Justin Beiber's new hairstyle (left) meant that dolls made with his trademarked sideswept shag were suddently outdated. That cost one toy maker a lot of money,
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- When Justin Bieber chopped off his trademark shaggy sideswept hairdo last February, legions of tween "Beliebers" gasped in shock. So did one 49-year-old veteran toy maker who delivered the very first Bieber dolls to rabid fans last year.
"First off, I had no idea what he did," said Jay Foreman, founder and CEO of Florida-based toy maker The Bridge Direct. "I heard a lot of shrieks around me, and people running in and out of their offices."
It turns out that Foreman's brand managers, many of whom had set up Google (Fortune 500) alerts in order to keep tabs on Justin Bieber's every move, were the first ones at the company to learn about his haircut.,
"I got everyone into a conference room and we looked at some images," Foreman said. "We weren't sure what he had done. Then it became obvious that his trademark was gone."
Bieber's need for a change created an big problem for Foreman. A simple trim for Bieber was a money-losing move for Foreman, who had already begun manufacturing dolls for this holiday season with the pop star's old hair.
4 million dolls. Foreman had scored a major coup in June 2010 when he locked in an exclusive license to make Justin Bieber dolls. That was a big deal for his one-year old toy company, which had just a handful of employees.
The timing of the deal was perfect, too. Bieber fever was exploding nationwide and the holiday shopping season was creeping up quickly.
As a toy maker, Foreman knew he could make a killing if he could quickly manufacture the Bieber dolls and get them into stores just in time for the start of the Christmas 2010 shopping rush.
With the license in the bag, and less than six months to get factories in Hong Kong ready to crank out a variety of Bieber fashion and singing dolls, Foreman was in serious crunch mode.
But he pulled it off.
The Justin Bieber dolls with the shaggy do first debuted last year at Toys R Us a few weeks before Black Friday. That's the day after Thanksgiving when gift hunters hit stores in droves, hoping to score the "it" gift products for the holidays.
Foreman hit the jackpot. In less than a year since they launched, the company has sold more than four million Bieber dolls and accessories. The entire Bieber line so far has made over $100 million.
Convinced that Bieber fever was still running high for 2011, Foreman and his team of creators tweaked the old dolls just a bit. They didn't touch the sideswept shag but they did put the Bieber dolls in fresh fashions and added new accessories such as a tour bus.
The first round of production for the fall 2011 Bieber doll line was well underway when "the haircut" happened.
"We didn't want to disappoint fans with a Justin Bieber doll that doesn't look exactly like him anymore," said Foreman. "But there wasn't much we could do about it."
Foreman's company also never contractually obligated Justin Bieber to maintain his trademark hairstyle.
So this means that many of the new Bieber dolls fans will see in stores soon will sport the old Bieber "do."
"We were able to change the look in the second production line for the dolls," said Foreman. JB dolls for next spring will have the newer, shorter hair.
But making those unexpected production adjustments for next year's dolls "was an expensive step," he said. Bieber's haircut cost his business $100,000.
"Would I rather that Justin called me three months before he made a hair change? Yes. But we know that won't happen," said Foreman. "That said, I'm glad he didn't go for a Mohawk. That would have been a real problem."
Even though Justin Bieber threw him a curve ball, Foreman isn't holding any grudges. "You take a risk when you're creating a product based on a celebrity," he said.
Foreman should know. Before he founded The Bridge Direct, Foreman was the mastermind behind the launch of Spice Girls dolls in the United States. After that, he founded another toy company called Play Along that successfully launched Britney Spears dolls.
"Justin cutting his hair is a big problem. It's not my biggest problem," said Foreman. If Justin Bieber was photographed smoking a hookah pipe, for example, or some such kind of "risky behavior," that could doom a small toy maker.
"Retailers could pull all of the dolls off the shelves and send them back to me. That could bankrupt me," he said. For that reason, Foreman said he's staying well away from one celebrity -- Lindsay Lohan.
|GM's $1.3 billion recall cost wipes out profit|
|Regulators pave way for Internet "fast lane" with net neutrality rules|
|Coffee prices skyrocket after Brazil drought|
|Female gun instructors in hot demand|
|Taxpayers are subsidizing CEO pay|