Barbie, Mattel Inc.'s 30-year-old teen-ager, is expected to lead the Hawthorne toy maker to improved profits this year, the company said Thursday.
John W. Amerman, chairman and chief executive, said at the company's annual meeting in Manhattan Beach that he expects sales of the best-selling doll to increase by $45 million to about $500 million this year. Each year, Barbie accounts for one-third to one-half of Mattel's $1 billion of sales.
Amerman said he expected significant sales gains from the company's line of Disney preschool toys, which brought in about $55 million in 1988, its introductory year. Amerman predicted a double-digit sales gain for the line. He said the company had "barely tapped" the international market, which accounted for $10 million to $20 million in Disney preschool toy sales last year.
The company's second-quarter sales should "substantially exceed" the $207 million reported for the same quarter in 1988, Amerman said. He said Mattel's earnings would exceed last year's results, but he declined to make predictions.
Amerman said Mattel was unable to fill demand for some of its products during late 1988 and the first quarter of 1989 but that it was closing the gap. An inability to meet demand could result in Mattel losing potential sales.
The company expects great things from its new "Power Glove," an electronic glove that allows children to play Nintendo video games just by waving their hands, Amerman said. The popular video game system is normally operated with a "joy stick" that is attached to the game console by a wire.
The Power Glove, which is expected to retail for more than $60, is Mattel's only electronic toy offering this year. The company discontinued its highly touted electronic "Wheel of Fortune," which allowed at-home viewers to play along with the television game show, due to disappointing sales.
Mattel--which has also discontinued Baby Heather, its electronic baby doll--hasn't changed its philosophy toward electronic toys, Amerman said. The success of electronic toys, he observed, depends on the "right timing."
Amerman said Mattel is continuing a two-year project to develop an interactive compact disc player that would project movies and allow viewers to change the action. Competing toy companies, notably Hasbro Inc., have dropped their interactive video projects, declaring such toys too expensive to develop and to buy.