Barbie sales fall 13%, casting doubt on comeback hopes

So much for Barbie’s comeback?

Mattel on Thursday said gross sales of its Barbie brand dropped 13 per cent in the first quarter from a year ago to $123.4m — the second consecutive quarter of falling sales. Executives said the weakness was on account of an inventory overhang and expressed confidence about the brand going forward.

The company has been working hard to revive sales of the doll, which made its debut at a New York toy fair in 1959. Since then, Barbie dolls have pursued 180 careers, including an astronaut, pilot, scientist and, last year, president, as Hillary Clinton faced off against Donald Trump in the hopes of becoming America’s first female president.

Mattel has drawn criticism for years over Barbie’s unrealistic body type. Last year, it unveiled three new Barbie body types — tall, curvy and petite — with a range of hairstyles and skin tones as part of its Fashionista line. Sales did pick up in 2016, but that momentum seems to have stumbled.

Despite the disappointing first-quarter sales, Mattel president Richard Dickson said on an earnings call that the company was focused on a few key areas that made him confident in the brand.

He said the company is building its fashion doll lines, and Barbie’s Fashionistas segment was continuing to exceed expectations. He added the company was also continuing to engage girls by moving into episodic content and continuing the roll-out of Dreamtopia, a make-believe world imagined by Barbie’s youngest sister Chelsea. It is is meant to build on the success of the animated TV movie that hit small screens last year, and content is set to premiere on YouTube this year.

But comparisons are likely to get tougher going into the second quarter. Investors will keep their eyes peeled to see if new chief executive Margo Georgiadis can implement these strategies and prompt children to flock back to Barbie.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't copy articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.