Mattel posts second-quarter sales declines in all toy categories, despite virus-fueled industry boost

Key Points
  • Sales of Barbie rose 7% in the quarter, but the dolls category as a whole fell 5%.
  • Other categories saw steeper, double-digit sales declines.
  • Overall, the company's sales were still better than feared.
Sarah Whitten | CNBC

Shares of Mattel jumped more than 4% after the closing bell on Thursday as the company posted quarterly sales that fell across the board. Results were still better than feared amid coronavirus shutdowns that lifted industry-wide sales.

The toy company reported a loss of 26 cents per share, excluding items, on revenues of $732 million. Analysts had expected a loss per share of 34 cents on revenues of $679 million, according to Refinitiv data.

The company's net toy sales declined 15% on a year-over-year basis, Mattel said. 

Mattel is known for its leadership in the doll category — its flagship Barbie doll has been a welcome driver of sales over the last few quarters. During the most recent quarter, sales of the fashion doll rose 7%, but not enough to buoy the dolls category, which saw sales drop 5% from the year-ago quarter.

Mattel's other categories saw steeper sales declines:

  • Infant, toddler and preschool fell 21%
  • Vehicles fell 26%
  • Action figures, building sets, games, etc. fell 12%

"We entered the second quarter with extensive retail closures and distribution challenges and had to absorb a full quarter of COVID-19 impact, but we demonstrated our execution capabilities and the resilience of our brands," Ynon Kreiz, CEO of Mattel, said in a statement. "While revenues were down, they exceeded our expectations, particularly in North America, Barbie, and games, where we saw sales increases."

The company's gross margin improved on a year-over-year basis during the quarter to 43.8%.

Mattel's sluggish sales are in stark contrast to the overall success the toy industry has seen in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. For the first six months of the year, industry-wide toy sales have soared 16%, according to data from the NPD Group, as parents sought to keep kids entertained at home.

The only category that hasn't benefited from the rising tide has been action figures. Without movie releases, the demand for these toys has waned. Not to mention, the category faces tough comparisons with 2019, which saw the launch of toys tied to "Avengers: Endgame" and "Toy Story 4."

Dolls, too, have faced major headwinds as parents gravitated toward games, puzzles, arts and crafts kits and outdoor toys to placate their homebound kids. 

Many of Mattel's top brands are in the action figure and doll categories. American Girl sales were down 16%, and sales of Enchantimals and Polly Pocket also fell.

Also selling poorly during this time is the vehicles category. Mattel's Hot Wheels brand saw sales decline 22%, and Fisher-Price and Thomas and Friends saw declines of 21%.