Pokémon Mega Construx | Source: Mattel/The Pokémon Co. International

Despite shipping concerns and empty shelves in some locations, the global toy industry is still on a roll with famous brands, including Pokémon, Barbie, Star Wars, L.O.L. Surprise!, and Marvel Universe topping the charts.

According to The NPD Group, toy industry sales across the 12 global markets (G12) tracked by the organization spiked 15% to $22.45 billion in the first six months of 2021 when compared to the same period in 2020. More impressively, those numbers amount to a 28% gain vs. the same period in 2019, the last year of the pre-pandemic era.

“We are delighted to report continuous strong growth for the toy market globally,” says NPD Global Toys Industry Analyst Frédérique Tutt. “Even though COVID-19 restrictions are easing in most countries, consumers continue to turn to toys and games for their entertainment. Whether it is collectible cards, building sets, or outdoor toys, demand is still very strong, which is promising as the industry is now preparing for the holiday season.”

The U.S. toy industry continues to lead the charge with a 40% sales spike in the first half of 2021 vs. 2019 and a 19% gain vs. 2020.

Toy sales in Germany grew 23% followed by Canada (20%), Belgium (19%), Netherlands (19%), and Russia (19%). Sales in Spain and Brazil declined 10% and 15%, respectively.

What’s Hot So Far in 2021

Strategic Trading Card Games have been making headlines this year, so it’s no surprise to learn that the NPD subsegment spiked 136% in the first half of 2021. Lead by Pokémon, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, the category grew from $341.7 million in sales in the first half of 2019 to $805.8 million in the first half of 2021.

All of the 11 toy supercategories tracked by NPD in the G12 have grown thus far in 2021 when compared to 2019 with Games/Puzzles (59%) and Outdoor & Sports Toys (38%) experiencing the highest growth when compared to the pre-pandemic era. Infant, toddler, and preschool toys are hot alongside dolls and building sets. In the U.S., 10 of the 11 supercategories experienced growth.

“The continued exceptional growth in Outdoor & Sports Toys was partially driven by water-related toys as consumers looked to beat the heat,” says Juli Lennett, vice president and industry advisor, U.S. Toys, The NPD Group. “With the vaccine still not available for kids under 12, ‘safely social toys’, like Playground Equipment and Skates/Skateboards/Scooters also continued to grow.”

U.S. Toy Industry Supercategory Breakdown | Source: The NPD Group

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NPD says that in its 29 subsegments of global toys, only two experienced declines this year vs. 2019: Playset Dolls and Accessories (-34%) and Battling Toys and Playsets (-8%).

In the U.S., additional classic brands, including Hot Wheels, NERF, Little Tikes, and Fisher-Price have also been booming this year.

“Nostalgia has been a key driver of growth over the last 18 months,” Lennett adds. “Consumers have looked to fill the isolation with memories of happier times in their lives. Adult males drove growth with nostalgic brands like Pokémon, Magic: The Gathering, and the National Football League in the collectible space, and parents and grandparents leaned heavily on the brands that they have known and loved through multiple generations.”

It’s important to note that NPD’s Global Toys footprint covers Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Russia, Spain, the UK, and the U.S.,  but excludes two major regions: China & Australia.