Home Blog A Sports Lesson from Fingerlings

The NPD Group Blog

Insights and Opinions From Analysts and Experts in More Than 20 Industries

What the Sports Business Can Learn from the Toy Business

Dec 12, 2017
Matt Powell, Vice President, Senior Industry Advisor ;
Sports
@NPDMattPowell

The New York Times published a fascinating article a couple days ago on WowWee Brand’s Fingerlings toy, one of the hottest toys of the holiday season. In it, I found several interesting lessons for the sports industry.

“For decades, there has always been a must-have holiday toy” - Last year, the Adidas Superstar was the must-have shoe. It was the first time in years that the top-selling shoe was not a Nike/Jordan product. In 2017, we do not have a “must-have shoe,” and sales and margins are suffering for it.

“The $84 billion global toy industry is struggling for the attention of children obsessed with smartphones and tablets. Global toy sales have been growing each year, but at a slower pace than video games” - The sports business has also struggled for the attention of today’s kids. There are many competitors for kids’ attention and parents’ money.

“The average life span of a toy fad is about eight months from its launch until it’s marked down.” “The life of an item is a little rockier” than it used to be, said Walmart’s VP of Toys. “We move as a country faster from one thing to the next” - In the sports industry we have seen fashion cycles become ever shorter. Brands and retailers must figure out new ways to bring products to market more quickly. The sports industry must be more responsive to changes in consumer interests and preferences.

“Cultivating the success of a hot toy carries its own risks, including managing supply…WowWee says it did not intentionally create the shortage. But whether by design or happenstance, there is no question that scarcity fuels a toy’s mystique. ‘The reality is that you are better off having some disappointed children this year in order to excite them next year’ ” - Much of the sports business was built on unrequited demand. That strategy has been abandoned, chasing higher revenues. We must get back to scarcity as a motivator for purchase.

“It’s like coming up with a hit movie or a hit song. If you see signs of success, you pour gas on it” - Brands and retailers must become more responsive to shifting tastes and the winds of fashion.  The sports industry has to figure out ways to “pour gas on” new trends and items. Micro-collaborations are not the answer.

“You know you can trust a toy company if its toys fart. It knows what kids want” - Two takeaways here: A sense of humor is essential in today’s market. More important, we’ve got to get back to knowing our customer.

“When the toy business is good, it is really fun. When it is bad, it is really bad” - Enough said there.

“Over the decades, the industry consolidated and retailers struggled. The rise of social media — where toys can be instantly validated or just as quickly panned — has raised the stakes for companies like WowWee. There are less shades of gray. You either fail or you succeed” - The sports industry must react better to the changing retail landscape and the methods in which we market our products.

“Walmart invited hundreds of children to a convention center to play with a range of new toys, including the Fingerling. Based on the children’s feedback, the retailer named the Fingerling one of its 25 top-rated toys for the holidays and purchased more monkeys” - Walmart and the toy brands understand the value of listening closely to your customer.

We sometimes act as if the sports industry exists in a vacuum.  As we can see from this article, there are lessons to be learned outside our industry; these are lessons we should be learning every day.



Related Blog Posts


Sneakernomics: Predictions for Sports Retail in 2019
Sneakernomics: Predictions for Sports Retail in 2019

Matt Powell expects a rocky year for the sports industry in 2019, as macro issues will likely weigh heavily on the industry. In these challenging times, what can retailers and brands do to stand out? Powell outlines his expectations and what opportunities should be seized to thrive.

Sneakernomics: What Really Happened with Athletic Footwear and Activewear Sales in 2018
Sneakernomics: What Really Happened with Athletic Footwear and Activewear Sales in 2018

Matt Powell provides the highlights and his analysis on how the brands and categories across the U.S. athletic footwear and activewear markets fared in 2018.

Sneakernomics: Golf and Team Sports Equipment 2018 Recap
Sneakernomics: Golf and Team Sports Equipment 2018 Recap

Matt Powell recaps how sales fared for baseball, golf, soccer, and other sports equipment products in 2018. Baseball/softball equipment sales grew largely as a result of new youth bat safety regulations that required most youth players to replace their bats. Golf was another bright spot for the market. After years of soft sales, the category bounced back. One of the top growth categories in golf were complete golf sets, particularly at opening price-points, suggesting new entrants.

Sneakernomics: Nobody Wins a Race to the Bottom
Sneakernomics: Nobody Wins a Race to the Bottom

According to Matt Powell, Holiday 2017 was the most promotional on record for the U.S. sports industry – that is, until Holiday 2018. Powell says we need to return the industry to one of aspiration and inspiration, or we face the risk of running a race to the bottom; and that’s a race nobody wins. A new year brings new opportunity to change course.

Subscribe to our blog

Newsletter

Subscribe and get key market trends and insights relevant to your industry each month.

We will not sell your information. View privacy notice.

Follow Us

© The NPD Group, Inc.