Innovative new toys appeal to girls through social media and mobile apps

Published on: 1st November 2012

New data released by The NPD Group shows that toy makers targeting the UK market are looking to girls to help them drive sales in the run-up to Christmas.

Figures from The NPD Group for DreamToys show girls ages 7-to-10 are one of the most dynamic targets for toy makers. UK toy sales to this group increased by 19% to £330m in the 12 months ending June 2012. An indicator of the popularity of girls toys, sales made ‘on request’ by little girls across all age groups have increased by 11% over the same time period while sales ‘on request’ for boys were only up 1%.

Dolls, the core category for girls, has experienced an increase in sales of 17% year to date through September 2012 when compared to the same time period last year. Illustrating the ‘modernity’ of today’s toys, the best-selling fashion doll item is Monster High, from Mattel, which currently ranks in the Top 10 best-selling UK toys at retail (week of 14th October). Another category that explains the sudden growth of girls’ toy sales is Building Sets, which have almost doubled in the 12 months ending June 2012, and benefited from the launch of LEGO Friends, which features five girl mini-figurines.

Girl toy spend catching up with the boys
According to conventional wisdom, girls tend to part from toys before boys, with fashion, accessories and music attracting more of their attention and share of wallet. However, NPD Group data shows that the toy spend gap between girls and boys in the 7-to-10 age group has shrunk to just 10% in the first six months of 2012. In the past, the figure has always been higher; in 2008, for example, the gap was 20%.

Toy manufacturers have also updated their toy ranges to make them more relevant to girls, as evidenced by the popularity of Moshi Monsters, the best-selling license in the UK toy market this year. Pre-teens first experience Moshi Monsters on the website, where millions enjoy a variety of safe networking features, and can then buy Moshi Monsters toys, accessories, games, artwork and much more.

From comeback Furby, it’s an ‘Appy’ Christmas
A big ‘comeback’ toy this year – the cute and cuddly Furby Hot & Cool range from Hasbro – is mostly targeted at girls, too. This top seller in the UK in 1998 and 1999 was re-released in August 2012 and is already the number 2 best-selling toy in the week ending October 14th. But this year’s Furby owes its success to a mobile app that lets children translate Furby’s eccentric language into English, and select food for the toy. This dimension of marketing is radically new as toy manufacturers are also becoming content producers. For example, Furby is an ‘App toy’ that interacts with mobile devices; it leads the new era of toys offering interaction with mobile applications.

Frederique Tutt, global toy industry analyst with The NPD Group, said: “This renewed interest from girls is the result of high profile launches with strong marketing campaigns. When it comes to toys, the girls are definitely back in town. But the big new trend is that manufacturers have reached out to their audience and offered more relevant content with social media capabilities and mobile apps. Their ranges are collectible and their themes are fashionable. They have found the magic recipe that encourages girls in the 7-to-10 age group to stay engaged with toys.”

Monster High and Moshi Monsters are two examples of this new social media trend with YouTube launches, websites and content updated monthly with new storylines.

Frederique added: “Manufacturers are capturing the imagination of pre-teen girls with content around the toys themselves. So they are creating more than a toy – they are creating a social media platform that gives the toys a sense of reality and identity. It’s the unique blend of social media, content, innovation and technology that is helping toy manufacturers keep girls in the toy market at a time when they would usually be ready to ‘leave Toyland’.”

2012 best sellers so far:


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