With the last few shopping days before Christmas upon us, the toy sector is holding its breath in anticipation of a final rush to the stores. Immune to the cut-backs in consumer spend until recently, sales of toys decreased by 6% in November and by 4% in the first week of December compared to this time last year, according to latest research by The NPD Group.
The UK is not the only market with disappointing sales figures this Christmas season. The trend is mirrored elsewhere in Europe, with sales year-to-date to November 2012 down 14% in Spain, 8% in France and 3% in Italy. Germany is the only market to have seen a slight increase, posting a 1% growth in the same time frame.
Frederique Tutt, toy expert at The NPD Group, explains: “In 2011 we saw the emergence of a new trend where consumers delayed their purchases until the last three weeks before Christmas in the hope of last-minute discounts. This meant that Christmas week was the biggest sales week of 2011 in terms of revenues, whereas previously sales were spread evenly over the last five weeks of the year. This behaviour means that the timing of Christmas this year, which falls on the last Tuesday of the month, impacts the all-important sales figures, as this year consumers have two more shopping days compared to 2011 to make their toy purchases.”
Between this ‘wait for the discounts’ attitude and the calendar impact, The NPD Group is expecting this December to set a new sales record, where the last three weeks of the month might reach £400m in sales.
Frederique added: “In this environment, the timing of Christmas has a significant impact on the sales performance of the sector. Last year there was one additional trading day before Christmas – and on that one day, sales increased by more than £20m – more than enough to compensate for the decrease at the start of December.”
In terms of the best performing products so far, pre-school tablets remain popular for the second year running, as well as the highly anticipated return of Furby, despite the ‘sold out’ rumours.