Port Washington, NY, April 29, 2020 – The U.S. toy industry saw dollar sales increase by $256 million to $3.6 billion in the first quarter (January 2020 – March 2020), a 7.6 percent increase over the same time period last year*.
While Easter, which occurred a week earlier this year than it did in 2019, may have been responsible for some sales in March, school closings was the key driver of toy industry growth in the first quarter.
Games and Puzzles, Outdoor & Sports Toys, Building Sets, and Arts & Crafts drove the sales increases with growth of 55 percent, 22 percent, 20 percent, and 13 percent, respectively, over the first quarter of 2020.
The top properties for Q1 2020 included L.O.L. Surprise!, Pokémon, Disney Frozen, Barbie, Star Wars, Marvel Universe, Hot Wheels, Nerf, Funko Pop!, and Little Tikes. The top 10 properties combined posted +19 percent growth versus the rest of the market, which was up +5 percent.
Once again, content proved to be king as all four of the top four growth properties (Disney Frozen, Star Wars, Toy Story and Pokémon) were bolstered by movie releases in 2019.
Assessing the Impact of COVID 19
In mid-March, the COVID-19 pandemic led to widespread school and workplace closures throughout the U.S. As a result, many parents had to work from home while, at the same time, manage their children’s schooling and free time. Adding to that, the elimination of organized sports and the negative impact of widespread social isolation on families led many parents to turn to toys for help.
While COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the global economy, it has bolstered the toy industry in the U.S. During the five weeks from March 15 to April 18 the toy industry grew +19 percent vs. +1 percent for the first 10 weeks of the year**. Easter sales were included for both years during this five-week comparison period and, therefore, had no seasonal impact.
Not surprisingly, the strongest dollar growth categories during this five-week time period, contributing 77 percent of the growth, included Games and Puzzles, driven by family board/action games, adult puzzles, card games, and children's games; and Outdoor and Sports Toys, driven by playground equipment, skates/skateboards/scooters, and pools. Building Sets and Arts and Crafts contributed the remaining 23 percent of the growth.
“With organized and school sports cancellations being one of the casualties of COVID-19, parents and children yearned for something to take the place of those outdoor, physical activities. Trampolines and skates/skateboards/scooters fulfilled that need for many families,” said Juli Lennett, NPD’s toys industry advisor, “And with warmer weather approaching, Outdoor and Sports Toys will be the supercategory to watch if lockdowns continue.”
*Source: The NPD Group/ Retail Tracking Service, January-March 2020
**Source: The NPD Group/ Weekly Retail Tracking Service/ Dollar Sales/ Week Ending April 18, 2020