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Mattel's Results Show Why Barbie Is Still So Yesterday

Stocks in this article: MAT AAPL LEAP WMT

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Mattel (MAT) reported a first-quarter loss that missed Wall Street estimates and highlighted the company's Barbie problem.

The news sent shares of Mattel down 2% to $37.05 in recent trading. The stock is down 22% so far this year.

Among its core brands, Barbie suffered the biggest sales drop -- down 14% in the period. She may be the muse of the company, but was barely mentioned on the company's conference call this morning. For the quarter, net sales for Mattel were $946.2 million, down 5% from $995.6 million last year.

Sales of the doll and its play-sets have been sliding for quite some time. Although children are gravitating more toward technological toys, such as Apple (AAPL) iPads and LeapFrog (LEAP) Leappads, there is still something to say about imaginative play. Children, mainly young girls, still do enjoy playing with dolls.

Mattel says gross sales worldwide for "Other Girls" brands rose 4%, driven by the Disney Princess -- especially from the the blockbuster Disney (DIS) movie Frozen and television show Sofia the First. It also says the brand, Ever After High, helped offset slower sales of Monster High products.

Mattel should continue to shine a brighter light on its American Girl brand -- including the new "Girl of the Year," Isabelle. First-quarter gross sales for American Girl continue to grow, up 5% versus the prior year, raking in almost $106 million.

With more households tightening their belts, kids may be playing with more hand-me-down Barbies. For a special treat, a mom may buy a new bargain Barbie that sells for just $3 at Walmart (WMT).

As the economy continues to recover, 22 million Americans are still unemployed or under-employed. In a statement, Mattel CEO Bryan G. Stockton said the company is facing a "challenging retail environment."

Plus, new parents may be using more second-hand baby gear, passed down from friends or family. First-quarter worldwide gross sales for Fisher-Price Brands fell 6% to $271.4 million from the prior year.

Mattel Chief Financial Officer Kevin Farr says the company "still has a lot more work to do."

It plans to expand its entertainment properties, boost international sales and focus more on its core brands.

At the time of publication the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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