Barbie is back to being a billion-dollar brand

Flying off the shelves.
Flying off the shelves.
Image: Reuters / Carlos Garcia Rawlins
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It’s been a rough few years for toy companies. Kids’ ever-increasing appetite for technological devices—including video-game consoles, laptops, and smartphones—has outpaced their desire for traditional toys, and some say toymakers have been slow to adapt to a changing retail landscape. Last year was particularly dire in the US after Toys R Us, a key retailer, filed for bankruptcy in September 2017 and shut down or sold all of its stores.

But things seem to be looking up. Mattel, one of the world’s three largest toy companies, posted fourth-quarter earnings Thursday (Feb. 7) showing a surprise profit, thanks largely to the success of one of its most familiar brands: Barbie.

Barbie’s worldwide gross sales for the quarter reached $391 million, a 12% increase from a year ago. For the year, they hit just over $1 billion, a 14% increase from 2017.

Aside from Barbie’s success, Hot Wheels posted worldwide gross sales of $834 million for the year, a 7% increase from 2017. But those gains were mostly offset by losses incurred by Mattel’s other brands, including American Girl and Thomas & Friends.

Mattel’s net revenue for the quarter fell from $1.6 billion in 2017 to $1.5 billion in 2018, but that was above most analysts’ estimates.

Mattel seems to be banking on Barbie’s success: In a call with investors, CEO Ynon Kreiz said, “We look forward to celebrating [Barbie’s] 60th anniversary throughout 2019 with a number of exciting product launches and events.” And in December 2018, the company announced it would produce a Barbie movie (paywall) featuring Oscar-nominated actress Margot Robbie.