Hasbro's Secret Weapon is a Nerf Gun for Girls

Hasbro Toy Fair Day 4
Jason DeCrow/Invision/AP
Hasbro (HAS) has a surprising hit in its arsenal. The leading toymaker announced better than expected results on Monday, and a major contributor was a 21 percent surge in toys for girls.

The growing success of My Little Pony isn't a surprise, but the other key contributor in the girls category singled out by Hasbro for the quarter's success is Nerf Rebelle. Yes, there is Nerf weaponry for your daughters, nieces and granddaughters.

Girl Power

Hasbro introduced the Nerf Rebelle line in the fall. The pink, purple and white guns come with detachable crossbows and swirly artwork. The product line bears names like Pink Crush, Sweet Revenge and HeartBreaker Bow that you would never find on traditional Nerf products. The pink, purple and teal darts feature artsy designs, far removed from the solid orange, yellow or blue soft-tip darts that have been Nerf staples. The crossbows also echo the weapons used by the heroines of "Brave" and the "Hunger Games" trilogy.

Nerf Rebelle is clearly unlike anything that Hasbro has put out of that product line before, and that's the point. Some may argue that Nerf blasters, super soakers, disc shooters and balls are genderless -- and while that is technically true, check out the marketing materials over the years. Boys have historically gotten most of the outdoor toys, save for the occasional Sky Dancers that comes around.

Times are a-changing, and it's not just Hasbro. Lego's Friends line, introduced a few years ago, offers the same interlocking blocks as the traditional set, but with more playful settings -- including lemonade stands, beach houses and penguin playgrounds. More importantly, Lego has created five proprietary characters for the Lego Friends line, hoping that unique characters will make them more endearing, relatable and easier to license. It worked for Bratz.

Hasbro isn't creating characters, but it has put out a free Nerf Rebelle Mission Central gaming app.

Nerf's Up

Nerf sales have historically been recorded under Hasbro's boys category in its financials statements, but that's naturally changing now. It's a good thing, too, since there wasn't a lot that was impressive at Hasbro outside of My Little Pony and the debut of Nerf Rebelle.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%Preschool toys suffered a 4 percent decline, a dip that was matched by its once-thriving games category. Hasbro scored a 2 percent uptick in the toys for boys, held back by the fading popularity of its Beyblade products.

Hasbro is too big for one product to make a world of difference, but it's clear that there was a single category carrying the toy giant to higher ground during the first three months of the year. Earnings improved dramatically, and that's important when you're widely seen as a slow-moving stock that's prized largely by income investors chasing the reasonably generous 3.1 percent yield.

Nerf Rebelle certainly helped this time around. The decision to cross gender lines to make an iconic product line appealing to both sexes is paying off.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Hasbro. The Motley Fool owns shares of Hasbro.

Girls Rule at Hasbro
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