Mattel profit surges; Barbie sees first sales uptick in a year

Mattel Inc., the nation’s largest toy company, and Barbie, likely its best-known product, are heading into Christmas looking up.

The El Segundo-based company reported net income of $422.8 million, or $1.21 a share, for the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30. That’s a 16% increase from the year-earlier period, when profit was $365.9 million, or $1.04 a share.

Mattel’s revenue also surged 6% to $2.2 billion, from $2.1 billion. Both the sales and profit measures beat Wall Street expectations.

Barbie, a Mattel headliner for more than half a century, enjoyed a 3% sales boost after four consecutive quarters of declines.

But the fashion doll garnered most of the upswing internationally, where its sales were up 6%. Barbie shipments in the U.S. were down 1%.

North American gross sales for Mattel were up 3%, lagging a 9% increase abroad.

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As companies prepare for what Mattel Chief Executive Bryan Stockton calls “the all-important holiday season,” toy stores have been wary. Many children are shifting from traditional playthings to more technology-infused options.

“Retailers have been cautious and they remain cautious,” Stockton said Wednesday in a conference call with analysts. “They continue to order based on what's selling. Their goal, like many companies, including Mattel, is to deliver better performance with less inventory.”

Mattel stock rose 2.9%, or $1.21, to $42.76 a share in late morning trading in New York.

Girls brands continue to be the company’s strong suit, with sales booming 28%. The growth was primarily driven by Monster High, the line of ghoulish, creepy dolls that even Mattel admits has cannibalized some of Barbie’s sales.

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American Girl sales exploded 20% in the quarter, but the company's Fisher-Price unit was still lagging, with flat sales. Its Hot Wheels sector was down 2%.

Many toy companies are already looking forward to 2014, with Southern California companies such as Jakks Pacific Inc. opening their showrooms this month to entice buyers with next year’s products.

Jakks and Hasbro Inc. are to report their earnings next week.


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