Skip Kodak, EVP of Americas at LEGO Group & Toy Association Chair, Offers Perspective on Pandemic

toy-association-board-chair-skip-kodakMay 19, 2020 | Skip Kodak, executive vice president, Americas at The LEGO Group and chair of The Toy Association Board of Directors, discusses some of the current challenges and glimmers of hope for the global toy industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are entering month #3 of the pandemic lockdown in the U.S., and there are finally a few glimmers of hope on the horizon. The Toy Foundation’s recent cash grants of $260,000 are reinforcing our industry’s positive image. Several states and businesses are reopening, and The NPD's latest member seminar presentation shows weekly increases for physical store toy sales as more consumers make discretionary purchases. Year-to-date industry sales remain strong, and the earlier pattern of only select categories growing is now replaced with more balanced growth across categories in recent weeks. So, we have some glimmers and reasons to believe that we didn’t have even a few weeks ago.

COVID-19 is likely to leave a lasting impact on every industry, including toys. Some impacts are negative and bring added financial pressure across all parts of our membership – such as supply chain disruptions, mandatory store closures to reduce virus spread, and retailer bankruptcies. Positively, many companies “went digital” nearly overnight, with retailers of many sizes opening up curbside pickup and many members increasing e-commerce sales. NPD’s recent members’ presentation highlighted that suppliers ranked #10 to #30 in YTD sales are the main growth engine for industry sales. Innovators always find a way to succeed, and maybe even more so when times get tough – because the advantages of moving with speed and trying new ideas favor agility over scale. And the toy industry is rich with innovators succeeding despite starting small because they believed passionately that making a child’s life better with play was worth their firm’s energy, effort, and risk.

Today’s circumstances lift the importance of giving children, adults, and families the benefits of play – families play more frequently since quarantine life eliminated sports and activity schedules, and fast-growing toy sales demonstrate a new, higher prioritization for play in U.S. families. The well-recognized emotional and wellness benefits of play give us an added unique opportunity for future growth.

Your Toy Association exists to be a unifying force for our members' creativity, responsibility, and global success, advocating for their needs and championing the benefits of play. I want you to get the full value of your membership to support your success. Toy Association staff are leading an unprecedented series of mini “town hall” meetings to hear what you need now, and to share the latest COVID-19 insights, industry data, and trends. Staff will tell you more about value-adding members’ only services, such as The Genius of Play marketing materials and Toy Fair Everywhere to elevate your pre-holiday sales using a safe and confidential digital showroom. Please reach out to Ken Ebeling, executive vice president of strategic development & member services, for more details.

I wish you great success as we navigate towards the future and a new normal. I am confident that play will be even more important in the future than it is today – which is great news for everyone in the toy industry!

Stay safe and be well,

Skip Kodak
Executive Vice President, Americas, The LEGO Group
Chair, The Toy Association Board of Directors