Ponies and princesses: Hasbro launches charm offensive for girls

Thu Feb 25, 2016 8:55am EST
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By Subrat Patnaik

(Reuters) - Having captivated boys with its Star Wars figures, Hasbro Inc is turning to Disney Princesses and the launch of its first animated movie to arrest a five-quarter slump in sales of its toys for girls.

The second-biggest U.S. toymaker has begun selling dolls from the popular Disney movies "Frozen" and "Cinderella" after wresting the lucrative license from its larger rival, Mattel Inc.

Hasbro will also launch "My Little Pony" toys throughout this year, Chief Executive Brian Goldner told Reuters, as it aims to create a buzz ahead of the 2017 release of a movie voiced by Emily Blunt and Emmy award-winning Kristin Chenoweth.

It's a strategy that worked well for Hasbro in the run-up to the December 2015 release of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

"Getting it on the shelves early allows Hasbro to maximize the window in which it can sell," said Neil Saunders, chief executive of research firm Conlumino.

Of Hasbro's four distinct product categories, toys for girls have long been a weak spot. In a fourth quarter that delivered the company's biggest revenue growth in nearly five years, sales of toys for girls fell 17 percent.

Toys for boys accounted for 40 percent of Hasbro's revenue last year. The contribution from toys for girls - its third-largest category, behind games - fell to just 18 percent in 2015 from 24 percent a year earlier.

A merger with Mattel, bringing Barbie into its world, might be one way to solve Hasbro's girl problems. Bloomberg reported this month that the two companies had held inconclusive talks about a potential merger.   Continued...

A "My Little Pony Baby Flurry Heart" toy.   REUTERS/Hasbro