As New York City braces for the annual deluge of life-sized toys strutting the streets for Toy Fair, marketers are upbeat about the year ahead and happy to close the books on a period of intense retail turmoil.
The event, the 116th Annual North American International Toy Fair, is scheduled to run for four days (Feb. 16-19), bringing thousands of people in to look at exhibits from a membership that accounts for about 90% of the $27 billion U.S. toy market.
Companies are still struggling to shake off the effects of the 2017 bankruptcy of Toys R Us, which walloped the U.S. market.
A new report from the NPD Group says toy sales dropped 2% in 13 leading global markets in 2018. “Several factors added up to a smaller share of wallet for traditional toys in 2018, including a shrinking retail footprint and the increasing demand for video games,” says NPD toy analyst Frédérique Tutt, in the announcement.
“While it isn’t business as usual for toys, 2019 sounds promising thanks to a wide range of kid-friendly movies, which often helps to drive toys sales, as well as old, favorite toy brands that are either celebrating milestone birthdays or attempting to make a comeback.”
Sales fell 2% in the U.S., and also declined in the U.K., Spain, France and Australia. And they gained in Mexico, Russia and Brazil. Dolls were the best-selling category, up 9%, followed by action figures and accessories, up 8%, and youth electronics, up 1%. But every other category was either flat or declining, with plush (off 10%) and vehicles (down 9%) the biggest losers.
L.O.L. Surprise! (collectible dolls with mix and match accessories) was the best-performing brand, coming in first in six of 13 markets, followed by Barbie, Marvel Universe, Nerf and Star Wars.
Mattel, which owns Barbie and Hot Wheels, says it is predicting flat sales for the year ahead. Among its Toy Fair revelations? A feature-length live-action film based on its American Girl franchise, a Barbie who uses a wheelchair, and a new version of Pictionary that uses augmented reality.
And Hasbro, which is also introducing the Lie Detector, a party game based on voice analysis, is beefing up its e-commerce strategy and expanding its social commerce efforts, reports CNBC.