Bob Means, category director of toys at eBay, discussed the importance of retro brands making a comeback and how it was one of the retailer’s most popular toy category in the Toy Book‘s annual State of the Industry Q&A.

Nostalgic brands, entertainment properties, and products continue to dominate store shelves. How does this trend affect innovation and new product ideas in the toy industry?
The increasing demand for nostalgic and retro-inspired toys creates an immense amount of opportunity within the toy industry. In addition to typical toy industry development and roll-out cadences, brands are also able to capitalize on timely moments, such as pop culture anniversaries — whether that is an iconic TV show from the ‘90s turning a quarter-century old or celebrating a storied franchise’s history with a new, retro-inspired collection.

This past year, eBay garnered impressive traction surrounding the 25th anniversary of legendary sitcom Friends. Shoppers ran to eBay to buy commemorative merch, notably to score the sold-out-everywhere-else Central Perk LEGO set, which was created by a fan in honor of the milestone; the set broke eBay’s 2019 top 20 most popular toys.

The Star Wars franchise also celebrated important milestones this past year, and fans were quick to shop for related merchandise on eBay. In fact, sales for The Mandalorian-related purchases jumped 97% from July to September. We saw LEGO Star Wars sets soar in popularity this holiday season as the partnership celebrated its 20th anniversary — tens of thousands of retro and new sets have sold on eBay within the past year alone.

What were some of the most popular toy categories on eBay last year?
eBay is unique in that we have something for every type of shopper; with more than 1.4 billion listings, eBay has a robust and diverse product catalog. Last year, we continued to see a rising popularity for retro- and vintage-inspired toys on the marketplace, in addition to a steady demand for the hottest, newest toys that everyone is coveting. Last year, some of our most popular new toys included Hatchimals Wow Llalacorn, Detective Pikachu Feature Plush, and L.O.L. Surprise! O.M.G Doll, while some of our most popular retro toys included Pokémon, Hot Wheels, and Barbie.

How have trends in consumer expectations affected toy sales?
Our shoppers, rightfully, expect a lot from eBay. In the current era of technology and social media, shoppers are constantly consuming information about the hottest toys or the rarest items, and they know they can trust eBay to have whatever it is they’re looking for. It’s our job to make sure that we’re consistently providing the best selection and value to our customer base to maintain and grow those relationships, especially in a category as fast-paced and ever-changing as toys.

This State of the Industry Q&A response originally appeared in the February 2020 issue of the Toy Book. Click here to read more!