Mattel posts big loss and disappointing sales

Mattel reported that net sales had a steep drop to $735.6 million compared to analysts’ expectations of $790.5 million. International sales dropped by 2% while sales in North America fell by 23% compared to a year ago. Mattel made a net loss of $113.2 million, from 73 million year on year.

This is Mattel’s biggest loss since 2002 and its steepest sales decline since 2009.

Mattel’s shares fell 6% to 23.70 after the announcement of its financial performance.

On earnings per share (EPS) basis, Mattel had a loss of 32 cents per share. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were expecting a loss of 17 cents per share.

Margo Georgiadis, Mattel’s chief executive, said, “Our Q1 results were below our expectations due to the retail inventory overhang coming out of the holiday period, but we remain encouraged by strong performance at retail for our key core brands, including Barbie, Hot Wheels and Fisher-Price as well as sustained momentum in high-growth markets like China.”

Sales of Barbie dropped by 13% in the first quarter, its 2nd consecutive quarter of falling sales for Barbie. Fisher-Price sales slumped by 9% in the first quarter.

Georgiadis said, “What we didn’t expect was the prolonged impact from the leftover retail inventory. It’s essentially isolated to North America and a few markets in Europe.”

One of the strategies Mattel has been trying in China is to create deals with online retail companies like Alibaba.

Mattel is also finding ways that will allow it to interact with consumers more and be actively involved with their consumers during the entire purchase process. Georgiadis said, “Consumers have a different path to purchase. They don’t shop less than they used to, it is just that the footsteps went online. You have to think differently in how you engage with users.”

Georgiadis was previously with Google and wants to use technology across all aspects of the Mattel business including innovation, marketing, and inventory management.

The only Mattel brand showing positive growth in the 4th quarter is the Hot Wheels, with sales up by 4%.

Mattel’s main rival, Hasbro, has boosted sales after winning the rights to sell toys based on Disney princesses like Elsa from Frozen. This happened after Mattel’s contract expired in 2016. In the 4th quarter of 2016, Hasbro had a 52% surge in sales for its girls division.

Last year, Barbie sales showed signs of recovery as it the brand innovated with three new body types: tall, curvy and petite to broaden Barbie’s market appeal.

One of the things Mattel is looking forward to the 2nd quarter is the release of Disney’s Cars 3. Mattel will produce toys from the movie. The upcoming movie, Wonder Woman, will also provide a sales boost for Mattel.

Hasbro, on the other hand, will boost sales as movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, Transformers, My Little Pony and Spider-Man gets released in theaters worldwide.
Since the start of 2017, Mattel’s shares have been down by 8.5%.

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Amazon offers parents tools to monitor kids’ online activities

Amazon has announced its debut of its Parent Dashboard. This is a free website for parents that allow them to monitor their children’s online activity. This can be accessed using any web browser at parents.amazon.com.

The website also provides parents with flashcards on various kids’ books and games that will give parents quick digestible information relating to the sites and information their kids are accessing at in Amazon FreeTime.

This content is known as “Discussion Cards.” Amazon content editors wrote summaries and discussion questions for the content available on FreeTime. It will be releasing very soon thousands of Discussion Cards for its most popular titles on FreeTime. Discussion Cards give parents prompts for talking with their children as to what they have been accessing online.

Kurt Beidler, Amazon’s kids and family director, said, “As kids learn and play more independently with their tablets, we want to provide parents with more ways to join that digital discovery.
Discussion cards equip parents with information about an Amazon FreeTime book, video, educational app, or game their child is enjoying and provide open-ended questions that parents can ask kids to spark conversations.”

For example, if parents click on a particular book or video, they will get a summary of the content and sample questions that they can ask their kids. It will also allow them to see at least 90 days’ worth of information on the specific videos or books read as well as the duration for each one.

The daily reports use colorful pie charts to illustrate the time spent in the different categories in FreeTime: books, apps, video, and games.

Over 10 million children use Amazon FreeTime, which is for children under 13. This paid app gives children access to more than 13,000 movies, TV shows, books, and Youtube videos are kid-friendly. FreeTime is only available as a mobile app on Amazon Kindles and Fire Tablets, and Fire TV media streaming stick. Apple nor Android devices will not have access to it.

Using the Parent Dashboard, a parent can now see how much time their child spent on watching videos, reading books, or the websites their child visited.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Heavy parent use of mobile devices…may be associated with more parent-child conflict.”

Beidler said, “I would love to see parents engaging more with their kids, using this information to further customize their child’s experience in FreeTime to make the product better for kids.”

Commenting on the discussion cards, Beidler said that the feature was meant for parents to avoid the dreaded one-word response. He said, “Ideally, parents will have read the book, but they may not have had time to go through it and develop in-depth questions like we have, or they may have read the book a long time ago.”

These tools could help parents become more involved with the digital lives of their children as well as give feedback to kids to do more reading instead of gaming.

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Timing travel reward credit cards just right

These days, there are many different types of credit cards for consumers to choose from. This includes a range of rewards based credit cards including those that offer travel rewards. These cards are ideal for those who like to or need to travel on a regular basis, as it can save them a small fortune. The cards work by enabling users to earn points or air miles when they make purchases using their plastic, and these can then be put towards various travel perks such as hotel rooms and flights amongst other things.

However, while these travel based credit cards can be incredibly useful for those who tend to travel a lot, the data from a recent study suggests that many people could be missing out. The study was carried out by NerdWallet and showed that many consumers were really missing out simply because they applied for their travel based rewards credit card at the wrong time.

Missing out on thousands of rewards points

According to the data from the NerdWallet research, cardholders are missing out on just over 15,000 rewards points on average, which equates to just under $180 in terms of monetary value. However, officials said that the reason behind this problem was because many people were failing to make their rewards credit card application when credit card companies were offering the best deals in terms of rewards. Experts said that there was a clear and noticeable discrepancy in relation to when consumers were applying for these travel rewards credit cards and when they should be applying in order to optimize on rewards.

Researchers also stated that failing to compare cards and deals was affecting rewards levels for consumers. One official said that the level of the rewards could vary widely from one card provider to another as could bonuses such as sign up bonuses and annual bonuses. By looking at the various deals and cards, consumers are more likely to be able to get the best travel rewards deals. However, they are also being warned to calculate the cost of missed points and rewards if they do decide to hold out for better deals.

It is also important for cardholders to bear in mind that the interest charged on an outstanding balance will outweigh the value of rewards earned. Therefore, these cards should ideally be used by those who are able to repay the balance in full each month thus avoiding interest charges while still earning rewards. 

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Canadian economy weakens watchdog focuses on payday loans

Since the collapse in the price of oil, a few regions in Canada have faced an economic crisis. Alberta, the once oil-rich behemoth that generated enormous revenues for the province and the federal government, is now a wasteland looking to recuperate from the immense losses.

Over the last 18 months, there have been numerous horror stories occurring from Edmonton to Calgary, from Fort Vermilion to Red Deer. Most of the tales consist of families looking to sell their homes, households going into debt and unprecedented cases of bankruptcies. Akin to other oil-rich nations and states, Alberta has been Canada’s biggest victim in the oil price drop.

With many Albertans in financial destitute, numerous services have been booming. One of them is the payday loan industry. As Albertan consumers now live paycheck to paycheck and are on the brink of a personal collapse, they are desperate for funds. Lenders in partnership with lead aggregators are “raking in the dough”. If a light bill is due or the car breaks down then they may have to turn to a payday loan store in their community.

Canadian authorities are concerned that a large number of Canadians will set themselves up for an endless cycle of debt. Officials warn payday loans come with excessive interest rates, exorbitant fees and other costs that prompt customers to return for the second or third time. This is why the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada will initiate an investigation into the industry.

“From my perspective, it’s always been a concern,” said Brigitte Goulard, deputy commissioner of the FCAC, in an interview with the Globe and Mail. She added that the watchdog organization will release the results from its pending investigation into what she refers to as “predatory” payday lending and how the industry may or may not impact Canadian consumers.

At the same time, several provinces, including Alberta, will review current regulations. With 20,000 job losses last year and a large increase in bank loan defaults, Alberta New Democratic Party Cabinet Minister Stephanie McLean is concerned that the province’s economic recession will encourage Albertans to turn to alternative financial services, especially payday loans.

“There is a unique vulnerability at the moment given the economic environment and predators take advantage of such vulnerability, so I do have significant concerns about an increase in the uptake of these loan products,” McLean told the newspaper.

Despite the fact that a majority of payday loan customers are low-income, it’s reported that oil workers, who made incredible livings just two years ago, are resorting to payday loans. A part of the reason is because they have usually maxed out their credit cards and lines of credit.

Last week, the Ontario Government announced that it would be accepting feedback from the general public regarding lower rates for payday loans and new consumer protections. Meanwhile, municipalities across the province are proposing their own regulations.

In the last few years, Canada has seen a surge in the number of payday loan businesses. With an estimated 1,400 stores now open, about two million Canadians take out a payday loan per year. Critics say it places consumers at risk of being deeply indebted, while proponents present the case that there is a demand for payday loans and it helps those without access to credit.

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College grads clueless about credit

There are many college graduates who would like to believe that they are pretty savvy when it comes to finances. However, a recently released report indicates that many students know very little about important financial matters such as credit scores – something that could prove damaging to them in the future, as they may fail to understand the importance of building and maintaining a good credit score.

A study was carried out recently by a student loan group, LendEDU, which showed that more than 50 percent of college grads that they surveyed did not really know what a credit score was. Given the increasing importance of having good credit, this spells bad news for those who lack awareness of credit ratings and how they work. It is made all the worse by the fact that college graduates are the group that will most likely need to get credit in the coming few years in order to purchase a home, buy a car, and make other major life purchases.

College Graduates Have No Clue About The Importance of Building Credit

Experts have expressed concern over the lack of awareness that many college graduates have when it comes to credit ratings and finances in general. They are now urging recent graduates to take steps to build their credit so that they can enjoy a brighter financial future. They have also advised students to take time to learn about how credit scoring works and how it can impact upon their future, as this will then enable them to realize the importance of keeping a clean credit file.

One of the things that officials are advising college grads to do is to take out a secured credit card and then use it sensibly, wherever possible repaying the balance in full each month. This will enable graduates to prove their creditworthiness as well as build a solid credit profile. By repaying the balance in full they can also avoid having to pay interest on the balance.

One expert also said that graduates need to make sure they keep their utilization rate in check, and should ensure that they never use more than 30 percent of their available credit. This will help them to avoid falling into unmanageable debt and will show other lenders that the borrower is savvy enough to only borrow what he or she can afford to comfortably repay. This also makes it easier to avoid missed payments through lack of funds, which could otherwise adversely affect the credit score. 

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