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.

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.