Higbee’s returns in A Christmas Story Christmas | Source: HBO Max

The world is hungry for comfort and warmth.

The basic desire for love, kindness, and being surrounded by family and friends has been top of mind for me of late — and I don’t think that I’m alone in that. It’s been a rough few years, but the resilience of the toy industry has been proven time and time again.

This year, the biggest trend I’m seeing can be described using one word: traditional.

Following two holiday seasons skewed by life in the COVID-19 pandemic, this year is looking closer to 2019 (the unofficial benchmark of pre-pandemic comps) but it feels a bit more like the holiday seasons of years past.

Last month, I mentioned that the grand opening of Toys “R” Us at Macy’s conjured serious vibes of old-school department store shopping, particularly with the flagship locations at Herald Square in New York City and on State Street in Chicago. Now, the trailer for A Christmas Story Christmas (turns, out Ralphie never did shoot his eye out) puts the glowing lights of Cleveland’s Higbees back in front of families ahead of the film’s Nov. 17 debut on HBO Max.

Later this month, the 96th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will further amp up the holiday cheer with appearances by some toyetic characters and giant balloons, including the Muppets of Sesame Street, Geoffrey the Giraffe, BBC Studios’ Bluey, Illumination’s Stuart the Minion, Abrams Books’ Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the Funko Pop!-inspired Grogu from The Mandalorian, Chase from PAW Patrol, the Red Titan from Ryan’s World, and Pokémon’s Pikachu and Eevee.

Ideally, families will spend time together on Thanksgiving and get excited about all the new toys and games that are available as they head out to shop in the weeks ahead.

Alex Baby & Toy at Concord Mills, Concord, NC | Source: Alex Baby & Toy via Instagram

New Toy Stores

According to the latest forecast from the National Retail Federation (NRF), U.S. retail sales are set to spike 6% to 8% as foot traffic to physical retailers is expected to continue as it did last year. Neighborhood Toy Store Month is underway at independent toy stores across the country, and consumers visiting malls this season will notice the biggest presence of toys in years.

CAMP is bringing its brand of experiential retail to more locations on a regular basis with nine stores in its growing fleet; seasonal pop-ups from the likes of Go! Retail Group are open; and the seeds for a potential new national toy store chain have been planted.

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

Back in April, FYE quietly opened the first location of a new store concept: Alex Baby & Toy.

If the name and logo look familiar, it’s because this new store has a lineage tied to Alex Brands which became Alex Global Products after joining a portfolio of companies led by Doug Putman that includes FYE, Sunrise Records, HMV, Everest Toys, and Toys “R” Us Canada.

This past weekend, Alex Baby & Toy held grand opening celebrations at its first three locations in Maryland, Massachusetts, and North Carolina. The company recently made moves to expand its staff and we’re wishing them much success.

Speaking of retail tradition, holiday commercials are back, but as usual, the U.S. toy industry is lagging behind its international peers in this spot. Over the past week, we’ve seen several great spots emerge from overseas, but my favorite comes from Smyths Toys Superstores. Check it out below.

Toy Book Happenings

Here at The Toy Book, we’re putting the finishing touches on our 2022 Innovation & STEM issue, which will hit the streets on Nov. 15. Stay tuned, as it’s packed with great content that we’re looking forward to sharing with you.

If you subscribe to our e-blasts, then you already know that today marks the official call for submissions for the 2023 edition of The BIG Toy Book! The biggest issue of the year is coming, and you won’t want to miss out on being involved. Click here for all the details.

Finally, our team at Adventure Media & Events is growing!

We’re looking for a new Senior Editor to join our team (essentially, my new right-hand person) and a Junior Sales & Marketing Executive. For a current list of opportunities, check out our job board.

Now, while I have some official toy business to attend to, I can’t close this one out without sharing one more holiday commercial from the UK. Asda just called in the power of the Elf, so check it out and be sure to visit us here at The Toy Book early and often. You wouldn’t want to be a cotton-headed ninny muggins!

About the author

James Zahn

James Zahn

James Zahn, AKA The Rock Father, is Editor-in-Chief of The Toy Book, a Senior Editor at The Toy Insider and The Pop Insider, and Editor of The Toy Report, The Toy Book‘s weekly industry newsletter. As a pop culture and toy industry expert, Zahn has appeared as a panelist and guest at events including Comic-Con International: San Diego (SDCC) Wizard World Chicago, and the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy. Zahn has more than 30 years of experience in the entertainment, retail, and publishing industries, and is frequently called upon to offer expert commentary for publications such as Forbes, Marketwatch, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today, Reuters, the Washington Post, and more. James has appeared on History Channel’s Modern Marvels, was interviewed by Larry King and Anderson Cooper, and has been seen on Yahoo! Finance, CNN, CNBC, FOX Business, NBC, ABC, CBS, WGN, The CW, and more. Zahn joined the Adventure Media & Events family in 2016, initially serving as a member of the Parent Advisory Board after penning articles for the Netflix Stream Team, Fandango Family, PBS KIDS, Sprout Parents (now Universal Kids), PopSugar, and Chicago Parent. He eventually joined the company full time as a Senior Editor and moved up the ranks to Deputy Editor and Editor-in-Chief.