney-licensed girls costumes at Jakks Pacific in Malibu, Calif., which sells to mass-market chains such as Wal-Mart Stores and Target. Stores sold out in January of Jakks’ version – suggested retail price: $20 – and the company is bringing in reinforcements by air and boat from factories in China.
“It has been challenging to keep up with demand,” O’Loughlin said.
Buyers just didn’t anticipate how big “Frozen” would be and stocked about as many of the ice gowns as they did Rapunzel outfits from Disney’s 2010 “Tangled,” O’Loughlin said.
After the movie opened in the U.S. on Nov. 22, “Frozen” went on to become the top-grossing animated film of all time with worldwide theater receipts of almost $1.1 billion, according to Box Office Mojo. Counting revenue from DVDs and television, Disney stands to make almost $1 billion in operating profit from the film, according to estimates from analysts from SNL Kagan and Gabelli & Co. That’s before merchandise sales, which the analysts didn’t calculate.
“We are thrilled that audiences formed instant connections to the characters and we are working hard to get additional products into stores as soon as possible,” said Tasia Filippatos, a spokeswoman for Burbank, Calif.-based Disney, in an email. She declined to comment on the size of the “Frozen” merchandise market.
Disney designers created versions of the dress priced from $50 to $150, for sale at Disney stores and parks. The sought-after limited edition has the white cape and a bejeweled cameo and is fetching top dollar online. Some identified as “Disney Store” gowns start at around $187 on eBay.
Elsa’s sparkly dress is outselling Anna’s more demure, black and blue flowered garment, O’Loughlin said, reflecting girls’ attachment to Elsa’s diva-esque personality. Her character, in Idina Menzel’s voice, sings “Let it Go,” which won the Oscar for best song this year.