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.
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.
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.
Account Level Reports
These reports enable retailers who choose this option to share their information with approved vendors, allowing vendors to analyze business performance at specific retailers down to the item level in many instances. By making this report available to their vendors, retailers can work together with them to optimize performance. These reports may only be made available with the express permission of the retailer.
Shopping Activity Services
Get access to insights on shopping, browsing, and buying visits across all channels, retailers, categories and demographics. View conversion rate and average spend measures and see how they vary by retailer, season, and demographic. Gain an understanding of where else your customer is shopping and buying.
You have opportunities. You face threats. What you need are smart, quantifiable methods of distinguishing one from the other and maximizing your chances of success. NPD’s Solutions Group includes a team of senior leaders with extensive experience developing and delivering analytic solutions that address strategic marketing, sales, and planning issues.
We combine NPD POS and consumer information, industry expertise, and custom survey research… then add state of the discipline research techniques and methodologies to explain the “why behind the buy”. Through advanced modeling and analytic services, we offer insight into what will happen in the future, not just what has happened in the past, answering your most pressing business questions:
- What consumer segments should we target and why? How do we know if we’re successful over time?
- Which products are hot? How should we respond?
- What’s the sales potential and ROI for my new / revamped product idea?
- What is the optimal feature combination for my product?
- What’s the competitive landscape and where are my best opportunities (Food)?
- How do I monitor my performance in my sales territories, distribution areas, etc.?
- Should we raise or lower prices? By how much? To what end?
- Will our market share grow or do we risk decline? Why?
- What levers should we pull to increase sales and market share?
- Why are some of our stores performing better than others?
- Why do consumers choose our brand? Our competitors’ brands?
- How effective is our advertising? How can we improve it?
- What products should we develop?
- What products should we sell?
- How can we optimize assortment based on local market dynamics?
- What people should we target? Why?
- How do we know if we are successful over time?
See how clients have used our solutions to solve their business challenges in our Solutions Case Study Library.
In mid-August Target made headlines after announcing a phase-out of gender-based signage in certain children’s sections of its store. The move came after an Ohio mom called out the retailer on Twitter for gender designation in its toy aisle, noting signage for “Girls’ Building Sets” next to regular “Building Sets”. Target took action after other consumers joined in the dialogue:
“Over the past year, guests have raised important questions about a handful of signs in our stores that offer product suggestions based on gender. In some cases, like apparel, where there are fit and sizing differences, it makes sense. In others, it may not. Historically, guests have told us that sometimes—for example, when shopping for someone they don’t know well—signs that sort by brand, age or gender help them get ideas and find things faster. But we know that shopping preferences and needs change and, as guests have pointed out, in some departments like Toys, Home or Entertainment, suggesting products by gender is unnecessary. We heard you, and we agree. Right now, our teams are working across the store to identify areas where we can phase out gender-based signage to help strike a better balance.”
Target announced it will begin by removing reference to gender in the Bedding and Toys aisles, including the use of pink, blue, yellow or green paper on the back walls of its shelves.
Recently we’ve written about the concept of gender neutrality as it relates to fashion, apparel, and accessories. In response to an emerging segment of consumers in support of gender fluidity, many brands and retailers are blurring the lines and offering apparel that can be worn by anyone, irrespective of gender.
When we consider gender in the context of toys and children’s products, it brings into question that age-old “nature versus nurture” debate. Do girls like dolls in pink dresses because that’s what stores market and sell to them? Do boys like blue trucks because that’s what they’re encouraged to like when they receive them as gifts from Grandpa? Or is there something innate in humans that accounts for the 96 percent of doll purchases gifted to girls and 90 percent of action figure purchases gifted to boys?
Consider the fact that boys once wore pink. In the mid-19th century, pastel pink and blue were added to the formerly all-white baby palette. Around 1918, a department store proclaimed that pink was for boys, and blue for girls—as pink was considered a stronger color, and blue more delicate. In the 1940s, this color assignment was swapped in response to manufacturer and retailer color interpretations. So this blue/boy pink/girl association was happenstance.
We decided to look at how parents feel about this debate today. In an online poll of U.S. adults conducted through The NPD Group's partner CivicScience, we asked respondents to what degree they agreed with the statement “The toy industry perpetuates gender stereotyping and should be marketing every toy to both boys and girls”.
We found 31 percent of respondents strongly disagreed, 28 percent didn’t have an opinion on the issue, and the rest were divided pretty evenly between strongly agree (14 percent), somewhat agree (14 percent), and somewhat disagree (13 percent). So among the general population, most respondents (44 percent) disagreed with the statement, in favor of marketing toys differently to boys and girls.
However, responses to this question differed drastically for particular segments. For example, 36 percent of females either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, compared to only 18 percent of men. Millennials were even more supportive of gender-neutral toy marketing, with 40 percent in agreement with this statement.
Responses to Question by Segment
There were some other notable correlations in the data. People who think toy companies should practice genderless marketing to kids are 166 percent more likely to be Democrats than Republicans. They’re more likely to support same-sex marriage, be concerned about climate change, and worry about income inequality.
They’re also 136 percent more likely to consume most of their TV content via streaming service, 34 percent more likely to rate price over brand in making a purchase decision, 45 percent more likely to use Facebook daily, and twice as likely to use Instagram daily.
So what does this mean for big box retailers like Target? The proof is in the data. While today most adults may take no issue with gender stereotyping within the toy industry, as Millennials begin to have children of their own and purchase items with kids in mind, retailers would be wise to start adapting their marketing strategies to this segment’s set of evolving wants and needs.
Insights and Opinions from our Analysts and Experts
Last month The NPD Group issued a press release focusing on the overall growth of the Canadian toy market in the first quarter of 2016. The release stated that the Canadian toy industry was relatively flat in Q1, posting an increase of just 1 per cent. However, the release also went out to suggest that the so-called “Target Effect” highly skewed growth metrics for Q1. For those of you who are not as familiar with the Canadian market, in 2015 Target announced that it would be closing all of its 133 Canadian stores and exiting the market. After the announcement the company swiftly implemented a number of markdown sales to reduce inventory and curb losses. The clearance sales led to a spike in toy sales, which thereby highly inflated growth in the Canadian toy industry. In fact, as a result of Target’s strategy, toy sales skyrocketed 23 per cent in Q1 of 2015 – hence the “Target Effect”.
Why does this matter?
Because when the inflated growth from Q1 of 2015 is removed the data suggests that the Canadian toy industry was in fact not flat, but actually grew by approximately 7 per cent in Q1 of 2016. This is quite the substantial difference. And while the “Target Effect” is a rare occurrence, it goes to show how easily data can be manipulated and misunderstood. For those of you who take great care in designing programs and strategies based on analytical data, it is also a good reminder to ensure you thoroughly understand the numbers that form the base of your decision making. At NPD, we work diligently to fully understand the story “behind” the numbers; to fully appreciate not only what ostensibly seems to be the case on the surface, but to understand the often overlooked nuances that can mean the difference between success and failure to your business.
The good news is that you are NOT alone. NPD has a number of industry experts who are able to guide you through the data the matters most to your business. So if you are unsure of how your data analysis is stacking up, simply reach out – we’re here to help!
After the record-setting success of Furby, the robotic pet that communicated and ate with the help of an app, sales of connected toys in Europe have slumped, down 18% year-on-year in 2015.
Obviously, a phenomenal success like Furby, which topped European toy markets in 2013 and 2014, sets up difficult year-on-year comparisons. But Furby was also successful in the U.S. and Canada, and in those markets, connected toys were up 82% in 2015.
So why isn’t Europe buying connected toys?
Price is possibly part of the answer as connected toys tend to be more expensive. On the other hand, high-end toys (€100 or higher) are a growth segment, so price doesn’t entirely explain it.
Another reason may be that connected toys are not widely stocked at mainstream toy stores in Europe. This might be linked to retailers being cautious in reaction to concerns from some consumer groups about data privacy and from we parents worried about too much screen-time for our kids. However, since internet sales of toys continue to soar in Europe, determined buyers can find what they want online. Perhaps, there simply hasn’t been an overarching popular concept post-Furby, and European consumers haven’t been wowed by a connected toy since.
But they will be; and most likely soon.
Whether we like it or not, toy trends often spread from the U.S. to Europe, and in the U.S., the connected toy segment is booming, thanks in part to toys such as Meccanoids from Spin Master, Sphero’s BB8, and Anki Overdrive. And in looking at the aisles of the New York toy fair in February, there are many more to come.
In other words, the important question isn’t if there will be other connected hits in Europe, but rather what they will be, when they will erupt, and – of course – which retailers will be smart enough to stock them first.
For Canadian families, March Break is one of the most anticipated times of the year. As the frigid winter days slowly come to an end and the clocks “spring forward”, students and parents alike begin to look forward to a week of rest, relaxation, and play.
That said, perhaps it is somewhat unsurprising that – aside from the holiday season – March break is one of the most lucrative times of year for the Canadian toy industry. In 2015, there was an 18 per cent lift in sales the week of March Break compared to the week prior. With this year’s March Break in full swing, we can once again expect a similar surge in toy sales as parents make the annual pilgrimage to toy stores in an attempt to pick up items that will help make the week more enjoyable for kids of all ages.
The top selling toy categories during March Break in 2015 were Building Sets, Sport Toys, Preschool Toys, Games and Arts/Crafts. Furthermore, the most popular brands and licenses were Disney Frozen, Star Wars, Barbie, Minecraft and Nerf. The most popular price points were $20 and under, suggesting that parents do not invest as heavily in toys during March Break as they do for Birthdays, Christmas or other occasions.
This year the unseasonably warm weather is also expected to lead to an increase in sales of Outdoor Toys, such as Little Tikes outdoor playgrounds, Scooters/bikes, and Sports Toys. That said, new toys are often the most purchased during March Break. Some of the newest toys to hit the shelves this year are:
- Building Sets: Lego Ninjago, Lego Nexo Knights, new Star Wars building sets: Rey’s Speeder, Kylo Ren’s Command Shuttle
- Dolls: Ever After High Dragon Games Dolls, Monster High Great Scarrier Reef, new Disney Descendents, Shopkins Series 4
- Games: Minecraft Card Game, Spot It Shopkins Card Game, Star Wars Perplexus, Star Wars Bop It R2D2 Game, Pie Face Game, NHL 2015-16 Series Tin
- Action Figures: Star Wars The Force Awakens, DC Comics Superman vs Batman
- Crafts: Qixels, Bunchems, PlayDoh
- Outdoor: Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Scooter, Razor E100 Electric Scooter, Nerf Rival, Little Tikes Jr Jump N’ Slide
For parents looking to keep their kids occupied during the March Break holiday, there are also quite a few events going on at key toy retailers. Interested parents can check out the following links for more details:
Chapters Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/march-break-2015/events/
No matter what your family ends up doing this March Break, be sure to enjoy the time spent together. As is often the case with long anticipated holidays, they tend to go-by far too quickly!
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