The Breakdown

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Sales fall for Mattel's iconic Barbie doll as girls prefer edgier toys

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Is Barbie losing her cool?

Sales for the doll and Barbie-related products dropped 12 percent in the second quarter. It was the fourth straight quarter of declining sales for the iconic brand.

Jim Silver, CEO of the toy review website TimetoPlayMag.com, said some young children that used to buy Barbies in the past are shifting to edgier dolls. Kids are growing up faster because of computers and MP3 players, he said.

"A lot of the habits have changed," Silver said. "They are much more attuned to dress, to clothes to fashion than they ever were. And at age 5 or 6, they are ready to be 16."

He said 25 years ago, kids would be listening to songs like "Wheels on the Bus." That changed in the late '90s, when it became more common for children to listen to pop songs by artists like Britney Spears.

That shift means kids are losing interest in Barbie sooner. Silver said two decades ago, children would play with Barbies until they were 9 years old. Now, children outgrow Barbie at age 6, he said.

Barbie is made by Mattel Inc., which is based in El Segundo. The company employs 30,000 people worldwide, including 2,000 employees at its El Segundo campus.

The company, which also manufactures products like Hot Wheels and Fisher-Price, said its net income in the second quarter declined 24 percent to $73.3 million. Overall, sales rose one percent to about $1.2 billion in the second quarter.

Even though sales for Barbie dropped, Mattel's other girl brands, including Monster High dolls, rose 23 percent.

Silver says Monster High could be taking sales away from Barbie. The Monster High collection has dolls that are the children of monsters like Frankenstein and Dracula.

“Those girls that are growing up earlier and want something edgier, instead of playing with Barbie, they are switching to Monster High," Silver said.

That’s not to say Barbie isn’t successful. Mattel says sales for the doll were greater than in 2010 when it launched Monster High and the company has gained market share in the European and U.S. doll categories over the last five years.

"You can see why we still feel pretty good about Barbie's performance in the context of the portfolio she leads," said Mattel CEO Bryan Stockton in a conference call with investors.

Mattel said two-thirds of its overall business happens in the second half of the year and believes sales for Barbie will increase. The company moved promotional programs to the second half to match demand, which hurt Barbie sales in the second quarter.

This fall, Mattel says its top four retailers are giving more shelf space to Barbie, giving the 54-year-old doll a better chance to sell.

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