Toy sales rose during the pandemic — not because these have been particularly fun times, but because many parents were desperate to keep their kids occupied and amused during our prolonged house arrest.
Now the country’s two leading toy makers — Mattel and Hasbro — have very different views of what will happen when (should that be if?) COVID finally subsides.
El Segundo-based Mattel believes parents will swallow higher prices for Barbies and Hot Wheels and other playthings, and will keep purchasing toys at the same rate as during the darkest days of the pandemic.
Hasbro, meanwhile, expects toy sales to decline over the next couple of years as kids return to more normal activities, and as their parents step up spending on things like travel and leisure.
Mattel reported better-than-expected earnings in the fourth quarter, with Barbie goods posting their best full-year sales in more than six decades.
Last week, the company said it expects net sales to grow by as much as 10% over the next two years.
Hasbro, for its part, says it’s expecting more modest sales growth and believes spending on toys will ease as Mean Mr. Corona gradually makes his exit.
But that could be a little sleight of hand for shareholders. A new chief executive, Chris Cocks, takes over the company on Feb. 25, and Hasbro may be lowering expectations so he can look heroic if sales pop after the changeover.
Hasbro is also grappling with Hollywood setbacks. Its next “Transformers” movie has been delayed until next year.
Which toy company has it right in terms of future prospects? That remains to be seen.
Much depends on Americans’ mood to play.