FEATURE: Toy Views

More than 384 million toys were sold during 2011, with the total market up three per cent year-on-year to 2.96 billion. The editor of MCV’s sister publication ToyNews, Samantha Loveday, gives us an overview of the business…

IS THE toy industry really recession proof?” is a question I’ve been asked many times.

My answer is always to a certain extent, yes”. Parents will not stop spending money on their children. That’s a fact borne out by the figures achieved by the market last year – but make no mistake, the business worked bloody hard to get them.


From fresh twists on traditional favourites through to top name licensed items, the arrival of big ticket pre-school tablets to a surge in popularity for the pocket-friendly 1.99 blind bags, and even embracing the old enemy of video games, the toy industry certainly couldn’t be accused of resting on its laurels in 2011.

The total toy market finished the year up three per cent in value terms to achieve sales of 2.96 billion, according to NPD. More than 384 million toys were sold during 2011 and, out of the ten super categories tracked by NPD, the three fastest growing were building sets (up 20 per cent), outdoor (up 12 per cent) and dolls (up eight per cent).

As you might expect in the toy business, December is the most important month, with value up four per cent, boosted by the fact Christmas Eve fell on a Saturday (notably, an additional 13 million worth of toys were sold, making week 51 the biggest week of the year for toys). However, volume for December overall was flat, with the average toy price up to 10.16 (from 9.79 in 2010) and the top four best selling items all priced over 30.

Interestingly though, for the first part of the year the market was driven by a surge in demand for collectables. Indeed, LEGO Minifigures were the top seller (in both value and volume) for the full year, while Moshi Monsters trading cards, stickers and blind bags, plus Match Attax trading cards were all key fixtures in the top ten best sellers by volume.


But if the first part of the year was all about the pocket money price points, the latter months were defined by the battle of the pre-school tablets. VTech’s Innotab and LeapFrog’s LeapPad proved that parents were still prepared to pay for the right product, and that the toy business could also do technology, and do it well. In fact, their success has spawned a host of similar products due later this year, with front runners being the Kurio from InspirationWorks and Oregon Scientific’s Meep.

Much has also already been covered in MCV on Activision’s Skylanders and its cross-over into mainstream toy retailers (check out our in-depth feature on page 20), and there are other examples which clearly show that the toy and video games sectors have learnt to co-exist together.

Various high profile gamesbrands have been snapped up by toy publishers: construction specialist Mega Brands has enjoyed huge success with its Halo and Need for Speed lines, and has high hopes for its upcoming World of Warcraft line, while Re:creation is also lining up a Halo range for launch later this year.

Sonic, Mario and Pokmon characters have all also found themselves in the toy aisles in various different formats.

As for the next boom area, apptoys (toys which utilise smartphones or tablets) is looking like a good bet for 2012 with a number of firms having launched product already.

On top of this, Moshi Monsters is still soaring, the arrival of the girls’ construction line LEGO Friends saw it add over 200k of sales to 2011 figures in one week and Mattel and Hasbro have terrific line-ups.

Now, did you want to ask me if toys are recession proof again…?

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