Is The Easy-Bake Oven Headed To That Giant Toy Closet in The Sky?
Sales dipped this quarter and it has some speculating: Are kids too into tech to want to cook?
Are little girls too busy today building robots and learning code to bake cookies? Earlier this week, Hasbro announced that sales of the iconic Easy-Bake Oven, along with Super Soaker and Playskool, were down 14 percent in the second quarter. The company’s franchise brands like Nerf and Transformers, on the other hand, were way up. While it’s only a three-month snapshot ⏤ and exact sales of the Easy-Bake weren’t broken out in the report ⏤ the news still has some speculating as to whether the iconic oven has finally baked its last cake.
Honestly, I find that hard to believe. The Easy-Bake Oven has practically been a piece of Americana since its debut in 1963. And it’s survived, if not thrived, for over 50 years thanks to Hasbro’s ability to continuously reinvent it for new generations of kids. Food 52 wrote an interesting piece outlining a bit of the oven’s history, and it’s clear that ⏤ even though Hasbro hasn’t released a new update since 2015 and isn’t presently marketing it ⏤ the company has never left it to neglect. And it’s been resilient in weathering cultural shifts.
Not only that, but we’re still only talking about a single quarter of earnings. In his Q2 earnings statement last year to investors, Brian Goldner, Hasbro Chairman, President and CEO, attributed the company’s positive earnings in part to the Easy-Bake Oven: “Several other Hasbro Brands contributed to the gains, including Baby Alive, Furreal Friends, and Easy Bake, as well as several games brands including Pie Face, Yahtzee, and Bop-it.” So 12 months ago, Easy-Bake was doing just fine and a team player. Hard to believe that a single dip would lead to its ultimate demise.
Some argue, however, that with changing gender roles and kids focused more on tech, video games, and STEM, parents are paying less attention to home economics or cooking. As the father of 2-year-old who makes bowls of delicious, make-believe soup in a play kitchen, I’m not totally buying that. Yes, STEM, robotics, and coding toys are huge right now, but I can’t imagine their boost in sales are coming at the expense of toy kitchens or cookware. I may be wrong.
Plus, people need to eat. Food is part of our culture. Kids love to cook. Just watch an episode of Master Chef Junior and you’ll see that a lot of children — boys and girls alike ⏤ are waaaay into cooking. In fact, more so than anybody I remember as I kid. Granted, it’s pretty transparent that a lot of those kids have hipster parents who may or may not be living vicariously through them (that’s an article for another time), but nonetheless, they are demonstrating an advanced interest at an early age.
Others suggest that if sales continue to fall and Hasbro is forced to cut toys from its Emerging Brands (which is, weirdly, how they classify Easy-Bake, Super Soaker, and Playskool), the company would be hard pressed to kill the other two. And the Easy-Bake would get the ax by default. I don’t question that logic ⏤ super soakers are pretty damn awesome ⏤ but without specific sales numbers to back up the claim, the argument feels purely anecdotal. We think a water gun has to be more popular, but is it really?
All of this to say: it’s far too early to speculate. Hasbro remains the country’s number two toy maker and it continues to make money. In fact, this quarter alone net revenues were up $973M, up 11 percent year-over-year. Unless these declining numbers start to get baked into Hasbro’s bottom line, I’m not sure they’re anything to get a rise out of. Kids can enjoy cooking and building robots, and I think they will for years to come. Which is why they’ll always be a place for the Easy-Bake Oven ⏤ now who wants another cookie?