Toys sales in the UK fell by 3% in 2021, generating a total retail sales value of £ 3.2 billion (source: British Toy and Hobby Association / NPD). But even with supply challenges and pandemic measures, the market has maintained resilience and closed the year up by 2% on pre-pandemic sales (2019).
In a year of ongoing restrictions and changes in consumer behavior, toy categories, including plush and vehicles, continued to grow year-on-year (9% and 7%, respectively), while brands such as Barbie, Star Wars, Paw Patrol, Pokémon, Bluey and Minecraft dominated the list of best-selling toys.
“The toy industry faced enormous challenges in 2021, including, but not limited to, supply chain problems and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said Roland Earl, CEO, BTHA. “Despite these obstacles, the UK toy market has remained relatively stable compared to pre-pandemic figures and there are signs of optimism around the coming year with some categories showing growth and a strong lineup of new releases for 2022. ”
“Last year, the UK toy market managed to retain 35% of the value it achieved in 2020, with seven out of eleven categories up from the figures for 2019,” said Melissa Symonds, CEO, Toys, UK, The NPD Group. “Even more impressive is that licensed toys grew for the third year in a row, reaching 28% of the market – the highest share ever. With a series of toy film releases coming this year, as well as the continued strong performance of streaming, YouTube and video game licenses, 2022 looks set to be a great year for toys. ”
The return of the London Toy Fair apparently confirmed Symonds’ notion of a mass increase in licensing appeal thanks to the continued advent of toy ethic in the mainstream media.
The IPs that were seen most across the latest toys and innovations include “Hey Duggee”, “Bluey”, “Star Wars” and “Paw Patrol”, as well as video game favorites, “Among Us” and “Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout . ”
Puzzles and board games were also a major theme running through the London Toy Fair. New puzzle collaborations and board games spanned the entire show with new collaborations like Peaky Blinders Risk, future classics like Dobble, Catan and Warhammer and countless other table games and puzzles.
However, it is not only the products on display that hinted at current trends this week, but the play patterns they are addressing.
Learning through play, aspiration toys, and role-playing was an increasingly important presence, with Dyson and Henry Hoover licensed toys, rideable Land Rovers, CAT construction machines and tool kits, and wooden kitchens and home accessories to name a few.
STEM learning – which has grown by 122% year-over-year according to The Insights Family – was also a significant part of the products on display at the fair this week; offers scientific exploration in new games or nature packs, technological understanding with code-your-own products, build-your-own sustainable engineering kits and early learning of math with brands like “Numberblocks”. According to The Insights Family report, the vast majority of growth in STEM was seen in the market for young girls, so the London Toy Fair had a wide and varied range of products to choose from for their own Hero Toys range.
“Despite challenges in 2021, this year’s list of Toy Fair’s hero toys represents the toy industry’s creativity and continued commitment to innovation to enhance children’s play experiences,” said Rebecca Deeming, public relations, event manager, BTHA. “The competition for selection has been strong and the list is filled with the potential biggest sellers for 2022. While many themes are represented across the 23, educational toys are clearly becoming more popular with consumers, which is reflected in the higher demand for STEM toys . I expect more toy companies to respond to this demand by 2022. ”
The London Toy Fair runs through today at Kensington Olympia, London.