Elton John’s Latest Collaborator: Barbie

Mattel’s efforts to make Barbie more inclusive have paid off in record-breaking sales

Because of more inclusive choices and families being home for the pandemic, Barbies are a best-seller

Mattel Inc reported a surprise rise in quarterly sales on Thursday and forecast more growth in the holiday season, according to reports from Reuters. As retailers rushed to restock their shelves of Barbie dolls and other toys in high demand from stuck-at-home kids, things have been going really well for the brand. The toymaker’s shares rose a whopping 6% in extended trading.

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing schools in many parts of the country to instead hold classes online, parents have been turning to play sets and board games to keep children’s boredom to a minimum, which has caused a boost in toy sales at retailers such as Walmart Inc and Target Corp.

As this rise in sales continues, causing pre-pandemic inventories to run low, Mattel has decided to boost shipments, which lead to a 10% jump in its third quarter net sales--which marks the biggest increase in a decade.

According to research firm NPD, the demand is expected to increase even more as wealthy families with an excess of money to spend due to canceled vacations splurge on things like toys for their children during the holiday season.

Toy manufacturer Mattel's Día de los Muertos Barbie comes in a floor-length embroidered dress splashed with vibrant colors signature to the holiday©Mattel

Ynon Kreiz, Mattel’s Chief Executive Officer, said he expects Barbie play houses and fashion dolls to be among the company’s best-selling toys for the holiday quarter, but also made sure to warn consumers of potential overall supply challenges.

“We cannot be certain we will fully meet the surge in consumer demand,” Kreiz said on a call with analysts.

Gross sales for Barbie rose 29% to $532.2 million, the brand’s biggest quarterly sales since 2003. This increase comes alongside the company’s efforts to make the traditionally white, blonde doll more inclusive with the addition of different skin tones and body types, which struck a chord with an increasingly diverse customer base.

Mattel posted net sales of $1.63 billion in the quarter ended Sept. 30, beating analysts’ estimates of $1.46 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. The company reported adjusted earnings of 95 cents per share, beating estimates of 39 cents, as cost cuts resulted in beefed up profit margins.

Some of the more inclusive dolls Barbie has released include a line called #MoreRoleModels in 2018. The company shined a light on empowering role models from the past and present in an effort to inspire more girls. The Inspiring Women doll line also launched and featured Frida Kahlo, Katherine Johnson, and Amelia Earhart.

In 2016, to better reflect the world girls see today, Barbie introduced three new body types: curvy, petite, and tall. We’ve also seen launches like the recent Elton John Barbie and the Dia De Los Muertos doll, which pay tribute to an LGBTQ icon and important Latino traditions.

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