The numbers are in for what will be remembered as a rollercoaster year for the U.S. toy industry.
Retail toy sales in the U.S. fell 4% in 2019, according to The NPD Group. This marks the second year of decline following four consecutive years of growth that came to a halt upon the closure of Toys “R” Us (TRU) in 2018. U.S. retail sales of toys generated $20.9 billion last year compared to $21.8 billion in 2018. The data comes from The NPD Group’s Retail Tracking Service, which represents approximately 78% of the U.S. retail market for toys. The decline in toys comes alongside a lackluster overall holiday season at retail in which sales were nearly flat across the board.
“2019 was one of the more complicated years to get a good read on toy industry health,” says Juli Lennett, vice president and industry advisor, toys, The NPD Group. “Every time period had a substantial ‘one-off’ event that impacted the trend. 2020 will be far less complicated and we should get a clean, like-for-like comparison of toy industry trends as early as January.”
The first half of last year was riddled with comparisons to the liquidation of TRU. Last August, NPD declared that the industry had “turned the corner” on the liquidation and was looking toward growth in the back half of the year. The industry did see growth in Q3, but the shortest holiday shopping season since 2013 looks to have taken a toll. NPD says that toy sales during Black Friday week were flat, and for the first time in tracked history, toy sales during Cyber Week eclipsed the usual Black Friday boom.
Fashion dolls logged the highest growth by dollars across the 96 classes tracked by NPD. The growth was led by the O.M.G. Surprise! extension of MGA Entertainment’s (MGAE) L.O.L. Surprise! line, Hasbro’s Frozen 2 dolls, and Mattel’s Barbie assortment. Sales of Fortnite and Toy Story toys contributed to an 11% increase in the action figures category. Disney’s Frozen 2 and Toy Story 4 led their respective franchises to the top of the property growth list.
Confirming previous forecasts, sales were flat in games and puzzles, though Pokémon and Magic: The Gathering grew in the strategic trading card game class contributing to the second-largest top dollar growth class behind fashion dolls.
Other notable highlights include growth in building sets; outdoor and sports toys; and skates, skateboards, and scooters.