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

NPD forecasts growth of approximately 6.5 percent for U.S. toy industry in 2016

Port Washington, NY, November 1, 2016 – 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.

Games and Puzzles the fastest-growing supercategory thus far in 2016

Seven of 11 toy supercategories have posted year-over-year growth through September. Of the seven, the fastest growing is Games and Puzzles, up 16 percent, followed by Dolls and Action Figures & Accessories, both up 12 percent. Within Games and Puzzles, every type of game is fueling growth, from family strategy and board games, to brainteasers and adult games, as well as preschool games. With the Pie Face Game and UNO Card Game both among this year’s top 10 selling items year-to-date, it is highly likely that toys tied to family fun experiences will be on many people’s wish list this holiday season.

“The trend in games is definitely one to watch, and it will continue to flourish as families look for more together time,” said Juli Lennett, senior vice president, U.S. toys industry analyst, The NPD Group.

U.S. Toys Supercategory Performance
Dollar Change, January-September 2016

U.S. Toys Supercategory Performance

Collectibles likely to be big this Christmas

The collectibles craze has built significant momentum heading into the fourth quarter. Sales of collectibles, which fall under playset dolls and action figures, were up 64 percent, or over $220 million, through September. Approximately one-quarter of the $220 million is tied to blind bags, which are estimated to have grown about 80 percent so far this year.

“Within collectibles, there are a lot of new choices, and blind bags especially will make great stocking stuffers this Christmas. Looking at all the new collectibles and blind bags launched this fall, I expect continued strong growth of this segment,” said Lennett.

Healthy living is hot, even in the cooler months

The healthy living trend is a likely growth driver in many non-toy categories NPD tracks, from athletic footwear and activewear, to digital fitness and fresh food consumption. It is also tied to 9 percent year-to-date growth in Outdoor & Sports toys, the largest toy supercategory with dollar sales representing about a quarter of all toy industry sales. On a dollar-basis only, Outdoor & Sports is the industry’s strongest growing thus far in 2016.

“I believe some of this explosion in Outdoor & Sports is a result of millennials seeking a healthier, outdoor lifestyle for their kids,” said Lennett. “I expect that the healthy living trend will continue, and it will be important for toy companies to engage with this trend, and look for ways to do so even in the fall and winter months.”

Higher-priced items will brighten growth this holiday season

While collectibles such as blind bags may be popular stocking stuffers, higher-priced toys are likely to be the presents wrapped under the tree this holiday season. Items including the Star Wars Sphero App Controlled BB-8 and Star Wars Millennium Falcon are among the top 10 toys year-to-date, while the newly-released Hatchimals, an interactive toy that hatches from an egg, which released on October 7, was already among the top five best-selling toys for the week ending October 8, 2016.

“The categories that I expect will provide the most growth in November and December will be connected toys, including drones, cars, and robotics; and wheels, such as battery operated ride-ons, scooters, and hoverboards,” said Lennett. “In prior years, there were one or two hot toys for holiday, but today there is not any one item. While this may create competition for manufacturers, it also presents many opportunities to grow the toy industry in the fourth quarter.”

In terms of how holiday shopping will play out this season, Lennett says, “I believe we will see a stronger December this year because there are two extra shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2016 over 2015, and one of those extra shopping days is a Saturday. As we saw from toy purchases last year, consumers were out in full force the week before and the week of Christmas. I expect to see this last minute shopping behavior for toys again this year.”

Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Retail Tracking Service, January-September 2016 vs. 2015
Data is representative of retailers that participate in The NPD Group’s Retail Tracking Service. NPD’s current estimate is that the Retail Tracking Service represents approximately 80% of the U.S. retail market for Toys.

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