Los Angeles Business Journal

Mattel Partners with Alibaba to Develop Toys for China

By Garrett Reim Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Toy maker Mattel Inc. of El Segundo has partnered with Alibaba Group of Hangzhou, China to market and develop products for Chinese consumers.

Alibaba has agreed to offer its artificial intelligence lab to help develop education-focused products and content for Chinese consumers based on Mattel’s popular brands. The companies plan to begin product development immediately, with toys available in mid-2017. Alibaba will also use its data on Chinese consumers to help Mattel better market its products.

Mattel is the maker of toy brands such as American Girl, Barbie, Fisher-Price, and Hot Wheels. Mattel has sold products into China since 2011 and has sold products online in the country since 2011, when it offered toys via Alibaba’s Tmall.com.

For its part, Alibaba owns several e-commerce websites and often described as the Amazon.com of China. The company claims to have more than 440 million customers across its websites.

The two companies are targeting what is seen as a growing market for education-focused toys in China. Chinese parents increasingly see early-childhood learning as an important stepping stone in their children’s overall education.

“Play has a tremendous impact on a child's cognitive, social and emotional growth,” said Margo Georgiadis, chief executive of Mattel, in a statement. “The multi-billion dollar toy category in China is highly fragmented, with tremendous potential for growth. Working with Alibaba, we see a terrific opportunity to develop and lead the category.”

In addition to developing toys in partnership with Mattel, Alibaba will help the company navigate the often difficult to penetrate Chinese market for consumer goods.

“We look forward to supporting Mattel's growth through our robust data and commerce technology infrastructure which will help to elevate their overall business from product development to brand-building to rural penetration for this unique and massive market,” Daniel Zhang, chief executive of Alibaba Group said in a statement.

Technology reporter Garrett Reim can be reached at greim@labusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @garrettreim for the latest in L.A. tech news.