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At Hasbro, Girls Toys Become a Big Market

The house that Transformers built discovers its feminine side

Shortly after joining toymaker Hasbro as a senior executive more than a decade ago, Brian Goldner took his 5-year-old daughter, Brooke, on a tour of headquarters. She wasn’t impressed. “She put her hands on her hips and said, ‘Dad, the way I see it, you don’t have any toys for girls,’ ” recalls Goldner, who became chief executive officer in 2008. A lot has changed since. Thanks to improved consumer research about how girls play and revived brands such as My Little Pony, Hasbro has found success beyond its boy-focused Transformers and Star Wars toys. That’s helped it gain on Mattel, the dominant company for girls toys with its Barbie and American Girl dolls.

Hasbro says revenue from its girls division rose 26 percent in 2013, topping $1 billion for the first time and more than tripling its $300 million in 2003 sales. That helped offset a 22 percent drop in sales from the boys unit last year, leaving companywide sales little changed at $4.1 billion. “The girls business is the strongest part of the company, and 10 years ago they were not really considered a player,” says Needham analyst Sean McGowan.