Is business booming or not? | Source: Adobe Stock

‘Tis the season for even more mixed messages.

If you’ve been playing along and keeping score at home, then you that the toy industry, along with the greater consumer products and retail industries, has been facing a multitude of challenges this season, including how the health of the business is being reported.

In my “From the Editor” column that kicked off our 2022 Innovation & STEM issue of The Toy Book, I called it “The Duality Effect.” Two versions of the same reality, and it happened again coming out of the important, five-day Thanksgiving weekend. As I mentioned on Monday, depending on the source, either business is booming or the stores are empty, and both can be true.

Earlier this week, the National Retail Federation (NRF) touted the record number of shoppers that were out spending in stores and online this past weekend. And Amazon said it had its “biggest holiday shopping weekend ever.” But how much was really spent? According to The NPD Group, maybe not as much as expected — at least not for discretionary merchandise on Black Friday, despite potentially contrary reports from Adobe Analytics and MasterCard SpendPulse.

According to NPD, Black Friday closed out the sixth consecutive week of in-store sales revenue declines for U.S. discretionary merchandise. This includes toys, tech, and apparel — all of which are typically Black Friday winners.

RELATED: Stay on the Pulse of Play with ‘The BIG Toy Book’ in 2023

“Black Friday appears to have brought more shoppers out to the stores, but that traffic clearly didn’t amount to more spending,” says Marshal Cohen, chief retail industry advisor for NPD. “Retailers and manufacturers need to find new ways to engage the consumer in making purchases, converting consumers from social browsers to active buyers.”

NPD tracking reflects a 5% dip in sales revenue versus 2021 for the week ending Nov. 26. For the first time this year, that would also mean a decline versus 2019 numbers, the defacto benchmark of business before the pandemic. With inflation kicking in, unit sales are also declining for overall general merchandise.

With less than a month to go until the holidays, the race is on to move as many toys as possible, so now is the time to start getting creative and focusing on a great customer experience!