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Hasbro Reports Record Year For Marvel Toys And Growth For Star Wars

Hasbro released its preliminary Q4/2022 and full year 2022 results a while ago. And today we got the final numbers with added details. As reported previously 2022 was a very bad year for the toy company. Revenue is down by 9% year over year and the holiday season was abysmal, 17% less revenue, and even 30% less partner brands revenue in Q4, and then in early January Hasbro agitated the Dungeons & Dragons community, the effects of which will only be visible in the Q1/2023 report. But despite all the doom and gloom and a 9% decline in partner brands sales year over year Hasbro also had a few positive things to say in their presentation. And yes, according to Hasbro it was a record year for Marvel toys and Star Wars also saw growth. Click through for more!

Higher prices increase revenue?

Before I begin: in this somewhat lengthy article I will quote Hasbro’s statements and then I will try to shed some light on what it all really means and I will also try to provide some context. Because increased revenue is a rather particular thing and it doesn’t always mean what you think it does. I also include recent developments at Disney here which may directly impact toy sales in 2023 and going forward, that is, Disney announced that new content on Disney+ will be much more spread out going forward. For now only Marvel was directly mentioned, but chances are very high that other franchises will also be affected by this new cost cutting strategy. I will talk about this at the end of the article and what it may mean for Hasbro going forward.

With that out of the way, let’s continue!

This is what the official report has to say about partner brands and the performance of Marvel and Star Wars:

Hasbro products for the partner brand Marvel portfolio delivered a record year and Hasbro’s product revenue for Star Wars was up year-over-year. Despite growth in select new items, declines in NERF, Hasbro Gaming and the transition out of select licenses contributed to lower revenue.

The earnings presentation adds a few more details:

PARTNER BRANDS

Full-year Growth in
Hasbro products for Marvel, Star Wars and Fortnite

Furthermore:

POS up for PLAY-DOH, PEPPA PIG, PJ MASKS, and Hasbro  products for Marvel and Star Wars

POS stands for Point of Sale, in short, you can buy Star Wars at more places now than before. Keep in mind that Hasbro is operating worldwide and that this does not necessarily include the US.

In the earnings call Star Wars was mentioned twice. First, Chris Cocks reiterates the statement in the official report about sales growth:

We had success in preschool with Peppa Pig, creativity with Play-Doh, and action with strong growth in Hasbro’s products from partner to brands [sic], Marvel, which had a record year, and Star Wars. Our focus on content is centering around Hasbro IP for the long term.

Hasbro’s new strategy is to have fewer, but bigger licensed brands. You have to understand Cocks’ remark about focusing on Hasbro IPs in this context.

And then Cocks’ also said this about Star Wars:

And, you know, our partnership in Disney has never been stronger. Spidey and His Amazing Friends is one of the top new properties in preschool. And we feel really bullish on Star Wars: Young Jedi Adventures.

And that’s all that was said about Star Wars.

So it seems even though Hasbro had a pretty bad 2022 and a really bad holiday season that Star Wars and Marvel toys are still seeing growth, at least for the full year. Now the big question is – and this is something that was of course not addressed at all: how much of that revenue growth is explained by higher prices and how were actual unit sales affected? Prices for figures were up by almost 30% for select figures in 2022. It’s not unreasonable to assume that actual unit sales may be down and that the higher price point for many figures compensated for that.

CFO Deb Thomas does indeed hint at the reason for higher revenue in certain segments or for certain brands in the earnings call:

We benefited from higher product prices early in the year and lower freight expense as we moved through 2022.

And you also have to understand that Hasbro’s numbers are not reflecting sales to consumers. Hasbro’s business is almost entirely with retailers, Pulse is the only direct to consumer business, but the vast majority of sales will be to Walmart, Amazon, Target and co. Thus if retailers ordered a lot of toys in advance in fear of shipping issues this will of course drive up sales and revenue. And indeed, the downright abysmal holiday season is a clear sign that retailers still have a lot of excess inventory and thus ordered much less from Hasbro than before. Of course it is impossible to say how much that affects Marvel and Star Wars. And speculation here is moot.

However, we also have to remember the statement by an BMO analyst who said that both the Marvel and Star Wars franchises seem “tired” (in Q4/2022). So when Hasbro says that Star Wars and Marvel revenue grew year-over-year (they never explicitly include the holiday season here) this merely reflects sales to Walmart, Amazon, Target and other retailers, it does not necessarily mean the toys actually sold through to end consumers. I believe the real test will be Q1/2023 and Q2/2023. Will Hasbro still report sales growth for Star Wars (and Marvel)? But at least in 2022 revenue increased. But was it a short term gain and a long term loss because prices are simply too high now?

We have no idea how much of the higher 2022 revenue is down to higher pricing and how or if unit sales were affected. Chances are that unit sales may actually be down year over year and that higher prices made up for that. Also, it is very unlikely that Marvel and Star Wars were not affected by the massive 30% decline in partner brands revenue in Q4/2022. You also have to remember that Hasbro’s strongest quarter is usually Q3, when retailers stock up for the holiday season, thus Q4 sales (to retailers) are not really for the holiday season, but already for next year too. Though there have been attempts by Hasbro to shift some of the sales (again, to retailers) to Q4 in recent times. 

Then there’s also the recent announcement by Disney to severely slow down the release schedule for Marvel shows. Five or even more Marvel Disney+ series were originally announced for 2023. But now the Hollywood Reporter has learned that various shows, already finished even, will be delayed and probably only see a release in 2024. Only Loki and the Nick Fury spin-off series are confirmed for 2023 now with the release schedule of everything else uncertain, including a WandaVision spin-off, season 2 of What If?, the Hawkeye spin-off Echo and the Wakanda Forever spin-off Ironheart. As you remember Disney, as well as Hasbro, announced cost cutting measures and since Disney+ is a money sink hole that lost the company 2.6 billion in the past six months alone one way to save costs is to spread out your content and to slow down your release schedule. There have been no similar announcements for Star Wars thus far, but I would not be surprised at all if Star Wars will also be affected.

Bob Iger said this:

“We want the quality on the screen, but we have to look at what they [the series] cost us.”

In short: the series are very expensive to produce and making 4, 5 or 6 of them in one year means a lot of money is spent. And ratings for various shows were not as great as Disney possibly hoped for. So the return on investment may be pretty bad for several shows.

And with fewer shows on Disney+ you also have lower visibility for the brand throughout the year and both Marvel and Star Wars toy sales are directly affected by the entertainment. With a reduced output it may very well be that toy sales also decline. So it will be interesting to see how things develop for Hasbro’s Marvel and Star Wars toy sales in 2023.

We will know more with Hasbro’s future financial reports. The report for Q1/2023 should already tell us more. But at least in 2022 Hasbro made more money with Star Wars than 2021 (and 2020, and 2019 and 2018). And the bottom line is all that counts to them. For now, at least.

Summary:

  • revenue growth for Star Wars in 2022
  • more revenue does not necessarily reflect higher unit sales, in light of up to 30% higher prices it’s exceedingly likely that unit sales in 2022 were down
  • Hasbro reports sales growth for Star Wars (and Marvel) only for the full year, but never ever talks about sales in Q4 where partner brands revenue was down by a massive 30%, hinting at massive retailer surplus inventory
  • at least one analyst thinks both Marvel and Star Wars looked tired in the holiday season
  • the new strategy by Disney to severely slow down the release schedule of new series on Disney+ – effective immediately – will almost certainly have an impact on toy sales for the affected franchises in 2023 and going forward

Earnings report
Earnings presentation (PDF)
Earnings call transcript (at Motley Fool)
The Hollywood Reporter Article about reduced output of series on Disney+

 

 

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