UK toy market remains resilient despite challenging economic conditions

Published on: 23rd January 2024

As Toy Fair 2024 marks the show’s 70th anniversary, Circana has presented data showing sustained growth in several key toy categories in 2023, demonstrating resilience in the UK’s £3.5b toy market despite a decline of -5%.

CircanaThe British Toy & Hobby Association (BTHA) and Circana, formerly known as The NPD Group, have presented their annual industry insights at the 70th Toy Fair. Held at Olympia London from the 23rd to 25th January 2024, revealing positive trends in the UK toy market.

Despite the continued challenging economic conditions in the UK throughout 2023 reducing consumers discretionary spending power, the UK toy market demonstrated resilience, with a total value of £3.5Bn sales. Although the market experienced a decline of -5% in value, consumers’ demand for toys remains strong, with several toy categories achieving growth.

Interestingly, sales of toys priced £15 to £20 was the only price category gaining sales showing that consumers opt for more mid-point items in an economic downturn. However, over 63.5% of toy units sold are still priced under £10, contributing to a significant 28% of the market’s overall value. This signals that affordability and value for money are top priorities for consumers during these uncertain times.

Buoyed by top toy movie blockbusters, Licensed Toys continued to play a vital role in the market dynamics of 2023. The sector reported sustained growth for the fifth consecutive year, with market share increasing to 32% from 26% in 2020, surpassing last year’s highest-ever market share by 1%. Looking ahead, the market is expected to stabilise in 2024, with a greater emphasis on evergreen licenses and original toy brands. This shift presents an excellent opportunity for companies to showcase the strength of their own brands and foster innovation in the industry.

In 2023, Plush Toys, Games & Puzzles and Building Sets experienced notable growth within the UK toy market. Plush Toys, which was a top three sales driver in the previous year, recorded an impressive 11% growth in 2023, making it the strongest performing category of 2023. The fastest gaining subclass within this category was Traditional Plush, further contributing to its success. Moreover, the Squishmallows Plush 8” Assortment emerged as the top-selling item in 2023, priced under £10 with an average selling price of £9.01. This highlights the enduring appeal of plush toys for UK consumers and emphasises the importance of accessible pricing in the toy market. Collectibles, another notable category, saw a positive increase of +3%, reaching a worth of £288m. Collectibles accounted for 20.9% of the overall market, solidifying its significance among consumers.

Commenting on the key report findings and insights, Kerri Atherton, head of Public Affairs at the BTHA, said: “With people facing difficult times financially, these figures are not surprising and are in common with many other similar consumer goods industries. The sustained growth in key categories, like Plush and Licensed toys, as well as growth in Games & Puzzles and Building Sets, illustrate continued strong demand for toys and illustrates the resilience of the UK toy market.”

Kerri added: “Looking ahead to 2024, this shows there are opportunities for toy companies launching new and exciting products, with a focus on value for money and affordability a key trend.”

Another intriguing insight from the report reveals the emergence of the consumer segment known as Kidults (12+ Age Group). Remarkably, the Kidult toy market is now worth a staggering £1b, having contributed 28.7% of the UK toy market’s value and experiencing an impressive +6% increase in growth in 2023. Notably, Collectibles, Building Sets and Games & Puzzles are the key categories that resonate with this demographic, closely followed by Plush and Action Figures.

Offering insights behind the emerging Kidult trend, Melissa Symonds, executive director, UK Toys, Circana, added: “The emergence of the Kidult category as a growing consumer segment, contributing to over a quarter of the toy market’s value, is an exciting development. The report findings suggest that amidst these challenging times, adults are seeking out escapism activities that tap into their childhood, evoking a more carefree time in their lives. This inclination towards toy categories that fulfil this need not only indulges their nostalgia but also positively contributes to their mental wellbeing.”

Toy Fair 2024 opens today at Olympia London. For more information, click here.

Toy World is exhibiting on Stand B3 – be sure to drop by and say hello if you have time.



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