Exclusive: NPD looks at the UK toy market in recent months

Published on: 11th August 2020

Melissa Symonds looks at how the UK toy market has fared during lockdown and as high street stores reopen. 

NPD UK toy market

Melissa reports that, although the UK lockdown due to coronavirus has had a significant impact on everyday life, the UK toy market has been remarkably resilient. Helped by an already developed online channel and strong purchasing and delivery options, the 13 week lockdown period saw the UK toy market grow +17% in value, or an additional +£58m. Comparing this to the pre-lockdown decline trend of -5% or loss of £12m, it appears that lockdown was actually good for the market. At the time of writing, we have three weeks of sales data with brick and mortar stores open and the UK toy market has continued to grow, albeit at a slower pace, up +9% in value, adding £8m compared to the same period a year ago. However, as always, the top-line numbers don’t tell the whole story and a deeper dive will help to explore what happened – and what may happen during the remainder of 2020.

While value has increased during lockdown, it is important to note that volume has not followed the same trend. During the 13-week period, volume sales declined by -14%, which means that 6m fewer toys were sold. Even since stores have reopened,there has been a volume decline compared with the same period in 2019, although a slightly slower rate of decline, with volume down -11% or 1m fewer toys.

Since non-essential stores have reopened, lower priced toys have once again increased their share of the market, up to 33%, but this is still below their share prior to lockdown. This has been welcome news for the Plush and Vehicles categories, which over index on the under £10 price point and have seen their performance grow since the easing of lockdown. Indeed, nine out of eleven supercategories have seen value growth post-lockdown, with seven also seeing volume growth (compared with just two supercategories experiencing volume growth during lockdown). Youth Electronics, Building Sets, Plush and Arts & Crafts have all enjoyed double-digit volume growth.

The largest sales period of the year is stil to come, with Q4 accounting for 48% of annual sales in 2019. However, some big questions remain. What percentage of the lockdown sales were incremental to the category, or were they just pulling later purchases to an earlier point of the year? This seems to be the case with Outdoor toys, where many of the outdoor categories saw sales picking up weeks earlier than usual. It remains to be seen how much it has impacted other categories such as Games and Puzzles. As the industry’s focus now turns to Christmas, there is still much that can change for each toy category, price point and total industry. Whatever happens, 2020 will certainly be remembered as an interesting year.

Read the full in-depth NPD article in the August issue of Toy World, here.


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