NEW YORK (Reuters) - Top toymaker Mattel Inc (MAT.O) is optimistic about demand for toys ahead of the 2010 holiday shopping season, the head of its international business said on Monday.
“Toys tend to be a little less sensitive to economic pressures over time,” Bryan Stockton, president of Mattel’s international unit, told the Reuters Consumer and Retail Summit in New York.
After a dismal 2008 holiday sales season, toy companies reworked pricing and merchandising strategies to win shoppers last year. In 2009, Mattel saw holiday quarter sales rise 1 percent, largely boosted by favorable foreign currency rates, while the U.S. economy has seen only a fitful recovery.
Mattel, which last year celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Barbie doll, expects its Video girl Barbie, which has an embedded video camera, to be a big hit this Fall, Stockton said.
The company, also home to brands like Hot Wheels and American Girl, is optimistic about its line of action figures based on popular World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE.N) characters such as “Triple H” and “The Undertaker.”
Stockton said the company had achieved its goal of boosting international sales to account for about 50 percent of the total portfolio, helping it to tap growth elsewhere.
And despite fears of a widening debt crisis in Europe and a weakening euro, Mattel is still optimistic about its prospects in that market this season.
“Given where Europe is today, we’re still feeling pretty positive,” Stockton said.
Mattel, which makes about 80 percent of its toys in China, said it was still very early to evaluate the impact of the yuan revaluation.
The toymaker is seeing robust sales at its sole store in Shanghai and is trying to make its iconic Barbie doll a part of Chinese culture.
To boost appeal, it is selling versions of the dolls with careers Chinese girls said were attractive, such as a news anchor or computer engineer.
“A lot of what we’re doing is trying to get our toys to be part of a child’s development,” he said.
The company also partnered with Chinese pop singer Coco Lee to promote its Barbie dolls.
“Barbie is becoming part of not only Chinese educational culture but also Chinese pop culture,” he said.
Reporting by Dhanya Skariachan; Additional reporting by Phil Wahba and Alexandria Sage; editing by Michele Gershberg, Bernard Orr, Carol Bishopric and Sofina Mirza-Reid