Tags: mattel | barbie | china | growth

Mattel Hopes Barbie Makeover Spurs China Growth

Friday, 15 Jan 2010 01:55 PM

Mattel Inc., the world's leading toymaker, said it has seen very strong sales for its Christmas hit Fashionista Barbie doll following a recent revamp of its 50-year-old mainstay product.

The U.S. company, whose products also include Hot Wheels cars and Fisher-Price toys, has sold "more than hundreds of thousands" of Fashionista Barbie, one of the industry's hot toys this holiday season, Stephanie Cota, senior vice-president of Barbie marketing, told Reuters.

"Sales were off the shelf," Cota said in an interview at Mattel's Hong Kong offices. "Internally, we knew we had something."

The strong sales follow a 2008 overhaul for Mattel's iconic bestseller — Barbie celebrated her 50th birthday last year — aimed at unifying the brand and making the dolls more relevant for today's girls.

The changes came after Barbie posted a weak 2008, with sales down 6 percent in the United States and 28 percent overseas in that year's fourth quarter. Cota declined to comment on 2009, except to say that retail Barbie sales for the year were strong.

Introduced at a New York toy fair in March 1959 as a teenage fashion model, Barbie — full name Barbie Millicent Roberts — became an instant hit, with 300,000 sold in her first year.

Mattel, whose rivals include Hasbro and Hello Kitty creator Sanrio Co. Ltd. of Japan, has yet to report its fourth-quarter results. Its net sales for the 2009 third quarter fell 8 percent to $1.8 billion, but beat analysts' expectations.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S expect the company to have returned to growth in the fourth quarter, with sales seen rising 2 percent to nearly $2 billion after the previous year's disastrous holiday season during the global financial crisis.

They expect Mattel to post 7.7 percent revenue growth in 2010 to nearly $5.9 billion, reversing an expected 7.9 percent slide last year.

"For 2010, the plan, intent, goal is to continue the momentum we established in 2009," Cota said.

Her comments come as Mattel pushes to build its Asia presence with major campaigns in China and India.

In a sign of its commitment to China, Mattel chose Shanghai last year to open its first House of Barbie store, a five-story outlet complete with spa, play areas and workshop where customers can design their own Barbie dolls.

The store, which performed in line with Mattel's expectations, was part of a broader push to raise the company's profile in a toy market worth about $2 billion a year, of which about $300 million could be suitable for Mattel products, said Jean-Christophe Pean, general manager for Asia-Pacific.

China's toy market is fragmented, although Mattel estimates it is one of the leading players there.

Other major Western brands actively building a presence there include Disney and U.S. toy retailer Toys R Us.

Following its entry into China just eight years ago, Mattel now has about 40 licensing partners.

"China is a double-digit growth market, certainly for us," Pean said.

Mattel, which sells Chinese versions of its Barbie dolls starting at $6, hopes to tap a generation of only children, products of China's one-child policy, who are fast becoming big spenders on toys through their own money and from doting parents and relatives.

"In the next five years, definitely, China will be one of our top five international markets," Pean said.

"What we're looking for is an inflection point where a growing middle class will allow us to move to the next level."

He added that India, Asia's other major fast-growing market, was showing similar potential, but was a few years behind China.

"China has the infrastructure and the growth, and the population is there," he said. "On paper it should happen quicker. India is very entrepreneurial — there are lots of opportunities, but it's limited by the lack of infrastructure."

Mattel shares, valued at more than $7 billion, have risen by nearly a third since July when the company's fortunes began to turn around, outpacing a 23 percent gain for the broader S&P 500.

© 2017 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

 
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Mattel Inc., the world's leading toymaker, said it has seen very strong sales for its Christmas hit Fashionista Barbie doll following a recent revamp of its 50-year-old mainstay product. The U.S. company, whose products also include Hot Wheels cars and Fisher-Price toys,...
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2010-55-15
Friday, 15 Jan 2010 01:55 PM
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