Toys break even following strong December

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. — According to global information company the NPD Group, consumers rewarded the U.S. retail toy industry with a strong December.

Based on data from the NPD Group’s Retail Tracking Service, many shoppers waited until the last two weeks of December to do their holiday toy shopping. Looking at those two weeks, dollar sales were up 18%and unit sales were up 10% when compared to the same time period in 2011.  

Overall, dollar sales for December topped $5 billion for the first time in three years, and were up 1.3% versus the same period in 2011; the data is representative of retailers that participate in the group’s tracking service or approximately 80% of the toy retail market. This was the second consecutive December with revenue growth for the category, as 2011 dollar sales were up 1.5% compared with 2010.

For the year overall, U.S. retail Toy sales totaled $16.5 billion, a slight decline from the $16.6 billion recorded in 2011; again, data is representative of retailers that participate in the group’s tracking service.
 
"Like other categories, toys took a hit in November, caused by waning consumer confidence, concern about fiscal policy and Superstorm Sandy," said Russ Crupnick, SVP, industry analysis, the NPD Group. "Events like these prevented toys from experiencing a better year. The good news is when consumers did break out of their cocoon in late December they flocked to the toys section at their favorite retailers."
 
The toy industry categories in the U.S. with the largest revenue gains in 2012 were building sets, arts and crafts, dolls and infant/preschool, with respective increases of 19.7%, 6.9%, 5.8% and 2.5%. Plush, outdoor and sports toys, vehicles and games/puzzles experienced the most significant declines when compared to 2011, at 12.6%, 8%, 6.2% and 5.8%, respectively. The remaining categories were action figures/accessories and role play, youth electronics and all other toys, which were all flat.

"Another positive note is that we’re seeing consumers willing to trade up to more expensive toys in many of these segments," said Crupnick. "For example, the average price paid for a building set rose 12 percent in 2012, and consumers paid 14 percent more for arts and crafts. This suggests that consumers are willing to pay more for toys that they perceive as being beneficial to children’s play or learning experience, or as providing value as a gift."
 
Top properties for the year based on total dollar sales in alphabetical order included Barbie, Disney Princess, Hot Wheels, Monster High and Star Wars.

While The NPD Group noted that several of the top selling properties were based on licenses, overall the licensed toy category grew only 1% in 2012. Licenses are typically a key driver of the toy category. Though they account for 30% of total industry sales in 2012 they typically command higher average retail prices.
 
The top ten toys in 2012 ranked in dollar order were Leapster Explorer Licensed Software Asst., by LeapFrog; Beyblade Metal Fusion, by Hasbro; LeapPad Explorer System Green, by LeapFrog; LeapPad 2 Tablet System Green, by LeapFrog; Hot Wheels Express Lane Asst., by Mattel; Monster High Doll Asst., by Mattel; Easy Bake Ultimate Oven, by Hasbro; Razor Scooter Asst., by Razor USA; Leappad 2 Tablet Special Hardware Plus Bundle Asst, by LeapFrog and Barbie 3-Story Dream Townhouse, by Mattel.
 
"The 'toy story' for 2012 was filled with concern about declining birthrates, economic uncertainty and competition from consumer electronics, and those are all real issues for the toy industry," said Crupnick. "But, in the end, consumers proved that toys are still important and relevant as play options, and that they are willing to pay extra for products that deliver on play value."