US toymaker Mattel has replaced its chief executive after disappointing sales for the Christmas holiday season sent net income plunging.

Mattel said Bryan Stockton had resigned as chairman and chief executive and resigned from the company's board. 

Christopher Sinclair, a Mattel board member and veteran executive of the food industry, was named chairman and interim CEO.

"Mattel is an exceptional company with a great future but the board believes that it is the right time for new leadership to maximise its potential," Sinclair said in a statement.

"We will be working during the coming months to revitalise the business and to identify the right leadership for Mattel as it enters its next phase of growth and value creation."

Mattel said preliminary results for the fourth quarter showed sales fell 5.7% to $1.99bn from a year earlier, and earnings per share dropped 58.9% to 44 cents.

For the full year, worldwide sales fell 7.1% to $6.02bn, and earnings per share dropped 43.8% to $1.45.

The company plans to announce its final fourth-quarter and annual results on 30 January.

Sinclair has been on the Mattel board since 1996. He was president and CEO of Quality Food from 1996-1998, and before that served as chairman and CEO of Pepsi-Cola.