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Last Updated: Monday, 19 July, 2004, 17:28 GMT 18:28 UK
Toy maker weathers Barbie blues
Barbie doll
Barbie split with boyfriend Ken earlier this year
The world's largest toy maker Mattel has posted a 12% jump in second-quarter profits despite receiving the brush off from its legendary Barbie doll.

Weak sales of Barbie dolls and products were offset by solid growth at its Fisher-Price and American Girl units.

California-based Mattel reported a rise in net income to $23.5m (12.56m) from $20.9m (11.17m) a year earlier.

The industry has been hit recently by slowing sales and bankruptcy filings by KB Toys, amongst others.

'Bratz' factor

Besides Barbie, Mattel's brand stable includes Matchbox, American Girl dolls and Hokey Pokey Elmo.

Mattel has fought to boost Barbie's sales, but the iconic all-American blonde has seen her popularity dip again, with worldwide sales of Barbie products down 13% in the second quarter.

Despite a stunt earlier in the year which saw her "breaking up" with her suitor of 43 years, Ken, Barbie has failed to reap the benefits of singledom.

Instead, she has been feeling the heat from rival brands such as feisty "Bratz" dolls from MGA Entertainment which come in a range of different ethnicities, and boast fashions described as "totally dangerous, totally ferocious and totally funkadelic".

'Hot wheels'

Barbie's career has spanned hundreds of jobs since her launch in 1959, and her makers have striven valiantly to keep up with the latest trends.

Barbie now uses computers and sends text messages on her mobile phone, but Mattel's attempts to keep pace with modern life have not always gone down well with customers.

Mattel is gaining financial solace instead from its Fisher-Price unit, which includes, Hot Wheels, the Little People Power Wheels and Rescue Heroes brands, where sales rose by 6.4%.

Meanwhile, sales at its American Girl business rose 18%, mainly on the back of businesses generated by the new American Girl Place retail store in New York City.

The BBC's Kate Noble
"She recently ditched boyfriend Ken"

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