Despite an unpredictable year and a Christmas season down 2% due to the pandemic, the toy industry proves its resilience

Paris: 12 January 2021: According to The NPD Group’s Retail Tracking Service, which accounts for 86% of toy sales in France, the sector was down 1.5% in 2020. The last quarter, which alone accounted for 55% of sales, was down 2.2% mainly due to the closure of physical stores.

This very good result, which was unexpected even a few weeks ago, does not, however, take into account the strong growth of online marketplaces and the direct sales of manufacturers on their own websites. Florent Leroux, President of the French toy association (FJP), welcomes this assessment: “The French toy market has once again made it through this ‘annus horribilis,’ proving that toys are still an integral part of children and families’ daily lives; and even more so during this troubled period. Consumers responded in spite of the sanitary crisis by shopping in stores before and after closing, and by buying online or click and collect during closing periods.”

For his part, Philippe Gueydon, co-president of toy retailers’ association (FCJPE), notes that the year 2020 confirms consumers’ commitment to brick and mortar retail. Volumes were down 8% with an increase in the average price of 7%, from 16.74 euros to 17.83 euros. This appreciation can be explained by a different mix of products purchased this year (more expensive products and fewer impulse purchases at low prices).

A look back at an unpredictable year

2020 was a bumpy year, as it has been in many sectors. After finally catching up with the losses of the first lockdown thanks to a growth of 14% between mid-May and the end of September, the market showed a decline of 1% in the first nine months of the year. “During the two lockdowns, families rediscovered the pleasure of playing together, and continued to shop online and in supermarkets in the spring, but these sales have not been able to compensate for all the purchases usually made in all distribution channels.” explains Frédérique Tutt, Global Industry Advisor for The NPD Group. “Similarly, the forced closure for four weeks of stores (specialists, multi-specialists and the non-food aisles of the hypermarkets) in the middle of Christmas preparations resulted in a loss of 257 million euros in sales; a loss that could not be compensated despite record weeks at the announcement of the reconfinement and the reopening on 28 November.”

Philippe Gueydon says: “The business model of the future is emerging with digital sales at a high level since stores reopened at the end of November.” Due to the good performance in December, toy stores were able to catch up with some of the delay due to administrative closures. This decline was 20% on the first of December, ending at 13% at the end of the year excluding online sales, and 9% including online sales (source FCJPE). Hypermarkets limited their losses to 8%. 

Total online sales accounted for 32% of total toy sales in the first 9 months of the year, a record jump of 6 points from 2019 and a 27% increase in sales.

Christmas 2020: three super-categories stand out

The big winners of 2020 were board games and puzzles. Having posted double-digit growth in the spring, they ended the year up by 10%, gaining two points of market share and increasing from 16% of total sales to 18%.

Youth electronics also ended the year up 6% while building sets grew 5%, boosted by new products for young and old fans alike.

Other categories stood out: fashion dolls with a 27% growth, reusable compounds and sculpture kits at +7%, and educational games as a whole (games for infants, preschoolers, scientific games, music …) at +4%.

Top 10 best-selling toys – total sales 2020 (in value)

1The Story BoxLunii
2Kidicom Advance Vtech
3Kidizoom Duo DX Vtech
4Super Mario Brothers Adventures Starter PackThe LEGO Group
7Furreal Friends Cubby The Curious BearHasbro
8Kidi Secrets Selfie Diary Electronics PinkVtech
9Monopoly ClassicHasbro
10Specials PlusPlaymobil
Source: The NPD Group – Retail Tracking Service – January 2020 – December 2020

Like Lunii and its story box, which was the best-selling toy in 2020, French toys remain important to consumers, representing 14.4% of 2020 sales.

A growth outlook for 2021

The year 2020 has allowed the toy industry to recruit new players who have discovered or rediscovered the value of play and its benefits for young and old alike. This additional potential of players and the discovery of additional opportunity to play together in 2020 should bring growth to the toy market in 2021, especially compared to an unfavorable history due to lockdowns.

In 2020, French consumers also expressed their concerns in favor of sustainability across a large number of categories. This trend is expected to continue and expand in the toy market in 2021 at least from a packaging standpoint.

On the licensing side, which accounts for 22.4% of total toy sales, the closure of cinemas will be felt at least at the beginning of the year, and could consequently lead to a strengthening of toy brands as in 2020.

“The entire Toy sector remains optimistic for a market rebound in 2021 that should take place as early as the second quarter and continue for the rest of the year,” concludes Florent Leroux, President of the FJP.