Port Washington, NY, April 2, 2020 – In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents and children are working and schooling from home, but U.S. families are balancing screen time with real-world activities and traditional play. From board games and activity books to coloring and chalk games, activity-based categories for entertainment and hands-on learning drove sales across the toys, books, and office supplies industries in the week ending March 21, according to The NPD Group.  

“Consumers have prepared for their family’s survival over an extended period by stocking up on the basic necessities, but as schools and workplaces closed, phase two of the big scramble began. U.S. parents loaded up on things to keep their kids occupied at home, help them navigate their new homeschooling situation, and to also be a source of entertainment for the whole family as we spend more time at home,” said Juli Lennett, NPD’s toys industry advisor.

Total toy sales in the U.S. grew by 26% in the week ending March 21, with the fastest-growing categories being games/puzzles (+228%), driven by family board/action, card, and children’s games; building sets (+76%); and arts and crafts (+70%), primarily craft kits and reusable compounds. With warmer weather emerging, sales of outdoor and sports toys grew by 20%. “On top of all this, Easter is near. Parents are likely seeking stability for their kids by maintaining Easter traditions and also buying ahead, as shopping visits become few and far between,” added Lennett.

The big story for the week in books was the 66% sales lift in kids’ nonfiction sales. This was primarily driven by subject categories focused on education and activities, including general activity books (+128%), study aids (+235%), school and education (+143%), and language arts/handwriting (+265%).

“Interactivity and high play value were two characteristics tying all of this week’s bestselling juvenile titles together – from classics such as MadLibs, to sticker activity books featuring beloved characters, and write and wipe educational workbooks,” said Kristen McLean, NPD’s books industry analyst. “School at home combined with a higher demand for fun, in-house activities have lifted educational and activity book sales.”

In neighborhoods throughout the country, homes are adorned with rainbow drawings in their windows and colorful chalk art on sidewalks and driveways. Coloring and art was the standout category in office supplies in terms of growth, with weekly sales up 86%. Chalk sales grew by 56% and writing instruments including window/glass markers (+146%) and color markers (+81%) also saw notable upticks. In addition, as consumers participate in more virtual art and drawing activities there were also increases in categories such as finger paints (+313%), tempera paint (+272%), watercolor paper (+188%), and painting accessories (+111%).

As a result of parents conducting school from home and children participating in virtual classrooms, traditional back-to-school supply list categories grew by 18% overall during this week, with triple-digit growth for crayons, children’s watercolors, and colored pencil sets. 

“The strongest growth in the office supplies space is tied to both traditional school supply list products and art and drawing activities. Current trending activities include rainbow scavenger hunts, kindness art and messaging, stained glass sidewalk chalk art, chalk games, and car parade celebrations where consumers make signs for one another,” said Leen Nsouli, NPD’s office supplies industry analyst. “To spread kindness and make connections with one another while simultaneously social distancing, consumers are becoming very creative in how they interact.”

Source: The NPD Group/ Weekly Retail Tracking Service/ Dollar Sales/ Week Ending March 21, 2020

Source: The NPD Group/ BookScan /Print Unit Sales/ Week Ending March 21, 2020

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