Mattel confident of a strong Q4 as power brands come to the fore

Published on: 7th November 2023

During the recent BLE show, publisher John Baulch spoke to Steve Totzke, president and chief commercial officer at Mattel, about the company’s hopes for Q4 and beyond.

Anyone associated with the toy and licensing business will know just what a stellar year Mattel is enjoying. Riding the crest of the wave after this summer’s Barbie Movie was both critically acclaimed and hugely popular with cinema-going audiences across the world, the company is looking forward to continued success as we enter the crucial fourth quarter.

Steve Totzke is a toy industry stalwart who has spent the past two decades at Mattel. As someone who has seen the highs and lows, both for Mattel and the toy market as a whole, he is perfectly placed to reflect on the company’s incredible year.

“I am a toy person through and through and I firmly believe in the strength of this industry,” Steve told me. “I honestly believe it’s going to be a good holiday season. All of the research we are seeing suggests that families intend to buy the same or more than they did last year.”

I was curious to know whether the stock situation which impacted the US and global toy market in the first half of the year was still hampering toy sales, or whether it is finally beginning to ease. Steve is confident that the situation is improving: “I think it has largely worked itself out. Not just in the US, most retailers across the globe have acceptable levels of stock. There are still some pockets out there, but largely it’s in good shape.

“I do believe that retailers are well prepared for the holiday season. For Mattel, I like the level of support we have in place from our retail partners – our shelf space, our promotional support, both in-store and online are looking good.

“When I look at this industry over time, it is a growth industry. It has been growing consistently around the world for so many years. I think retailers are betting on strong brands that consumers know, trust and count on. For Mattel, that’s when we really shine. Our key drivers always come out in Q4, so we have strong innovative toys and great foundational power brands – that’s been a winning formula for us for years.”

Power brands don’t come much bigger than Barbie, which has enjoyed a truly phenomenal year, as Steve explained: “The last few years have been amazing for Barbie. That team has really leaned into diversity, inclusion and purpose. The Barbie movie has just reinforced that sentiment.

“The marketing behind the Barbie movie was incredible – in terms of how to market a movie and a brand, this will be studied for years to come. Even before the movie had launched, it was clear that it was going to be a cultural phenomenon.

“Then the movie came out and it really delivered. I give our CEO and chairman Ynon Kreiz, a lot of credit – from the beginning he was really focused on securing the best talent available. When you look at the cast and directors, there were Oscar winners from top to bottom. When this level of talent is onboard, you have to trust them with your brand.”

Even better for Mattel, the success of the movie has translated into sales of its own toy range and the ranges offered by its licensing partners: “All of the toys that were featured in the movie have been selling out as soon as they hit shelves, which has been hugely rewarding, so I am sure you are going to see that continue through the holiday season,” added Steve. “The movie-related dolls, the Barbie Dreamhouse, the camper, the boat – these were all featured in the movie and are going to have a nice uplift.

“But of course, we have a lot of other success stories in this category. The Monster High relaunch has been phenomenal. Disney Princess has enjoyed a great first year back at Mattel, leading into Disney Frozen’s 10th anniversary next year. The Little Mermaid live action movie was wildly successful from a toy perspective. The latest Trolls movie is about to come out, while Polly Pocket has had an incredible year. So, it truly has been the year of the doll, and we couldn’t be more thrilled with how all of those brands have been executed.”

The success of 2023 puts Mattel in a strong position for next year, leading into Barbie’s 65th anniversary, which Steve is looking forward to: “One thing we have proven over the year, we know how to celebrate an anniversary with Barbie. Barbie has so much excitement leading into next year, everyone is talking Barbie and what we can do next year, so that is very exciting.

We also spoke about Mattel’s strength with its adult fanbase: “The adult collector and the kidult craze that has really been driving parts of the toy industry will continue. Mattel was an early adopter – if you think back to what we have been doing with Barbie collector for a long time, we were really ahead of the curve. We have this built in fanbase that the movie has really amplified.

“Beyond that, Hot Wheels is the biggest collector brand in the world. It is well over $1b brand now, we estimate around 25% of that volume comes from collectors. Masters of the Universe also has a passionate collector base – as much as half the volume on Masters is adult collectors. This adult collector segment is really important for Mattel – we nurture it and welcome it. It’s great for the industry as a whole.”


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