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Mattel, Inc. Barbie brand dolls are displayed for a photograph in Tiskilwa, Illinois, U.S., on Wednesday, July 1, 2015. Mattel, Inc. is expected to report quarterly earnings on July 16, 2015. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
Mattel, Inc. Barbie brand dolls are displayed for a photograph in Tiskilwa, Illinois, U.S., on Wednesday, July 1, 2015. Photograph by Daniel Acker — Bloomberg via Getty Images

Mattel hasn’t figured out how to save Barbie

Jul 16, 2015

Sales of Mattel's Barbie are on track to slip for a fourth consecutive year as the toymaker's efforts to revive the iconic doll have failed to resonate with young girls.

Mattel (mat) said in its second quarter results posted Thursday that Barbie sales slipped 19% from the year-ago period to $130.3 million. The doll's sales have dropped 16% over the first six months of the year. If Mattel isn't able to turn things around in time for the key holiday season, this could end up another bad year overall for the 56-year-old toy.

Barbie sales have been pressured by the success of Disney's (dis) Frozen line, as young children pine for Elsa dolls over Mattel's classic toy. Earlier this year, Mattel unveiled new tactics to reverse Barbie's fortunes, including a more diverse line of dolls as well as a high-tech model that talks to children. But those moves haven't seemed to help, even as Frozen's popularity begins to ebb.

Mattel's problem with young girls extends well past Barbie. Most of the company's girl-focused toys, with the notable exception of the American Girl line, performed poorly last quarter. That weakness is why Mattel reported a 7% drop in overall net sales, to $988.2 million (though a stronger U.S. dollar also hurt revenue.) Mattel's quarterly loss totaled $11.4 million, compared to a profit of $28.3 million for the same period last year.

Mattel's Fisher-Price and Hot Wheels units fared far better, both posting sales increases in the latest quarter.

Still, Mattel executives were able to find some good news in its earnings report: The company reported a slim profit of a penny a share when excluding severance costs and other expenses, better than the loss of four cents per share that analysts had expected.

"We made solid progress as we work to return Mattel to improved growth and profitability," said Christopher Sinclair, Mattel Chairman and CEO.

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