Kids play with toys from Mattel’s Barbie brand | Source: Mattel/The Toy Book

Iconic toy brands fueled a big year for Mattel as the company managed to grow sales and income despite global supply chain challenges.

The company reported its fourth quarter and full-year earnings for 2021 reflecting net sales of $5.46 billion for the year — a 19% increase — $1.8 billion of which arrived during Q4. The sales success was accompanied by improvements in operating income and net income for the year, though gross margin took a slight hit attributed to inflation and supply chain issues, partially offset by pricing changes.

“We have made significant progress on our transformation strategy over the last few years, and our turnaround is now complete,” says Mattel Chairman and CEO Ynon Kreiz. “We are in growth mode and believe we are well-positioned to continue our momentum, with 2022 guidance exceeding prior goals and an even stronger outlook for 2023.”

In the toy department, Mattel’s net sales and gross billings spiked 22% for the year in North America. Meanwhile, global growth was fueled by gross billings increases across its top categories.

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Gross billings for the combined action figures, building sets, games, and other category grew 32%, driven by action figures — including Masters of the Universe, WWE, and Jurassic World — plush, and building sets from MEGA Bloks and MEGA Construx. The doll category grew 22% for the year, driven by demand for Barbie, Spirit, and Polly Pocket while vehicles spiked 13%, driven primarily by strong growth in Hot Wheels and Matchbox. Finally, gross billings for the infant, toddler, and preschool category grew 6% with increased demand for Fisher-Price, Thomas & Friends, and Power Wheels products.

While it took a 6% dip in Q4 running up against strong comps from 2020, the American Girl brand finished the year with a 5% gain in net sales and a 4% increase in gross billings.

“In 2021, our products resonated with consumers at levels we have not seen in years, and, per The NPD Group, we continued to gain market share,” Kreiz says. “We also strengthened our position as a partner of choice for the major entertainment companies and, in addition to our own IP, have a formidable line-up of evergreen properties to drive future growth.”

Looking ahead, the company raised its guidance for 2022 anticipating an 8-10% increase in net sales, and raised guidance for 2023 with net sales gains of the high single digits expected.

On Feb. 18, Mattel will hold its Virtual Analyst Presentation timed to what would’ve been the start of Toy Fair New York, which was canceled for the second year in a row citing pandemic-related challenges.