Mattel has partnered with Alibaba to tackle the $7 billion Chinese toy category. The goal is to help Mattel sell core brands like Fisher-Price and Barbie to mobile-savvy Chinese parents.
The companies have announced a pact that would combine Mattel’s toy brands with Alibaba’s data and insights into the Chinese consumer.
Margo Georgiadis, who recently became Mattel’s CEO, praised Mattel’s “unmatched expertise in childhood learning and development with Alibaba’s immense reach and unique consumer insights.” She added that the Chinese toy market has potential for growth. “Working with Alibaba, we see a terrific opportunity to develop and lead the category,” she said.
The collaboration will see Mattel market and sell brands like Barbie, Hot Wheels and Fisher-Price via Alibaba’s marketplace, targeting an audience of 443 million active buyers. Mattel will also work with Alibaba to develop new toy products that would be made specifically for the Chinese consumer. While Mattel has made some early inroads in the market with the Fisher-Price brand, it has said that it can do more to make the company’s brands more relevant to Chinese children and their parents.
A cultural barrier that Mattel and Alibaba will need to overcome is that when parents do have extra money to spend on their kids, they prefer to put it toward educational pursuits. Mattel says it wants to develop educational content that can persuade parents in China that buying toys can have a benefit too.
“Toys and play are an important part of a child’s early development, helping to drive IQ and EQ [emotional intelligence] development”, said Patty Wu, Mattel’s vice president of China growth. She explained that parents in China bought fewer toys than parents in other countries because they’re concerned that playing could negatively impact academic performance. That could explain why China’s toy industry is 30% of the size of baby formula.
Mattel’s Alibaba partnership is the next phase in the company’s push into China, which has been an ongoing effort via deals with physical distributors as well as an online push.