LOL Surprise! was the top toy property for the first three quarters of 2020 | Source: MGA Entertainment

The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an unexpected side effect: big toy sales.

Since March, the wave of categories experiencing growth has continued to ripple as consumer demand and retail orders have kicked in as families continue playing together while staying at home. Overall, the U.S. toy industry experienced total dollar sales growth of 19.1% in the first three quarters of the year, according to The NPD Group.

Total sales for the first nine months of 2020 hit $13.7 billion driven by evolving interests, distribution of federal stimulus checks, and a lack of events outside the home.

“During this unprecedented time of uncertainty parents and families have turned to toys for entertainment, distraction, and joy,” says Juli Lennett, toys industry advisor, NPD. “The pandemic clearly had a positive impact on toy sales in Q2 and Q3; however, whether that momentum will carry through to the peak holiday shopping season still remains to be seen.”

Top 10 Toy Properties of 2020 Q1-Q3

  • L.O.L. Surprise!
  • Barbie
  • Star Wars
  • Marvel Universe
  • Pokémon
  • Disney Frozen
  • NERF
  • Hot Wheels
  • Little Tikes
  • PAW Patrol

Gains have been led by outdoor and sports toys (31%), games and puzzles (42%), and building sets (30%). According to NPD, nine of its 11 tracked super categories of toys have seen growth this year.

Lennett cautions that the positive results of 2020 should be approached carefully as we head into the holiday season and beyond.

“Whether it’s rising household debt and high unemployment, lack of additional stimulus payments, or delays in vaccine development/distribution and the potential for additional lockdowns, there are many potential headwinds that the industry will need to address as we continue to navigate these uncharted waters, Lennett says.”

Q3 earnings season is currently in progress with both Mattel and Hasbro having already reported big gains in the U.S. market.