NPD: Global and U.S. Toy Industry Sales Increase 1 Percent in 2017

The following article is based on a press release issued by The NPD Group on January 25, 2018.

January 25, 2018 | Global toy industry sales grew by 1 percent in 2017 across the 12 countries tracked by The NPD Group. On par with the world’s collective performance, toy sales in the United States, the world’s largest toy market, grew by 1 percent to $20.7 billion in 2017.* Partially driven by inflation, Mexico and Russia grew the fastest, with sales in these countries up 12 percent and 11 percent, respectively. The United Kingdom, France, and Australia experienced declines, while sales were flat in Germany and Italy.

All Other Toys, Plush, and Dolls were the fastest-growing super-categories both globally and in the U.S. Globally, All Other Toys grew its sales by 14 percent, driven by fidget toys, which started to grow around Easter and peaked at the end of June, and slime kits. Plush sales increased by 6 percent, with Hatchimals the largest contributor and Furreal Friends also showing solid growth. Dolls grew by 5 percent, led by L.O.L. Surprise!. Hatchimals CollEGGtibles was also a notable contributor to the growth in Dolls.

Collectibles have been a leader of growth in the toy industry, driven by blind packs. The global collectibles market grew by 14 percent to $3.9 billion, helped by the international popularity of L.O.L. Surprise!, Hatchimals, and LEGO Minifigures. Collectibles accounted for about 8 percent of total industry dollar sales.

The highly talked about Games/Puzzles super-category grew its sales by 3 percent both globally and in the U.S. The bulk of the growth came during the first eight months of the year, mostly due to gains in Pokémon, as a result of the summer 2016 release of Pokémon Go. 

“The toy industry’s 2017 success was tied to consumers positively reacting to social media driven trends and lower price points,” Frédérique Tutt, NPD’s global toys industry analyst, said in the release. “The fidget spinner and slime crazes illustrated social media’s influence in amplifying the hottest trends and bringing them to consumers all around the world simultaneously. As evident by the sales success of collectibles, lower priced toys were in many cases a substitute for higher priced ones. However, with higher priced toys needed for market growth, this should be an area of focus for the industry.”

In the U.S., NPD reported sales increases in the following categories besides Games/Puzzles: Dolls (+4 percent), Infant/Toddler/Preschool Toys (+1 percent), Youth Electronics (+1 percent), Outdoor & Sports Toys (+1 percent), Plush (+8 percent), and All Other Toys (+15 percent). Four categories saw declines: Action Figures & Accessories (-5 percent), Arts & Crafts (-8 percent), Building Sets (-6 percent), and Vehicles (-3 percent). View each category’s dollar amount (in billions) and the year-over-year percent change for 12-month period on The Toy Association website.

Looking at the top three selling toy properties, globally and in the U.S. the same players make the list, but in a different order. On the global scale, Star Wars ranked number one, followed by Nerf. In the U.S., Nerf captured the number-one spot, followed by Star Wars, and in both cases Barbie was the third largest property for 2017.

“There’s a need for speed in the world today,” Juli Lennett, NPD’s senior vice president and toy industry advisor, said in the release. “In the current retail environment, it is more imperative than ever to be able to react quickly to changing tastes and fast-moving trends. Toy companies, whether they are big or small, who are nimble enough to react faster and get to market more quickly are the ones who will win in the long term.”

NPD’s global toys footprint covers Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Russia, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States.

“While our members constantly strive to achieve the significant growth seen over the past few years, it is heartening to again be on the positive side, especially in a challenging year both for global toy sales and for the retail sector in general,” says Steve Pasierb, The Toy Association’s president and CEO. “Given the enormous success of innovative lower-priced toys and collectibles in 2017, the U.S. saw significant volume growth. Still, we have much work to do in 2018 to maintain consumer enthusiasm and attract buyers to product at higher price points.”

*The data is representative of retailers that participate in The NPD Group's Retail Tracking Service. NPD’s current estimate is that the Retail Tracking Service represents approximately 80 percent of the U.S. retail market for toys. Projected to 100 percent of the market, the U.S. toy industry is now estimated at about $27 billion.