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Star Wars, Pokémon, and LOL Surprise help US toys sales surge $3.5bn for 2020

Entertainment brands Star Wars, Marvel, Pokémon, and LOL Surprise have been named among the top properties of 2020 to have helped US toy sales surge by $3.5bn according to the latest results from the NPD Group.

Combined, the top five properties – all the aforementioned plus Mattel’s fashion doll brand, Barbie – accounted for 13 per cent of all US toy sales on the year.

In an unprecedented year for the global toy industry, the NPD Group has attributed the 16 per cent sales growth of the toy sector for 2020 to diverted disposable income as parents – spending more time at home with their children – place greater value on play and toys, spending money saved from restrictions imposed in the fight against the pandemic.

For the year, toy sales in the US generated $25.1 billion, an increase of 16 per cent on the year prior.

Nationwide lockdowns and restrictions across the US saw disposable income diverted from usual mainstream entertainment avenues to toys, as well as the onset of federal stimulus checks.

While toy sales through mid-March 2020 were flat on 2019, widespread lockdown measures led to an abrupt increase in sales. This was amplified by the distribution of stimulus checks beginning in April, resulting in the strongest month of growth for the year in May (an increase of 38 per cent).

The NPD Group states that toy industry growth peaked again in October with an increase of 33 per cent when the holiday season kicked off with Amazon Prime Day along with other retailer deals the same week.

“2020 was an unprecedented year for the US toy industry. The growth we’ve seen in the toy industry speaks to the fact that parents are willing to put their children’s happiness above all else,” said Juli Lennett, vice president and industry advisor, US Toys, The NPD Group.

“The industry’s resiliency is very much underpinned by the reality that, in times of hardship, families look to toys to help keep their children engaged, active, and delighted. Put simply, toys are a big part of the happiness equation.”

A major theme of the US retail scene over the course of the past year has been the surge in online shopping. Some retail closures and consumer hesitancy towards shopping in stores led to a surge in online toy sales. In the first three quarters of 2020, the online channel gained 10 share points from the 23 per cent share in 2019, leading to 75 per cent growth in overall online toy sales year over year.

Not only did pure play online retailers do well, but brick and mortar retailers that had buy online, in-store pickup, or curbside options, also outperformed.

The top dollar growth sub-segments in 2020 were sports toys, which includes skates, skateboards and scooters (up 31 per cent), fashion dolls and accessories ( up 56 per cent), building sets (up 26 per cent), games (up 29 per cent), and summer seasonal toys (up 24 per cent).

The top properties of 2020 included L.O.L. Surprise!, Barbie, Star Wars, Pokémon, and Marvel Universe. The top five properties combined accounted for 13 per cent of all toy sales on the year.

While units declined in seven of the 11 super-categories, average selling price increased in every super-category. The increase in average price was a key driver of the growth in dollar sales and was driven by a shift in product mix to higher-priced categories.

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