Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Less at the pump means more in stores, Hasbro CEO says


biscuit.jpgConsumers rejoicing at the gas pump in recent days may mean good news for retailers — at least that’s what the CEO for toy maker Hasbro is thinking.

In an interview after Hasbro — known for its Monopoly board game and My Little Pony toys — posted a third-quarter profit that beat Wall Street expectations, CEO Brian Goldner said one heartening outcome of the financial crisis was that crude oil prices have fallen in recent weeks, which has translated into lower prices at the pumps for consumers.

That means shoppers could have some extra cash in hand to buy, say, Hasbro’s $180 Furreal Friends toy pup called Biscuit. If that seems like a lot of cash to spend on a toy, Hasbro says it also has several items on offer for less than $20.

Goldner said sales of board games were up 7 percent in the quarter. Demand for titles like Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, and Twister was strong as consumers cut down on road trips or vacations and looked for ways to entertain the whole family at home.

Check Out Line: Christmas, anyone?


scrooge.jpgCheck out the holiday cheer coming from Hasbro’s CEO.
Remember when everyone said luxury stocks were more immune to a recession? That was before the housing slump, the credit crisis and the meltdown on Wall Street. Now the Dow Jones Luxury Index is down 52 percent from a year ago.
Remember when food companies said they were a little less vulnerable to an economic downturn because people still have to eat? Well, people still need to eat, but lower-priced store brands have been taking market share and food shares, as demonstrated by the Standard & Poor’s Packaged Foods index falling 11 percent in the past three weeks.
Well, now the next test case might be the idea that people will still keep spending on toys for their children during Christmas.

“We still believe that Christmas will come for consumers and retailers this year and our retailers have agreed that toys and games are more recession resistant than other discretionary spending categories,” Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner said during a conference call with analysts.
Hasbro beat analysts quarterly profit estimates, while higher costs caused Mattel to miss.
But what kind of Christmas will it be? Christmas came for the Cratchits in “A Christmas Carol,” but while it was full of good feeling and cheer, it was a tad light on presents, at least before Scrooge had his epiphany.
Will Christmas for toymakers be commercial, or Dickensian?
Also in the basket:
U.N. agency says crisis to cost 20 million jobs
Circuit City weighs broad cuts (WSJ, subscription required)
Adrenalina bids for PacSun (WWD, subscription required)

Bratz and Bakugan make latest hot toy list


bratzandbarbie.jpgIf the holiday season is around the corner (or even a little farther away), then it is that time of the year again — major toy retailers, childrens’ magazines and guides announce “hot” lists, predicting which toys and games will likely fly off store shelves during the holiday shopping period.

According to Toy Wishes magazine, girls who are 6 years old or older are likely to go after the Bratz “Girls Really Rock” line of dolls this time around.

Monopoly goes green in latest makeover


monopoly.jpgWater Works and the Electric Company are SO 1930s.
If you are looking to be a 21st-century mogul, renewable energy is the choice.
At least that’s the case for the board game Monopoly. Hasbro is coming out with its first-ever worldwide version of the board game , and Water Works has been flushed and the Electric Company has been disconnected.
In their place, the game board will feature “Wind Energy” and “Solar Energy.”
“In a nod to the efforts of countries worldwide to increase the effectiveness and availability of renewable energy sources, we decided to feature Solar Energy and Wind Energy on the game board,” Hasbro games executive Phil Jackson said in news release.
Which begs the question: will Boardwalk be made out of renewable bamboo?

Check Out Line: Toyland bottomline


barbie.jpgCheck 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)