VOL. 130 | NO. 21 | Monday, February 2, 2015
Barbie Blues Gave Mattel Holiday Disappointment
MICHELLE CHAPMAN | AP Business Writer
Slumping sales of Barbie did little to bring a happy holiday to her maker, Mattel Inc.
Mattel's fourth-quarter earnings release Friday drilled down into the details of a weak performance that led to the resignation of its chairman and CEO.
Barbie sales fell 12 percent, though that wasn't as bad as the third quarter's 21 percent drop. Fisher-Price sales fell 11 percent. While American Girl slipped 4 percent, it was better than the 7 percent decline in the third quarter.
Hot Wheels sales rose 5 percent.
Interim CEO Christopher Sinclair said he will spend the next few months evaluating the company's businesses to "revitalize our brands."
The results for the quarter that ended Dec. 31 are important because they include the holiday season, a make-or-break time of year for toy makers.
Mattel's fourth-quarter performance fell far short of Wall Street's expectations when the toy maker provided preliminary results Monday, the same time it announced the departure of CEO Bryan Stockton.
Stockton became CEO in January 2012 and then was named chairman a year later. A former Kraft Foods executive, he served as a Mattel's chief operating officer before becoming CEO. Sinclair has served as a Mattel Inc. director since 1996.
For the fourth quarter, Mattel posted an adjusted profit of 52 cents per share on revenue of $1.99 billion. That was below the 83 cents per share on revenue of $2.07 billion that analysts polled by FactSet predicted.
Drew Crum of Stifel Nicolaus said in a client note that not all was bad for Mattel in the fourth quarter, as it significantly lowered retail inventory in domestic markets and reported better-than-expected revenue from Mega Brands.
But the analyst kept a "Hold" rating, saying he is waiting for evidence of improvement in its core brands.
Mattel's full-year adjusted profit was $1.48 per share on revenue of $6.02 billion.
The difficulties Mattel is facing are not new for those in the toy sector, though, according to Chris Byrne, content director for TTPM, a consumer website that offers reviews, videos and live price updates for toys, baby gear and other items.
"The toy industry is, always has been and always will be product/hit driven. Kids don't care who makes the toy they want," he said.
Byrne said that toy companies need to be able to create and market individual products that appeal to children, whether or not they fit into a particular brand.
Byrne said that Mattel's Monster High and Ever After High products had strong holiday seasons, and initial sales of Barbie in Princess Power toys are doing well ahead of the release of the home video they are tied to.
Byrne said Mattel may be up against a difficult movie slate in 2015, as many of the new features scheduled to come out – such as "Jurassic World" and "Avengers: Age of Ultron" – are not titles for which it has product licenses. But Mattel does have a small "Star Wars" license, Byrne said, which should help when "Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens" hits theaters.
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