UK toy market experiences a challenging 2018 but remains positive for 2019

Published on: 22nd January 2019

The British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA) and the NPD Group announced today at Toy Fair in London that UK toy sales declined by 7% in 2018 to £3.3bn.

The decrease has been attributed to three major factors: the closure of Toys R Us; a poor year for licensed products and a generally difficult year for some on the high street- and all surrounded by the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

Despite the downturn, sectors such as collectibles and dolls performed well marked by 32% and 2% increases respectively. Collectibles, including blind bags or ‘surprise’ products, accounted for one in every four toys sold in the UK. Online sales increased year on year by 8% with online accounting for 34% of all sales.

Natasha Crookes, director of public affairs and communications at the BTHA, commented: “Any sector would be disappointed to announce a dip in the market, but there are mitigating reasons behind the decrease, some of which are one off events, so the UK toy industry has a number of reasons to be very positive for 2019. Losing a major retailer like Toys R Us, played a pivotal role in the downturn during the early part of 2018, due to discounting of stock. Add to that a year with no major film licences, a dip in consumer spending and uncertainty for industry around Brexit, all combining to create a difficult year.”

“However, while all industries go into 2019 with some trepidation around the uncertainty of Brexit, the year ahead looks positive for the toy industry and we expect a return to growth.”

The downturn has been replicated globally with the French, Spanish, US and Australian markets also seeing a year on year decline. The UK remains the largest market in Europe and the fourth largest globally.

Frederique Tutt, global toy analyst at the NPD Group, commented: “2018 was difficult for the toy industries across the world, with several countries seeing a decline. Despite the tough conditions, toy specialist retailers did well in the UK, which was a positive boost to a struggling high street. This perhaps reflects a return to the theatre created by toy shops that bring the wonder of toys alive.”

“Looking forward, 2019 has the potential to produce significant growth for the UK market thanks to a stellar line up of movie releases and the comeback of old favourite brands. We would expect this to drive incremental spend in the category.”

Alongside the market announcement, the BTHA also announced its continued commitment to promoting the value of play. In a press conference, held on the opening morning of Toy Fair, play psychologist Amanda Gummer reiterated the importance of a balanced play diet.


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