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US toy industry experienced 19% growth in first three quarters of 2020, says NPD

Published on: 3rd November 2020

Stimulus cheques and changing consumer behaviour have driven strong toy sales. 

NPD US toy industry

US toy industry dollar sales increased by +19.1% or +$2.2b to $13.7b in the first three quarters of the year (January – September), reports The NPD Group.

Growth has been driven in large part by changing consumer behaviour associated with widespread lockdowns and school closures, as well as the onset of federal stimulus cheques. From January to March, total toy industry sales were flat; however, after most stores and schools closed in the third week of March, sales increased +17% over the next five weeks. The distribution of federal stimulus cheques led to an additional 27% increase in total sales over the 15-week period from 19th April to 1st August. Amazon Prime Day 2020, which grew +54% compared to last year, also contributed to the industry’s overall growth.

“During this unprecedented time of uncertainty, parents and families have turned to toys for entertainment, distraction and joy,” said Juli Lennett, NPD’s toys industry advisor. “The pandemic clearly had a positive impact on toy sales in Q2 and Q3; however, whether that momentum will carry through to the peak holiday shopping season still remains to be seen.”

Year to date, nine of the eleven supercategories posted growth, with eight of the nine experiencing double-digit growth. However, only three outperformed the total toy industry growth: Outdoor & Sports Toys (+31%), Games & Puzzles (+42%), and Building Sets (+30%). Outdoor & Sports Toys, which represented 36% of all dollar gains, continues to be the largest super category with almost $3.5b in sales.

The top properties during the first three quarters of 2020 included L.O.L. Surprise!, Barbie, Star Wars, Marvel Universe, Pokémon, Disney Frozen, Nerf, Hot Wheels, Little Tikes and Paw Patrol. The top 10 properties combined posted +29% growth versus 2019.

“Despite the industry’s strong performance year to date, there are many significant factors that will affect growth into next year and, potentially, beyond,” says Juli. “Whether its rising household debt and high unemployment, lack of additional stimulus payments, or delays in vaccine development/distribution and the potential for additional lockdowns, there are many potential headwinds that the industry will need to address as we continue to navigate these uncharted waters. While these challenges shouldn’t be overlooked, there is also certainly something to be said for the resiliency of the industry and the emotional connection that consumers have to toys, especially during challenging times.”

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