FISHER-PRICE CUTS WORK FORCE

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MEDINA, N.Y. — Fisher-Price Inc. laid off nearly a third of its rotomolding staff in Medina because of sluggish outdoor play markets.

The Mattel Inc. subsidiary cut the plant's employment March 3 by 72, according to Fisher-Price spokeswoman Laurie Strong. Medina now has 172 workers. Officials already laid off 40 workers in September.

Strong said outdoor play sales have been slow since last spring, when poor weather dampened enthusiasm for backyard play equipment. Retailers also are putting more pressure on suppliers to deliver the large items on a just-in-time basis because they occupy a lot of warehouse space and are especially cumbersome when turnover is slow.

Fisher-Price of East Aurora, N.Y., is not alone in feeling the pinch in outdoor play equipment. Rubbermaid Inc. complained last year that its Little Tikes subsidiary suffered slow sales and was a drag on profit.

Strong said Fisher-Price remains committed to the market, and officials hope good spring weather will encourage a sales spurt during the industry's most important season.

Fisher-Price began rotomolding the products at Medina in 1995 shortly after the firm entered the outdoor market. Strong said her firm expects new products to boost sales. At Toy Fair, held in February in New York, Fisher-Price debuted Backyard Treehouse, Super Sand Roadway, Side-by-Side Wagon, Jeep Push 'n Scoot and a variety of sports gear.