LEGO sets on display at a store in Shenzhen, China. | Source: Heorshe – stock.adobe.com

Over the past few years, China has been standing tall as an emerging consumer market for the toy industry. While the headlines often focus on the country as the key manufacturing base for the global toy business, sales have been booming as well as Chinese families catch up to their international counterparts in terms of play and consumption.

But this year, things have slowed down on the digital front while certain categories have taken off elsewhere and market share shifts.

The NPD Group exclusively reveals to the Toy Book that the growth rate for China’s e-commerce business in the toy space has slowed to 7% year to date through October when compared to last year. The organization points to pandemic-era gains in 2020 and a correction starting to occur as the market normalizes back to pre-pandemic numbers.

Still, some individual categories are showing promising growth as three leading supercategories — infant/toddler/preschool; outdoor and sports toys; and building and construction sets — are losing market share. These three categories account for 55.4% of all toys sold in China. Within infant/toddler/preschool, it’s preschool toys leading the charge with a 19% gain. Digging even deeper, preschool electronic toys spiked 56% in the first 10 months of the year.

The Big Gains

Dolls have emerged as the fastest-growing supercategory in China, particularly driven by playset dolls. Pop Mart — a massive blind box brand in China — accounted for 63% of the total sales in the playset dolls category with 105% YTD growth. NPD says that the blind box category in China carries premium pricing that can range from $10 for a single doll to more than $100 for limited editions and collaborative offerings.

RELATED: Did the U.S.-China Trade War Just Reignite?

A 118% boom in trading cards drove 30% growth in the explorative and other toys supercategory with a 60% gain coming from scientific toys. NPD points to Kayou as the key player in the trading cards category in the region, with the Ultraman — a Japanese license — doing big business. Throughout the toy department, Ultraman stands tall as the most popular license in China and accounts for 14.3% of the total sales for licensed toys.

Looking ahead, NPD says that licensing has a lot of potential in China as licensed brands are finally becoming popular as they are elsewhere in the world, particularly in explorative & other toys, action figures, and building sets.