It hasn't been easy for educational toy maker LeapFrog Enterprises
Even a toddler turning to LeapFrog to brush up on his math skills can tell you how pathetic that kind of showing is. The company finds its stock trading at an all-time low this morning, but it's not as if this was an overnight fiasco.
A couple of years ago, the company revolutionized the electronic learning toy field with its interactive products. But as I pointed out in my recent When Moats Collapse column, there is always one drawback to doing too well and that comes in the form of competition.
While LeapFrog was more than happy selling its LeapPad system and all of its add-ons, traditional toy giants like Mattel
Gross margins started to slide. Profit projections began to wobble. Founder Mike Wood was demoted and eventually resigned. While the company's defense for its slumping financials was that it was dedicating itself to broadening its product line and making inroads in the school market, it now finds itself grasping for an excuse to explain away the original excuse.
The dog ate my homework. Now someone ate my dog.
LeapFrog admits that it is suffering softness in its products domestically. That's genuine. But then it adds that it is having problems with a new distribution center. So is the company saying that it is suffering a lack of demand because of a lack of supply? It's either a flimsy argument or a poorly executed distraction. The market knows better -- hence today's horrific slide into the pre-teens.
While I know better than to write off a toy company -- a lackluster 2004 holiday season can always lay the foundation for a knockout 2005 showing -- LeapFrog is going to have to polish more than a few apples to become teacher's pet again.
Do you have a LeapPad or a Leapster or any other LeapFrog product? Do they stimulate a child, or is it just more needless electronic gadgetry? All this and more in the Parents and Expecting Parents discussion board. Only on Fool.com.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does relish the way his youngest son takes to his LeapPad. However, he does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story.