Hot on the heels of its joint venture with Shanghai-based investment company Fosun Group to introduce learning and play clubs for children across China, Mattel is bolstering its presence in the region with a network of kid-focused learning centers developed in tandem with online parenting portal Babytree.
The centers will feature curriculum and activities inspired by Mattel’s early-childhood development brand Fisher-Price (pictured).
The program with Babytree will initially roll out in six locations, though rapid expansion plans are expected to follow. Mattel will leverage Babytree’s big data capabilities to identify strategic locations for each center. (A specific launch date has not been set.)
Mattel and Fisher-Price will develop the education framework, course curriculum, syllabi and classroom materials, with an underlying theme of connecting online and physical play. Parents of the participating children–who are expected to be under the age of five–will be able to monitor and access progress, see videos of their child throughout the day and take home activities for continued learning.
On top of educational classes, the centers will also feature areas for family play and retail. There will also be daycare facilities sporting educational and retail services available in or near office buildings.
The learning centers extend a strategic partnership between Mattel and Babytree that was announced in February. The first phase of the partnership has focused on developing an early-childhood learning and development platform online. Babytree boasts nearly 200 million unique monthly visitors and reaches more than 90% of Chinese parents who have access to the internet. The suite of online resources for families created in partnership with Mattel includes child-development assessment tools as well as customized parenting content and development curriculum inspired by Fisher-Price.
This continued expansion into China is part of Mattel’s recently revealed five-pillar strategic plan. In addition to making major strides in creating digital content, internet-connected toys and products that promote learning, the strategy will see the US toymaker focus on accelerating growth in emerging markets including China, India and Indonesia. In fact, Mattel predicts its business in China will grow to three or four times larger by 2020.
Additionally, Mattel expanded its partnership with global e-commerce giant Alibaba Group earlier this year to develop, market and sell playthings specifically designed for Chinese customers. While Mattel did experience a disappointing fiscal first quarter, the toymaker reported a 19% net sales increase in the Asia-Pacific region.