January 31, 2008 – Business Management Article

For Mattel, 2007 was dubbed “the year of the recall.” ‘How will Mattel fare in the aftermath?’, was a question put forth by many. Analysts were divided over whether the leading toy maker was able to handle the crisis situation effectively.

About Mattel

Mattel Inc (MAT), the world’s largest toy company, with its headquarters in California was founded in 1945. The company designs, manufactures, and markets toys worldwide. Its well known brands include Barbie dolls, Fisher-Price items, American Girl dolls, Hot Wheels, Matchbox, and others.

Product Recall Crisis in Mid 2007

In the middle of year 2007, Mattel had to deal with a product crisis, the worst-ever in its history. Mattel feared that its toys had toxic lead content higher than the permissible level. This could lead to a risk of health hazards for kids. Mattel was heavily criticized for allowing Chinese made toys with unacceptably high levels of lead paint to enter U.S. stores. In August 2007, Mattel recalled about 1.5 million Chinese-made Fisher-Price infant toys. These toys included characters such as Dora the Explorer, Elmo and Big Bird. A second recall followed soon after, when Mattel withdrew approx. 9.3 million Chinese-made toy sets. This time Mattel feared that these toys with small magnets and other parts, could be dangerous if swallowed by kids. This was followed by a third recall of its toys withdrawing more than 800,000 toys across the globe. Mattel even announced that a significant portion of the toys were recalled because of a design flaw and not substandard manufacturing. During this crisis, Mattel’s stock plunged by as much as 25 percent from its year-to-date high.

Mattel Turnaround

Robert A. Eckert, Chairman and CEO of Mattel Inc. had then stated that, Mattel was at the forefront of responsible corporate citizenship and the recent challenges have presented it an opportunity to again be an industry leader. Many analysts would not have been that optimistic. But Mattel, posted a better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit. Mattel was helped by stronger international demand for its Hot Wheels cars and Fisher Price line and by $47.3 million in tax benefits. And of course not to forget the significance of the fourth quarter for toy companies because it includes the holiday shopping season. Research firms like NPD have reported that the toy industry makes nearly half its annual sales during the holiday season. The results included charges and costs of about $42 million stemming from a spate of recalls last year. Worldwide gross sales of Barbie increased by 4 percent, Fisher Price segment by 4 percent and overall Mattel’s girls and boys brands by 9 percent. Mattel’s Wheels business, which includes Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, increased 15 percent. Net income grew to $328.5 million, from $286.4 million, a year ago.

Mattel, Scams and Controversies, Toy Industry, Turnaround Strategies