Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

from Summit Notebook:

Barbie does Beijing: The adventures of a Malibu girl in China

Photo

BarbieModern 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 Line: Parents back to buying toys

USA/Check out strong quarterly results from Hasbro.

The No. 2 toymaker behind Mattel said quarterly net profit nearly tripled while revenue jumped 8.2 percent. The maker of Littlest Pet Shop said it got the biggest boost from girls and preschoolers, with sales jumping 16 percent and 18 percent respectively.

Some of the gain came from favorable currency exchange rates, but even excluding that factor, revenue was up 5 percent. Mattel also posted stronger-than-expected quarterly results.

Check Out Line: Barbie and friends sell well

Photo

Check out the stronger-than-anticipated results from Mattel.

Triple H figureThe toy giant notched a 12 percent jump in sales and a surprise profit in its latest quarter, sending a strong signal that toys are getting year-round attention, not just a holiday season boost.

Barbie’s sales rose 5 percent and some newer items, such as the World Wresting Entertainment and Thomas and Friends collections, were very good sellers, Mattel said.  (That’s Triple H showing off his WWE action figure at Toy Fair earlier this year)

Fisher-Price launches iPhone apps and gets on Facebook

Photo

Eddie_LPFarm

Mattel’s Fisher-Price, home to many infant and preschool toy brands, is going digital.

The maker of Little People playsets and Power Wheels toy cars is launching iPhone applications related to its “The Chatter Telephone,” “See ‘n Say” and “Little People Farm” brands.

Check Out Line: Holiday cheer in Barbie land

Photo

BARBIE/ANNIVERSARYCheck out more Barbie dolls making an appearance under the Christmas tree.

Mattel, the world’s largest toy maker, posted higher than expected profit for its quarter that included the holiday season, boosted by strong demand for its Fashionista Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels cars.

The company was also helped by tight cost controls and a weak U.S. dollar.

Mattel said worldwide gross sales for Barbie rose 12 percent, while Hot Wheels jumped 16 percent.

Mattel flexes muscle with new toy line

Photo

WWEMattel is hoping for some hook-throwing, flip-kicking action this new year.

Its new line of toys themed around popular World Wrestling Entertainment figures like “Triple H” and “The Undertaker” is hitting store shelves this week  as the world’s largest toy maker continues to expand its portfolio beyond Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels.

The new line includes action figures and toys for both kids and collectors.

Mattel’s “FlexForce” action figures will allow younger fans to recreate trademark moves made by WWE stars like John Cena, CM Punk and Rey Mysterio.  Kids can also buy accessories like championship belts and motion-activated “Tough Talkers” that make striking sounds.

Check Out Line: A quarterly update from toyland

Photo

matCheck 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.

What’s hot in toyland this holiday season

Photo

INDIAAs retailers gear up for the all-important holiday season, two industry veterans predicted what would be hot in toy land this year.Looking at the ‘hot toys” list from Jim Silver and Christopher Byrne of toy Web site TimetoPlayMag.com, it appears that even indulgent parents still don’t want to pay too much for a toy — with the exception of the Beatles Rock Band video game.That could put pressure on toy makers and retailers who have been cutting down on inventory and focusing on making and selling affordable toys to please consumers.The push may be vital, given the 2008 holiday season turned into one of the worst in nearly 40 years as the economic crisis bore down on shoppers.The complete “hot toys” list includes:Mattel’s Barbie Fashionistas dolls, Rocky the Robot truck, and the tween Dora, Crayola’s Crayon Town, Hasbro’s Candy Land Sweet Celebration game, a Nerf blaster gun and Transformers Constructicon Devastator battle vehicle, Cepia’s Zhu Zhu Pets hamsters, Bakugan 7-in-1 Maxus Helios playing cards and characters, MEGA brands’ Battle Strikers, Techno Source’s Printies, Spin Master’s Air Hogs Switchblade flyer, Jakks Pacific Eyeclops Night Vision Goggles and Girl Gourmet Sweet Candy Jewelry Factory, Lego’s Star Wars and the Beatles Rock Band video game.(Photo/Reuters)

Toys “R” Us issues holiday “hot toys” list

Photo

It’s that time of the year again.INDIA

Specialty toy retailer Toys “R” Us issued its take on what this holiday season’s hot toys will be, as it prepares to attract toy shoppers one year after what was the worst holiday sales season in nearly 40 years.

This year, retailers and toy makers alike have focused keenly on prices, understanding that consumers may not be prepared to shell out hundreds of dollars for toys since caution rules their spending.

Check Out Line: Cost cuts in toy land

Photo

barbieCheck 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.

  •