Early on in the holiday season, toy industry experts were on the edge of their seats, as parents coyly played cat-and-mouse in the toy aisle. But thanks to a final surge close to the holiday, Santa showed up after all -- delivering a 4% gain for the year, reports the NPD Group, with toy spending for 2014 coming in at $18.08 billion, up from $17.46 billion in the prior year.
But it was tense, with Black Friday week showing a 2% drop, and Cyber Monday a gain of just 1%, compared to the same time periods in 2013. Sales during Christmas week jumped a lively 27%, making the gains for the month of December rise 6%. For the entire fourth quarter, sales rose 3%.
“From Black Friday week to the week before Christmas, holiday toy sales were looking relatively flat,” writes Juli Lennett, president of the Toys division at The NPD Group, in the report. “But with the procrastinators shopping in droves the days before Christmas, perhaps aided by plunging gas prices, the toy industry experienced a merry Christmas after all.”
The Lego love continued, with building sets gaining 13%, making it the hottest category, followed by youth electronics, up 11%; action figures and games and puzzles both rose 9%. “Frozen”’s hold over kids’ hearts continued, capturing both the top spot and the biggest gainer across all categories. (“Frozen” was represented in 39 different toy categories, taking in $531 million in sales.) And sales of all licensed toys, which account for 31% of total industry sales, climbed 7%.
“‘Frozen’ was the big news story in the toy industry in 2014,” writes Lennett. “It wasn’t due to that one hot toy that was a category killer, but because of the varied breadth and sheer number of toys. ‘Frozen’ had over 300 different items on store shelves this year.”
Other top-selling toys included the No. 1 ranked Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures, followed by offerings from Hot Wheels, LeapFrog and Galaxy.
Meanwhile, as the toy industry gets ready for next month’s Toy Fair, the Toy Industry Association announced that the Toy of The Year Awards, scheduled to be announced Feb. 13, generated a record number of consumer votes. Between Thanksgiving and mid-January, 58,000 consumers completed online ballots, voting for toys in 12 categories.