Retailers, consumers and prices
from Summit Notebook:
Modern day national influence, some smart people like to argue, spreads through the "soft power" of brand appeal and attraction rather than the "hard power" of coercion. In China, one avatar of U.S. soft power tends to be trim and busty, and come with blue eyes and a long mane of blonde hair. Her name is Barbie, she is made of plastic, she was born in Malibu and Chinese girls want to be like her.
Barbie comes in all sorts of versions, according to the man who introduces her to her foreign friends, Mattel's international president, Bryan Stockton. Still, in China, the No. 1-selling Barbie doll is the sunny surfer girl who cruised across the Pacific from southern California to bring millions of young Chinese girls a new vision of the world, not to mention themselves.
"The challenge (in China) is to have toys become a part of the culture," Stockton said at the Reuters Consumer and Retail Summit on Monday. "We're trying to get our toys to be a part of a child's development. ... In Chinese culture it's very important to help girls think they can aspire to be something. ... Barbie is a western icon and she's an American icon, and Barbie is from Malibu, California."
"Now," Stockton said, "Barbie is a part of Chinese educational culture and Chinese pop culture."
Check out Mattel reporting a smaller-than-expected decline in third-quarter revenue as the toymaker sees gains in its Hot Wheels and American Girl brands.
Profit fell to $229.8 million, or 63 cents a share, from $238.1 million, or 65 cents a share, a year earlier. Net sales fell 8 percent to $1.79 billion. Analysts expected revenue of $1.78 billion.
Check out the quarterly profit from Mattel.
The world’s top toymaker posted a higher-than-expected quarterly profit but it wasn’t driven by consumers clamoring for its toys.
Instead, it cut costs to make up for a dearth of toys based on summer movies and the impact of foreign exchange.
The maker of Barbie said its first-quarter loss widened and CEO Robert Eckert said Mattel would keep controlling costs as tough market conditions test the resilience of toy companies.
Check out the Island of Misfit Toy Earnings.
Mattel bumped along like a train with square wheels in the fourth quarter, posting a 46 percent drop in earnings for the quarter that includes the key holiday selling season.
Sales fell 11 percent, a particularly bad sign given the idea that parents would sacrifice shopping for themselves in order to buy toys for their children during the holidays.
Granted, part of the sales decline was due to the rising dollar, which hurts the value of sales outside the United States.
But U.S. sales also fell 6 percent. And Barbie is really sagging, with a 21 percent drop in sales. Maybe her age is showing. She does hit 50 this year.
“Our business wasn’t immune from the deteriorating economic environment of 2008,” CEO Robert Eckert said in a statement.
Rival toymaker Hasbro will report next week. But at least it has that Monopoly money to cover any shortfalls.
Also in the basket:
Bharti Wal-Mart picks name for cash-and-carry stores
Tough times for luxury watches (WWD, subscription required)
What would Mattel wish for if it had one wish to make? The launch of the toy giant’s “My Meebas” points to one possibility — better fortunes for its girl’s toy business, as Barbie sales continue to face trouble.
Mattel launched “My Meebas” — a toy for girls aged 6 to 12 that houses a plush “Meeba” in a plastic tube, which serves as a gaming device with a movable LCD screen.
Check out earnings in toyland… for one company at least.
Hasbro posted a better-than- expected first-quarter profit on Monday, with sales rising 13 percent. Meanwhile, Mattel had a loss in the first quarter , hurt by legal expenses, higher costs and lower sales of its Fisher-Price products.
Oh, and Barbie is sagging too, with that Mattel doll line posting 12 percent drop in sales in the United States.
Now, it’s hard to draw a lot from the first quarter in the toy business. After the holiday season, many people often take a break from buying toys.
But Hasbro had success with its Transformers and Littlest Pet Shop lines.
Mattel is hoping price increases in June will help offset rising costs.
Meanwhile, the competition really heats up again in coming months as the summer movie season hits. Will “Speed Racer” and “Batman: The Dark Knight” win the day for Mattel over Hasbro-linked “Iron Man” and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull?”
At Mattel, they have to be singing “Go Speed Racer, go!”
Also in the basket:
Reversing Field, Macy’s Goes Local (WSJ)
Weak dollar takes toll on European beauty exports (WWD)