NPD: U.S. Toy Industry Sales Increase 3 Percent Through Mid-2017

The following article contains excerpts from a press release issued on July 26, 2017 by The NPD Group.

July 26, 2017 | U.S. toy sales grew by 3 percent in the first half of 2017 compared to the same period last year, led by games and puzzles, plush, and this year’s fidget toy craze, per The NPD Group.

Based on sales trends for the first six months, NPD estimates that the toy industry will grow approximately 4.5 percent in 2017 over the prior year. The sales data is representative of retailers that participate in The NPD Group's Retail Tracking Service, which represents approximately 80 percent of the U.S. retail market for toys. When factoring up to 100% for a total market figure, NPD estimates the U.S. market size for the total toy industry to be in the $26 billion range as of the end of 2016.

“Toy sales growth of 3 percent through the first half of 2017, following 5 percent growth in 2016 and 7 percent growth in 2015, underscores the power of licensing and entertainment, as well as the creativity, ingenuity, and play value toymakers put into their products,” says Steve Pasierb, president & CEO of The Toy Association. “We are cautiously optimistic that NPD’s full-year 2017 growth projection can hold if the anticipated strength at the box office this fall indeed translates to toy sales while other categories – including action figures, games & puzzles, and plush – remain robust.” 

Six of NPD’s 11 super-categories posted gains in the first six months of 2017, led by Games & Puzzles (+24 percent), driven by strategic trading card games such as Pokémon – the number-one property for the total toy industry, Plush (+13 percent) due to the popularity of Hatchimals, and All Other Toys (+9 percent) from sales of fidget spinners. Notably, the Vehicles super-category (+5 percent) is also experiencing growth based on the June release of Cars 3. Other categories with positive gains included Dolls (+6 percent) and Infant/Toddler/Preschool (+4 percent).

The collectibles market continued on its growth trajectory, with dollar sales up 21 percent mid-year to $819 million, despite slower growth over the past two months. Sales of blind packs, a subset of collectibles, grew by 48 percent year-to-date.

On the other hand, Building Sets (-10 percent) and Action Figures (-10 percent) both saw declines compared to last year, which saw positive sales in those categories thanks to the release of Star Wars, Batman v Superman, and Ninja Turtles. Youth Electronics (-8 percent) and Arts & Crafts (-3 percent) also experienced declines, while Outdoor & Sports Toys remained flat.

“The toy industry is off to a slower start in 2017 than last year, but much of it has to do with the fact that the industry is comparing against strong Star Wars movies sales from last year, as a result of the December 2015 release of Star Wars Episode 7. This comparison will go away starting in September, just in time for the next Force Friday event,” says Juli Lennett, NPD’s senior vice president and U.S. toys industry analyst, in a press release. “The industry will need growth of around 5 percent in the second half of the year to reach NPD’s estimate, and I expect the box office to lead it there.”