The Christmas Countdown 25:12 report

Published on: 14th January 2014

Toy World presents The Christmas Countdown 25:12 report, which looks at the behavioral impact of peak-season marketing programmes on consumers. Ruth Clement, marketing strategy director at Full Steam Consulting, reports.christmascountdown300

Is Christmas getting later?
Every year the same question is asked by many in the toy trade, which is not surprising given coverage of the topic in the media when dealing with the UK’s total sales trends. But what about toys specifically

The report reveals that twice as many parents said they were buying toys for Christmas earlier in 2013 than those who claimed that they would buy toys later. In total, 84% said they would shop for toys in 2013 earlier or at the same time as in 2012.

The shift to later toy shopping has been gradual, at times attributable to the day of the week on which 25th December falls. The findings in Christmas Countdown 25:12 suggest that the trend is not accelerating at the same pace as in other consumer goods industries.

Why were there more parents claiming that they were buying toys earlier than later? One explanation could be that a drop in disposable income has meant that parents are willing to plan further ahead in order to spend ‘wisely’, controlling the budget and setting more criteria on the gifts they buy. Those parents who claimed that they would shop for toys later than in 2012 are similarly adapting to reduced disposable income, but in holding out for last minute deals, these shoppers are less likely to commit fully to their child’s requests and more flexible as to how closely or not they adhere to the wish list.

The wish list, when created, drives value up at Christmas. When a wish list is created (as opposed to a verbal request), there are twice as many items on the list and shoppers who have a list buy twice as many toys as those who don’t have one.

When is toy selection a “done deal”?
86% of parents know what their child wants for Christmas by the middle of November. Making requests, gathering information and compiling wish lists starts in earnest during October half-term.

Children aged five plus will follow many of the following steps from half term onwards:

  • Check catalogues (Argos) to get hold of the correct name of a toy seen on a TV ad, or alternatively write down the key features and brand name before they forget.
  • Draft a list, refine it and develop their persuasive pitch they’ll give their parents.
  • Discuss their options with friends at school the week after half term.
  • Intensively evaluate each toy using catalogues (Argos) from half term onwards.
  • Affirm their choices as they are repeatedly exposed to the TV advertising for them.
  • Show their parents the advertisements as soon they appear on TV to reinforce the message.
  • Use grocery store trips as an opportunity to view or show the product on shelf.

However use of the internet in this process is still not mainstream practice and is incremental to the catalogue rather than a replacement. One in five children show their parents what they want for Christmas on the internet compared to one in every two children using a catalogue (Argos) to do this or similarly a TV ad. One in ten used the internet to create a wish list specifically, whilst almost every child used a catalogue (Argos).

What did kids ask for in 2013?
The ‘usual suspects’ remain in the top 10 list of brands requested from early October right the way through to December. For boys, the brands most notable for their persistent presence in the top 10 are: Lego, Hotwheels, Ben 10 and Playmobil. For girls, the persistent brands are: Barbie, Hello Kitty, Disney Princess, with rising stars – Princess Sofia and Lego Friends – making regular appearances. Furby’s inclusion on the list was sporadic; it ranked outside the top 10 throughout October, reaching and gradually going up the top 10 in November.

Where did shoppers buy or intend to buy from in 2013?
The new retail landscape in 2013 will be validated when NPD release Consumer Panel data in March 2014, however
Christmas Countdown 25:12 data does provide evidence for what many toy companies have observed already in their own sales data: Amazon and Smyths Toys are in rapid ascendency up the retailer ranks in sales value, overtaking at least one retailer each in Q4 and also gaining share for the full year;

Data shows that there is significant volume of shoppers claiming to have bought or intending to buy toys for Christmas in Amazon and Smyths Toys, with sustained strength throughout the entire fourth quarter.

The retailer which parents were most likely to say they intended to buy from or had bought from was Amazon, with an 8% lead over Argos. 79% of all online toy research starts with Amazon, 25% with Argos, and 25% with Google.

Smyths Toys saw a strong surge of purchase intent, in response to its advertising campaign, and an equal number of parents claimed that they had bought toys from Smyths during those advertising weeks as parents who claimed they had bought from Toys R Us.

For more in depth insight into what, where, when, how and why parents set about shopping for toys for Christmas 2013 or to discover how your brands performed in their attempt to get on to the wish list, contact

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