An action-figure hangover is hurting Mattel's stock and outlook

Executives at toy maker Mattel Inc. said they expect growth this year in dolls such as Barbie and toy cars such as Hot Wheels. One not-so-hot spot for the year ahead? Action figures.

UBS analysts, in a note dated Wednesday recapping a conversation with Mattel’s
management, said executives were expecting a big drop this year for action-figure demand, following a bump last year from movies like “Jurassic World Dominion” and “Lightyear.”

“Given Disney Frozen/Princess and Trolls licensing opportunities . . . combined with growth in Barbie and Hot Wheels, and annualization of Monster High global rollout, what is driving Mattel’s flattish guide for the year?” UBS analysts said. “Mattel expects action figures to decline significantly this year given very successful Jurassic World and Disney’s Lightyear properties in 2022.”

The analysts said that the Disney
licenses — which allow Mattel to make toys based on those movie franchises, along with the Trolls license — could help offset any weakness in “Jurassic World” or “Lightyear.” Mattel won back those Disney licenses from Hasbro Inc.
last year.

Still, the analysts said, the fall-off in demand after a movie release that helps sell the toys can be steep.

“Typically, sales from movie tie-ins decline as much as 40-60% in a non-movie year, though we would highlight Mattel has previously grown Jurassic sales in a non-movie year,” the UBS analysts said.

Mattel executives, during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call late Wednesday, said they expected action-figure sales to fall as the they “lap theatrical tie-ins in 2022.” They also forecast declines in brands like Fisher Price, and other products geared toward infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Overall, the results for the quarter, reported after the close on Wednesday, suffered due to weaker holiday demand, and an environment in which retailers are pulling back on orders.

Chief Executive Ynon Kreiz, in Mattel’s earnings report on Wednesday, said “the macroeconomic environment was more challenging than anticipated.” Shares of Mattel fell 10.7% on Thursday.

During the height of the pandemic, consumers, many aided by stimulus aid, amassed more toys and games as they sought a cure for their kids’ boredom. But an array of supply constraints through 2021 and 2022 drove prices higher, stretching consumer budgets as they tried to cover costs for basic goods. The shift toward necessities eventually left retailers with clothing, toys and electronics that they couldn’t sell, prompting a wave of discounts.

Mattel reported after Hasbro
last month said it would cut 15% of its workforce. Hasbro reports earnings on Feb. 16. Shares of Hasbro finished 4.3% lower on Thursday.

Mattel shares are down 19.5% over the past 12 months, and Hasbro’s are down 40.9%. By comparison, the S&P 500 Index
has fallen 11% over the past year.

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