Home Industry Expertise 2018 Toy Industry Analysis & Market Trends

Toys Market Research & Business Solutions

If you have kids, there’s likely a closet in your home full of discarded toys. Children change rapidly. As do their playthings. So too does the market that feeds that change. Once upon a time, toys were something a child held. Then they were something a child played on a screen. Then they were things as likely to be collected by adults as loved by a child. Now they are often all these things all at once.

To monitor what’s happening in this dynamic market, we collect point-of-sale information from all major toy retailers. This information, combined with our analysts’ industry perspectives, delivers a comprehensive view of what’s selling and where. We also field more than 12 million consumer surveys a year to help industry leaders understand why consumers shop, where they shop and why they buy what they buy.

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Toys
Solutions


Retail Tracking

NPD's Retail Tracking delivers weekly point-of-sale (POS) tracking information. It’s the only source for competitive, item-level product detail and insight on toy sales trends. This industry resource can help you understand market dynamics, identify opportunities for growth, and partner more closely with retailers. Our POS footprint covers all the major toy retailers to ensure you are working with information that gives a complete view of the marketplace.


Consumer Tracking

Our Consumer Tracking provides in-depth detail straight from consumers, so you can analyze retailer share, measure category and channel performance, explore consumer demographics, and understand purchase dynamics. Over 12 million surveys annually tell us where consumers shop, what they buy, and how much they pay. The service delivers a comprehensive picture of consumer activity across all retail channels. Its information is aligned with our Retail Tracking hierarchy, allowing for high-level market alignment of our toys consumer data. Toy industry leaders use this robust information to uncover opportunities and create products, messaging, and promotions that appeal to their target consumers.


Store-Level Enabled Retail Tracking

Store-Level Enabled Retail Tracking complements our national Retail Tracking Service– it can help you determine whether sales are distribution-driven or whether certain parts of the country are contributing more to national share or driving growth. The velocity measure that is part of Store-Level Enabled Retail Tracking takes into consideration sales volume (Annualized Industry Volume or AIV) rather than considering store count alone, for a more meaningful read on where products are selling and how they are performing.


Analytic Solutions

NPD’s Analytic Solutions group includes senior leaders with extensive experience developing and delivering analytic solutions that help clients predict areas of risk and growth to improve marketing and product development. By combining NPD’s unique data assets and industry expertise with state-of-the-discipline research techniques and proprietary solutions, our Analytic Solutions team is able to answer clients’ most pressing business questions.



Toys
Reports


Multi-Country Reporting Capability Now Available in DecisionKey®

Toys is excited to be the first practice to combine multiple countries in a single DecisionKey database to allow for multi-country reporting. The additional frequency will allow for single-source multi-country data to maximize the value of our data for our toy clients who mostly operate in a global capacity. Clients can now have a view into 10 countries, ranging from Canada to Australia to France to U.S, in a single database with common currency view for all countries converted into U.S. Dollars and/or Euros. This capability strengthens the NPD position of being the Toy industry currency, allows global investor/public statements to be sourced from a single dataset, allows consistency of views between local countries and global departments, and offers immediate time savings thereby allowing more time to be spent on value-add global analyses.



Toys
Press Releases


February 18, 2018

The NPD Group Announces Winners of U.S. Toy Industry Awards at New York Toy Fair

The NPD Group, a leading global information company, today announced the winners of this year’s U.S. Toy Industry Awards, which were shared with the recipients at New York Toy Fair. The awards were given to the manufacturers of the top-selling property and toy of 2017 in the United States, as well as the top-selling toys by supercategory, according to NPD’s Retail Tracking Service.


January 26, 2018

Toy Sales Globally and in the U.S. Both Grow by 1 Percent in 2017, Reports The NPD Group

Toy industry sales grew by 1 percent in 2017 across the 12 global markets tracked by The NPD Group.


October 30, 2017

The NPD Group Predicts the U.S. Toy Holiday Hits of 2017

No holiday season is complete without a mad dash by consumers to capture the most desirable toys of the year. Based on velocity, or how fast they are already flying off U.S. shelves, global information company The NPD Group has named the top 10 toys that may be hard to find closer to Christmas.


August 7, 2017

The NPD Group Expands Toys Retail Tracking Service in the Netherlands

Global information company The NPD Group, today announced the expansion of its Toys Retail Tracking Service in the Netherlands. The new service monitors in-store and online sales of toy products from a diverse range of Netherlands-based retailers. Combined with NPD’s existing coverage of Belgium’s toy market, it is a single source for complete market information in the Benelux region.


August 2, 2017

Global Toy Sales Grew by 3 Percent in the First Half of 2017, Reports The NPD Group

Toy industry sales are up 3 percent from January through June 2017 across the global markets tracked by The NPD Group, a leading global information company. NPD estimates that the industry will grow approximately 4 percent for the full year.


July 26, 2017

U.S. Toy Industry Grows its Sales by 3 Percent Mid-Way Through 2017, Reports The NPD Group

The U.S. toy industry grew its dollar sales by 3 percent in the first half of 2017*, according to global information company The NPD Group. With about one-third of total annual sales typically occurring in the first half, NPD estimates that the industry will grow approximately 4.5 percent for the full year.


June 20, 2017

Toys and Technology Drive Licensed Sales for Kids in the U.S., NPD Finds

Video games, electronics, and apps make up a combined 22 percent of kids’ licensed product dollar sales in the U.S.* – on par with the volume represented by toys, which is the number one licensed industry at most retailers, according to the U.S. Kids License Report from global information company The NPD Group.


February 16, 2017

U.S. Juvenile Products Industry Grows 2 Percent in 2016, Reports The NPD Group

Dollar sales for the U.S. durable juvenile products industry reached $6.4 billion and grew 2 percent in 2016, according to global information company The NPD Group. Units grew by 2 percent and the average retail price of $17.98 increased by 1 percent over the prior year. Gains in the Travel, Safety, and Feeding categories drove the industry.


January 25, 2017

U.S. Toy Industry Grows 5 Percent in 2016, Exceeding $20 Billion, The NPD Group Reports

U.S. toy sales grew by 5 percent in 2016, reaching $20.4 billion, according to retail sales data* from global information company The NPD Group. The industry was 16 percent larger in 2016 than 2013, which calculates to a compounded annual growth rate of 5 percent.


November 1, 2016

Toys Tied to Experiences, Family Time, and Healthy Living Propel Industry Growth through the Holiday Season

U.S. toy sales grew by 6 percent from January through September 2016, according to retail sales data from global information company The NPD Group. NPD expects several trends to drive the toy industry to continued growth through the remainder of 2016, including consumer movement towards experiential purchasing, the popularity of collectibles, the drive toward healthier living, and higher price-points during this holiday season. For the year, NPD estimates toy sales to be up approximately 6.5 percent.


Toys
Insights


February 20, 2018

Toy Sales Around the Globe

How did toy industry sales fare in 2017 across 12 global markets? Find out which countries saw the greatest growth, and which experienced steep declines. And see which categories were the industry leader in 2017 in our latest global toys infographic.


May 25, 2017

Understand Kids' Licensed Products Purchasing Behavior

Now you can explore U.S. consumers’ purchases of licensed products – going beyond toys – and find out how buying varies by industry. Take the guesswork out of product development and marketing decisions related to licensed products for children up to age 14.


August 15, 2016

Case Study: How to Tell a Brand’s True Story with Distribution and Velocity

How to Tell a Brand’s True Story with Distribution and Velocity


December 3, 2015

Kids at Play: How Do They Spend Their Time and Money

Understanding the under-14 consumer can be a tricky business for toy marketers. Technology and other interests compete with toys for time and money. Getting to know these important consumers – and knowing more about them than your competitors do – is critical. See how kids spend their play time, and what parents buy for their kids.


August 19, 2015

Toying With Gender-Neutral Labels

In mid-August Target made headlines after announcing a phase-out of gender-based signage in certain children’s sections of its store.



Toys
Insights and Opinions from our Analysts and Experts


November 21, 2017

Let’s Reconsider Discounting Toys for Christmas

The first ‘Black Friday’ email landed in my inbox with Thanksgiving still a week away. May I just say that I think this is a really bad idea? What is the point of discounting toys in the weeks and days before Christmas? The global toy industry earns 50 percent of its revenue in the last quarter of the year, so why is there a need to cut margins right at the moment when parents and givers want to (and will always) buy toys? The fact is, toy sales during Black Friday declined in UK, France, Germany, and Italy last year; only Spain – where the adoption of the event is very recent – saw an increase, so it is likely that they will follow in the footsteps of the other European markets.

What we should collectively think about is how to drive growth for the global toy industry outside of the peak season. How can we convince consumers to part with their cash in the summer, for Easter, for back-to-school, for their holiday trips, for children’s day or grandparents’ day, and so on… anything other than the run-up to Christmas!

In fact, there are some wonderful examples of occasions around the world which have grown the toy market. In my opinion, the best one for a long time has been the ‘Toy Cat’ event in Australia. Pure invention from retailers, the event started with a dual purpose: clear the decks to make space (discount) and launch brand new autumn/winter toys in the middle of their (cold!) winter as kids spend more time indoors. Though it has now fizzled out a bit as some retailers have changed their strategy, it worked well for a number of years, so much so that the ‘toy cat’ period was almost as big as December at one point.

There are many other examples from around the world where we see an uplift in toy sales: Children’s Day in Mexico; Women’s Day and Men’s Day in Russia; Chinese New Year and Singles’ Day in China; the Epiphany in Spain and Italy; and Saint Nicholas’ Day in the Netherlands and Belgium. In truth, we ARE full of good ideas and initiatives, and I have not even mentioned advent calendars or movie releases. But please, don’t discount toys in November. If anything, it brings sales forward a little and empties stores for the next two weeks. There has got to be another way.


July 18, 2017

You’ve Heard of KGOY, But What About AGYO?

I’m sure many of you have felt this same feeling as I have… I might look older on the outside, but I feel like I’m still 25 on the inside. I’m a grown woman with teenagers, but sometimes I want to act more like them than the Baby Boomer I am!

And, I think many Baby Boomers like me feel the same way.

Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964) represent 74 million or 23 percent of the U.S. population today. When the last of us reaches retirement in 2029, let’s call it age 65, there will be 21.6 million more Americans who are 65+years old than there are today. That’s growth of 42 percent for the population of ages 65+ from 2017 to 2029. That’s a heck of a lot more people needing products and services suitable for a senior citizen’s lifestyle.

What does this have to do with KGOY or AGYO? Kids Getting Older Younger (KGOY) has been a topic in the toy industry for at least a decade. The idea is that kids are aging out of toys at younger and younger ages—that’s a topic I could debate, but we’ll save that for a later time.

AGYO is my made-up acronym for a new revolution—Adults Getting Younger Older. I think there are many of us who are going to do whatever we have to in order to delay getting old. We’re taking better care of ourselves and want to continue being active, enjoy life and, more importantly, have lots of fun in retirement.

I think the opportunity is tremendous for many industries to start thinking about products specifically for the aging Boomer population. Not only will this amazing group of people have a lot of time on their hands, but they will want to have fun, keep their brains active, and they have money to spend. What better way to spend your time as you get older than with play. Play doesn’t have to be for the young; let’s get people thinking about play for everyone, including seniors.

Here’s my call-out to the toy manufacturing community: can you start thinking about the future now? Can you think about how to better serve the Boomers with toys and games just for us? We are going to want you to think about us when you design new products, and we will want to feel special. We will not want the same toys and games that you make for an eight-year old. I’m hoping that by the time I retire, there will be a whole bunch of new toys, games, and puzzles that will interest me and my 74 million “young at heart” friends that allow us to have the fun we deserve. Who knows, you might just be able to carve a new niche for yourself. Better get crackin’.


July 11, 2017

Back-to-School: Friend or Foe to the Toy Industry?

It’s hard to think about the topic of back-to-school when my kids just wrapped up school only two weeks ago here in New York. But, alas, we at NPD have already started to talk about it as retailers are preparing for the next big shopping season for many industries, from apparel to school supplies.

But, what about toys?

For the toy industry, August in particular is a bit of drag. Though this is a period when many new toys are being introduced to the market, sales reach a low point. In terms of absolute dollar sales for the toy industry, August tends to be among the bottom two or three performing months of the year, right there with January. While the product changeover on store shelves may factor into this, I think the primary reason is quite obvious: back-to-school expenses. For many families, back-to-school can suck up every ounce of a family’s disposable income, and then some. For that moment in time, a pair of shoes, a new outfit, and school supplies become the more important decisions.

Does this mean the toy industry should walk away? Absolutely not. There is a place for the toy industry during this period, and it can support the back-to-school initiative.

Educational toys—particularly flashcards—sell more than usual during the back-to-school season. Digging a little deeper, these educational toys are slightly overdeveloped for preschool children and lower income households (<$50K/year) on a bi-annualized basis. My theory is that lower income families of preschoolers are looking for ways to educate their children through inexpensive toys, perhaps because their communities don’t offer free preschool as an option.

Can the toy industry do more, particularly during back-to-school, by creating more fun and educational preschool toys? Can retailers, particularly those in lower income neighborhoods, carry more inexpensive, high quality preschool education toys? There are back-to-school related opportunities for the toy industry that just might benefit everyone.


May 15, 2017

Fidgets, games, LEGO tape: Social media puts emerging trends on fast forward

In early April, I searched for fidget toys online. They were in the news thanks to Autism Day, and I was curious to see what was available on my local site in France. There were very few, and they were relatively expensive, at €20 each.

Three weeks later, my son discovered fidget toys via viral Instagram posts and asked me to buy one for him. I went online again. Suddenly there were more than 20 to choose from, and the price had dropped from €20 to €10, or even less if I could wait for them to ship from China.

What happened?

In a nutshell, social media happened.

In the past, it would have taken weeks for a hot trend to filter into my remote part of France and into the consciousness of my son and his friends. It would have taken many more weeks for that toy to become available in my area. The manager of my local toy store once told me, “We are a bit slow with hot trends here. We need to wait 6 months after it takes off in Paris.”

Not anymore.

Today, my kids absorb trends via social media at the same moment as a child in Tokyo, New York City, or Buenos Aires. And that is upending the business. The product cycle has been shaken up by the internet; social media has put it on fast forward.

Today, the toy industry must be more reactive, more adaptable, and, above all, faster. Design, production, selection, marketing, and performance tracking are on a tighter schedule than ever before. Regional differences are being flattened as viral sensations cross borders indiscriminately.

We’ve already seen the impact with Pie Face and Speak Out. We’re now seeing it with fidget toys and the LEGO tape Nimuno Loops. Innovative products are picked up by big manufacturers, and then—in record time—pushed out globally to stunning success. We’ve seen it in a slightly different iteration with L.O.L. Surprise! Dolls, a toy inspired by unboxing videos and then pushed to market at break-neck speed. Again, to great success.

But I suspect that what will also happen is that fads will hit and burn out faster. Gone are the days when fads could rely on the slow percolation into remote regions. Just as product cycles have grown shorter, so will life cycles. Retail prices will fluctuate accordingly.

Unlike a decade ago, my son will tire of fidget toys at the same pace as his peers in New York City, Tokyo, and Buenos Aires.


April 26, 2017

Customization and User-Generated Content Impacts Canadian Toy Industry

Kids today are being raised in a technologically advanced digital world that provides the ability to personalize and customize their gaming and non-gaming online experiences.   87% of Canadian kids engage in Technology Play (on a computer or video game) and 77% in Mobile Play (on a smartphone or tablet) according to NPD Canada’s Kids Share of Time and Wallet Study.  Not only can kids create their own profiles for their favourite games and customize their characters, but in some instances they also have the ability to impact the gameplay experience themselves. 

A great example of this type of personalized gameplay is best illustrated by the online game, Roblox, which capitalizes on the increasing demand by gaming consumers for user-generated content, or UGC. Roblox has a whopping 48 million monthly visitors playing the over 22 million user-generated online games that have been created by the players themselves.  Given the growth Roblox has been seeing in both their user-generated community as well as the number of monthly players, they recently announced a licensing deal with toy manufacturer Jazwares, to launch a line of action figures and collectibles which are in stores now.

Action figure collectibles grew 60% in 2016 vs a year ago (NPD Canada Retail POS Toy Industry data), underscoring how important digital & online content is in fuelling merchandise sales, particularly in toys.  Many of the most popular selling collectibles in Canada are based on online games or digital apps such as Minecraft and Five Nights at Freddy’s.  Stikbot, a line of action figure collectibles by Zing Toys that allow kids to create their own stop motion videos to share online using the Stikbot Studios app, rose to be one of the top selling lines this past Holiday.

It is clear that kids are growing up with this technology, they know how to use it and it gives them the platform to not only be creative but share their inspirations with their friends and fellow gamers.  We expect to see more growth of these types of toys in the future as technology allows toy manufacturers and developers to integrate online and toy experiences in even more creative and possibly unexpected ways.



April 26, 2017

Customization and User-Generated Content Impacts Canadian Toy Industry

Kids today are being raised in a technologically advanced digital world that provides the ability to personalize and customize their gaming and non-gaming online experiences.   87% of Canadian kids engage in Technology Play (on a computer or video game) and 77% in Mobile Play (on a smartphone or tablet) according to NPD Canada’s Kids Share of Time and Wallet Study.  Not only can kids create their own profiles for their favourite games and customize their characters, but in some instances they also have the ability to impact the gameplay experience themselves. 

A great example of this type of personalized gameplay is best illustrated by the online game, Roblox, which capitalizes on the increasing demand by gaming consumers for user-generated content, or UGC. Roblox has a whopping 48 million monthly visitors playing the over 22 million user-generated online games that have been created by the players themselves.  Given the growth Roblox has been seeing in both their user-generated community as well as the number of monthly players, they recently announced a licensing deal with toy manufacturer Jazwares, to launch a line of action figures and collectibles which are in stores now.

Action figure collectibles grew 60% in 2016 vs a year ago (NPD Canada Retail POS Toy Industry data), underscoring how important digital & online content is in fuelling merchandise sales, particularly in toys.  Many of the most popular selling collectibles in Canada are based on online games or digital apps such as Minecraft and Five Nights at Freddy’s.  Stikbot, a line of action figure collectibles by Zing Toys that allow kids to create their own stop motion videos to share online using the Stikbot Studios app, rose to be one of the top selling lines this past Holiday.

It is clear that kids are growing up with this technology, they know how to use it and it gives them the platform to not only be creative but share their inspirations with their friends and fellow gamers.  We expect to see more growth of these types of toys in the future as technology allows toy manufacturers and developers to integrate online and toy experiences in even more creative and possibly unexpected ways.


March 13, 2017

Toy Industry Predictions for Holiday 2017

Spring is in the air, but it’s also an opportune time for toy industry players to begin planning for the next holiday season. If 2016 is any indication, a fresh strategy will be even more essential for Holiday 2017.   

From January through November 2016, U.S toy sales grew a healthy 5.5 percent, positioning December for potentially high single-digit growth. But, December toy sales were less than expected, growing only 3 percent and actually bringing annual 2016 growth down to about 5 percent. What happened?

There were several factors contributing to the toy industry’s slowdown in December. However, the most significant area of concern was Week 51, the week before Christmas and Hanukkah, which had explosive growth of 28 percent. Why should the industry be alarmed by this?

With the week before Christmas offering two additional shopping days, one being a Saturday, consumers waited until the last minute to shop. As a result, week 51 was the largest sales-generating week of the year by ½ billion dollars over the previous top week and grew to represent 10 percent of all toy sales for the entire year. This happened in lieu of consumers spreading their shopping visits over several weeks. When there are fewer shopping visits, there is less cumulative spending.

The situation is even more critical this year, as Christmas falls on a Monday. Warm weather aside, to be in the best shape possible in 2017, toy retailers and manufacturers need to figure out how to create more excitement and generate additional shopping visits throughout the holiday season—not just the weekend before Christmas.

Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Retail Tracking Service



March 10, 2017

Toy Fair 2017

Movie-based toys, Collectibles, STEM/Coding, Tech Toys, and Gender/Ethnicity Inclusive were key themes at this year’s New York Toy Fair, February 17-21, 2017.

Every year, movie blockbusters are huge contributors to the toy industry’s success, and this year should be no different.  Between Lego launching two movies, Lego Batman and Lego Ninjago, Marvel and DC Comics superhero movies (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, Wonder Woman, Justice League), Transformers: The Last Knight, Despicable Me 3 and of course Star Wars: The Last Jedi, retailer shelves will be once again stocked with licensed product from action figures and collectibles to building sets and fashion dolls.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) toys that often include skills like learning how to code, continued to makes its mark and one of the most promising came from Lego, the Lego Boost.  Lego Boost is a 5 in 1 build that interacts with players through a mobile app; kids code how they want the toy to move. Kids can build a Robot to a Kitten to a Guitar and each will interact with the child differently.  Hasbro’s Disney Princess Learn to Code Belle allows kids to decide how they want their doll to dance through coding the app that comes with the doll.  Spin Master has partnered with Rube Goldberg, popular cartoonist and founder of an organization that promotes STEM learning, to launch a line of a modular toys that create fun inventions and teach the fundamental principles behind STEM.

Tech Toys like Spin Master’s M.A.X. robot, a personalized smart robot that learns about you, moves/interacts with you and remembers things like birthdays and events that you teach him.  Teddy Ruxpin is back from the ‘80’s with new tech upgrades; not only does he interact with kids but there is also a mobile app to allow kids to read along with him.  And to fulfill girls dreams of having their own personal assistant, Hologram Barbie will offer girls the ability to personalize how this virtual Barbie looks and have her remind girls of important events like parties or every day occurrences like brushing her teeth.  Of course there will be new versions of interactive toys from the Spin Master Zoomer brand like Show Pony and Tiny Pups, as well as a Minion MiP Turbo Dave and Chippies by Wow Wee.  VTech’s DX2 Smart Watch has been redesigned to look more like parent versions and features a swivel camera for selfies.  Even traditional toy brands like Play-Doh are getting a tech upgrade; in Play-Doh Touch Shape to Life Studio, kids can scan in their creations and interact through an app on a mobile device. 

Given that Collectibles were one of the fastest growth categories this past year, it is no surprise to see many new lines showcased at Toy Fair.   Take BrickHeadz by Lego, a larger chunkier version of mini-figures with many more pieces to assemble featuring favourite superhero and Disney characters. Mattel featured two new collectible lines Enchantimals (supported by webisodes) & Kuu Kuu Harijuku (Gwen Stefani’s animated TV show on Nickelodeon), while Hasbro also has a new collectible girls line, Hanazuki: Full of Treasures, centered around a new You Tube series and a toy line including a mood bracelet and charm like treasures to collect. For boys comes a line of collectibles from Jazwares based on the successful online game Roblox, featuring user generated content. From the successful launch of Spin Master’s Hatchimals this past fall comes a lower price point line of Colleggtibles; tiny plush that hatch from an egg when the child interacts with the toy.  Finally, I would be remiss not to mention a few line extensions from Shopkins, the collectible brand that rose to success this past year.  Cutie Cars are die-cast vehicles that kids can collect which come with a mini-Shopkin that fits right into the car.  There will also be additional Shoppie dolls to collect as well as Shopkins collectibles featuring the Disney Princess and Minnie licenses.

Finally, it was clear this year more than ever that toy companies are recognizing the demand from millennial parents for toys that are gender neutral and that also are inclusive when it comes to ethnicity.  Take Hasbro’s Baby Alive brand; this year for the first time it will feature a baby doll that says both ‘mommy’ and ‘daddy’, as well as an assortment of dolls featuring different ethnicities.  Additionally, Mattel’s American Girl brand launched a new doll featuring a boy named Logan to add to the collection, and of course their Barbie Fashionistas line has been incredibly successful this past year with the addition of not only multiple ethnicities to choose from but also different body types and sizes.

The competition is definitely heating up and will once again it will be an interesting year to see which manufacturers and brands end up on top!


January 17, 2017

Did you see what happened to the European toy market during Christmas week?

Did toy sales in the UK really increase 33% over Christmas week last year? Did France really jump 29%? And Germany, is it possible that toy sales spiked 47%?

Granted, I may have contributed to this days-before-Christmas madness myself because on December 23, I gave in and bought that radio-controlled car my youngest child coveted and which I had been resisting. Did everyone else in Europe have a similar experience?

In short, yes.

Let me set the scene: Weeks 48 and 49 were generally glum across Europe, as NPD’s weekly data make clear. Week 50, the year’s biggest week for toys in many countries, was decent.

And then came week 51.

It was frankly astounding. I know that I finished my shopping that week and bought my stocking fillers, taking advantage of being off-work for the holiday. Did everyone else do the same?

Of course, we knew that week 51 would be up over 2015 because Christmas Day fell on a Sunday this year, leaving a full week to shop before Christmas. In 2015, Christmas Day fell on a Friday, which means shoppers had two more days this year than last year. And two more days make a big difference when it comes to sales.

But two more days can’t entirely explain this. Here’s what also happened: There was no clear driver in the toys market this year and, importantly, on-line shopping may have skewed the shopping season.

Last year, we had Frozen and we had Star Wars driving the market. This year was more of an open playing field- with the exception of the global hunt for Hatchimals - so people didn’t decide quite as quickly. They waited. Apparently they waited until Christmas week.

And on-line shopping allowed them to wait with confidence. They trusted retailers in-time-for-Christmas deadlines and procrastinated until then. They trusted Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s click-and-collect deadlines; the pick-up slots on the final days were sold out. And of course, brick-and-mortar stores stayed open too, like Auchan, that closed at 11 pm on December 23.

So, what will happen in 2017? Will retailers open on Christmas Eve, which falls on a Sunday this year? Will on-line sites arrange for delivery on that Sunday? Personally I promise to be more organized…


December 13, 2016

Can Black Friday reshape the European toy market?

Black Friday is not a tradition in Europe.

In fact, it makes no cultural sense. We do not celebrate Thanksgiving. It is a working day. We do not rise at dawn to shop the Friday after Thanksgiving. It is a working day.

“What is Black Friday?” my mother asked me this year. “Explain it to me.”

Fair question.

But even though it makes no sense, Black Friday has become an event in Europe. It’s just a different event. Not only is it often called Black Friday in English, rather than, say, Vendredi Noir, but confusingly, it often doesn’t refer to a Friday at all. In the U.S., Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday in November, and Black Friday is specifically the day after. Here in Europe, we have Black Friday weekend sales or even Black Friday week sales.

Still, the concept seems to be catching on. More and more European retailers are participating, and some are reporting increased shopping. Argos, the largest retailer for toys in the U.K., reported that online sales were up 50% over Black Friday 2015.

And that raises some interesting questions for the European toy market. In the U.S., Black Friday is traditionally known as the day that retailers start to turn a profit (hence the name, as they move from red ink to black ink). It is the day that kicks off the holiday shopping season, with toys a huge part of that. Could Black Friday do the same in Europe?

If so, it could spread out toy sales over more weeks, which could be a particular boon in markets where consumers are known to shop at the last minute, such as Spain. This would not only help retailers resupply, which is impossible in a last-minute rush, but could it also increase the actual market size? With more weeks spent shopping, might people actually buy more?

Or could it delay consumers even further as they wait for the massive discounts before starting their holiday shopping and reduce market size as a result?

In the U.S., big-ticket items and electronics do particularly well on Black Friday. Might Black Friday change the mix of toys bought in Europe? Already, electronics retailers such as Currys PC World are reporting Black Friday sales in Europe up 40% over 2015.

And then there’s me. I shopped on Black Friday. I spent more than I planned on gifts for my children, but I also got more than I expected. I’m much poorer, but I’m a happy shopper. The data seems to indicate that I’m not alone.



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