Exclusive: NPD details the toy market’s overall performance in 2020

Published on: 9th December 2020

Moneeba Baloch looks back at how the toy market has fared over the past year and looks ahead to how the festive trading season might be affected by the latest lockdown measures.


If someone had told me at the beginning of the year that I would be writing this article whilst in a national lockdown to help fight a global pandemic, I would never have believed it. Reflecting on this year, it’s hard not to think about the lives lost and impacted by the Covid-19 virus. For the overall UK toy market however, things have not been so bleak. Sales have benefitted from parents and children spending more time at home and the industry is operating in a market worth over £1b so far and growing by +8% year-on-year up to week 1st November. With just six shopping weeks left before the end of the year at the time of writing, one thing is for certain – Christmas this year is going to be like no other that has gone before. Customers have been encouraged to get organised and shop early to avoid the Christmas rush but what does that mean for the UK toy market? It has proved relatively resilient so far and has grown more than twice as fast as the European market, so a positive finish for the year is anticipated, but how positive?

Q4 got off to a strong start with October 2020 up +9% versus the same period last year. Consumers reacted to the shop early message and growth for the month was driven by Construction, Games & Fashion Dolls. Building Sets was the top gaining category for the month, adding just under £8.5m to the market, while Fashion Dolls and Accessories added a further £5m. We usually see the Games category pick up in November and December; after enjoying such a strong performance during Lockdown 1, the category has started its seasonal pick up early and continues to add value to the market. Family Board/Action Games gained £1.5m for the month, while both Children & Adult Games also showed growth. Consumers were not only shopping early but were buying higher priced items than they did in October last year, with growth across all price points over £30 in October.

Looking at the other end of the spectrum, lower price point items have not been quite as successful this year. Collectibles now account for 10% of total toys and are worth just over £140m, but we have seen this sector decline. Nearly a quarter of sales have been lost this year due to impulse purchasing and footfall being impacted by the closure of brick and mortar stores. However, as we headed into Lockdown 2, the average number of collectible items on range did increase, as supermarkets continued to trade.

The toy market has performed better than we could have ever expected this year and has remained resilient. Historically, we know that December accounts for a quarter of annual sales, so the full year performance may yet change a lot from our current +8% trend. Based on where we are at the moment, if the rest of the season remains flat, we will still finish the year on a positive trend. We’ve seen consumers re-discover toy favourites this year, such as classic games and construction items – all key items for this Christmas period. The challenge now is to continue the success into 2021.

Read the full NPD article in the December issue of Toy World, here.


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