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Mattel tried to report financials. All anyone wanted to talk about was 'Barbie'

Mattel reported financial earnings on Wednesday. In the company's earnings call, Barbie stole the show.
Paul Sakuma
/
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Mattel reported financial earnings on Wednesday. In the company's earnings call, Barbie stole the show.

The Barbie movie is dominating just about everywhere – the box office, social media feeds, brand deals, the list goes on. One place the movie hasn't yet made an impact? Mattel's quarterly earnings.

The toy company reported financial earnings on Wednesday. The report only covered company finances through June, so impacts from the blockbuster film released earlier this month remain to be seen. The company's overall sales were down, in-line with the company's expectations. Despite early buzz around the movie, Barbie sales declined – shoppers were more interested in Monster High and Disney-branded dolls.

But in the company's earnings call, company executives and industry analysts alike were seeing pink.

An update on finances quickly pivoted to the success of the Barbie movie, with Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz saying the film's theatrical debut is a milestone for the company, and part of a larger shift in the company's strategy.

"The success at the box office during the first weekend, combined with positive film reviews and the entire build-up towards [Barbie's] release, made it more than a movie. It has become a cultural phenomenon," Kreiz said.

Even though the Barbie movie's impact wasn't reflected in the earnings report, most analysts' questions were related to the blockbuster: Are retailers ordering more Barbie dolls yet? Will a film catered to adult audiences actually sell more toys? How about a sequel?

Kreiz said it's too soon to think about a sequel, but the company is hopeful the doll's sales will be up in the second half of the year.

Getting down to business

Mattel used the call to address some company news, such as company president Richard Dickson's departure to Gap, which hired him as CEO. Dickson played a key role in reinventing the Barbie brand, and his last day with the company is Aug. 3.

"The success of the Barbie movie is a milestone for Mattel, and it really just showcases the cultural resonance of the brand," Dickson said in today's call.

While the Barbie movie is resonating with audiences, the question is if it will turn into more business for Mattel. The company's overall sales improved from the first quarter but were down from last year. Sales of the company's popular brands Barbie and Fisher-Price were down, but sales of Hot Wheels were up. The company expects Barbie sales to improve in the second half of the year, noting that sales of the doll were up in July.

Despite lower sales, Barbie still has staying power. Market research group NPD named Barbie the top global toy brand in 2020 and 2021, falling to Pokémon in 2022.

Taking toys outside of the box

The Barbie film is one way Mattel is trying to expand its reach outside of the toy aisle. In conjunction with the film, Mattel said it has partnered with over 165 brands on Barbie products. Kreiz also pointed to the Barbie movie soundtrack as another success for the company.

Barbie isn't the only Mattel toy getting out of the box – the company is also releasing a new video game, Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged, in October. This follows the debut of the Hot Wheels Ultimate Challenge television series in May. The company is also planning a fall concert tour based on its Monster High dolls.

Mattel's expansion into entertainment is part of its plan to create value for the company and create new relationships with customers, Kreiz said.

"The biggest shift in our strategy, and in our DNA, was to realize that people who buy our products are not just consumers, they're fans," Kreiz said. "Once you have an audience, more opportunities open up."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Erin Kenney