Mattel grows in 2020 despite the pandemic

Mattel's net sales increased 2%, and now the company is focused on increasing productivity and reducing costs with a new "Optimizing for Growth" program.
February 10, 2021

Mattel is reporting a strong end to a difficult year. The LA-based toymaker posted US$4.58 billion in net sales for fiscal 2020—a 2% increase over 2019.

Mattel’s dolls category saw a 9% increase in gross billings for the year, to the tune of US$1.89 billion. (Gross billings represents the total amount invoiced to customers, while net sales—which Mattel historically used to report—represent total sales after subtracting returned/damaged goods and discounts.)

The Barbie brand once again drove significant growth, with gross billings increasing by 16% to US$1.35 billion.

Not all categories had the same kind of momentum, though. The infant, toddler and preschool category dropped 9% to US$1.15 billion for the same period. And specifically, gross billings for the Fisher-Price and Thomas & Friends brands decreased by 6% to US$1.06 billion.

The vehicles category (up 1% to US$1.11 billion) and the action figures, building sets, games and other category (up 1% to US$991.6 million) stayed relatively steady for the full year. Mattel’s Hot Wheels brand, however, saw a 3% bump and brought in US$954.2 million.

Overall net sales increased by 7% in North America for the full year, offset by a 4% decrease in international net sales. But there were encouraging signs in the fourth quarter, when international net sales grew 7%.

It was unquestionably a difficult year for the toymaker. Disruptions to its global manufacturing and distribution capacity related to COVID-19 led to a 14% decline in Q1 2020. In the second quarter, major brands like Hot Wheels and Thomas & Friends contributed to a 15% decline in gross sales. Things began looking up in Q3, however, when strength in the Barbie category led to a 10% increase.

Hasbro, meanwhile, reported an 8% drop in revenue for fiscal 2020, with lockdowns and retail disruptions connected to the pandemic contributing to the decline.

Moving forward, Mattel announced its new “Optimizing for Growth” program in an effort to increase productivity and reduce costs. This new plan will integrate into the toyco’s “Capital Light” initiative, which saw it close several factories and optimize its manufacturing footprint. Mattel anticipates this new program will result in US$250 million in savings by 2023, and estimates it will cost US$100 million to $125 million to implement.

The toymaker also plans to continue focusing on content. In recent months, Mattel has announced films based on View-Master and Hot Wheels, as well as TV series based on UNO and Whac-A-Mole.

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