The coronavirus pandemic swept through industries across the globe, forcing change and adaptation to a way of life, that, whether temporary or permanent, has left landscapes looking very different to how they once were. US toy sales are up, and play is being valued, but in-venue toy companies and entertainment franchises have had to pivot, and all the while, online shopping has changed the face of retail for good.
Here, Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of the US Toy Association explores the changing world of toys, the trends that look like they are here to stay, and the cheering matter that we will all, one day soon, meet again.
Now several months since the global toy community gathered at Toy Fair New York in what seems like a very different age, the impact of Covid-19 continues to be felt around the world as we all try to regain our footing and adapt to a “new normal” while at the same time planning for the future.
Through it all, The Toy Association remains committed to helping our members succeed through turbulent times. Whether it has been by offering business and relief guidance in relation to Covid-19; protecting business rights and guiding companies through emerging issues; advancing toy safety and pushing back on needless regulation and trade barriers; offering Toy Fair Everywhere digital market weeks and virtual product previews to keep businesses moving forward; or promoting our members’ toys and games to consumers, our mission is to create lasting value and help businesses not just survive, but thrive.
While the NPD Group reports US toy sales are up a dramatic 19 per cent in the first three quarters of the year, the actual company-by-company results vary widely. With families stuck at home, US sales have soared for puzzles and family board games, outdoor play equipment, and educational toys and games. Likewise, toy companies well-positioned with major retailers such as Walmart, Target, and Amazon have seen consistently strong sales, as have companies and retailers with strong digital footprints and e-commerce sites. And classic and nostalgic toys and brands have acted as a kind of “comfort food” for families seeking positive outlets in an uncertain world.
Yet companies that sell primarily to amusement parks, vacation destinations, museums, and other venues have seen little to no sales, as have portions of the specialty retail sector which have either been closed due to local restrictions or have not been able to rely on e-commerce sales. Entertainment companies launching major IP properties have had to pivot and find new ways to drive consumer excitement in the face of an increasingly fragmented audience, and the accelerated rise of e-commerce has forced brands to find ways to interact more closely and dialogue directly with the end-user of their products.
Looking ahead to 2021 and 2022, there is good reason for optimism that many of the positive toy and play trends we have seen amid Covid-19 will hold strong. Trends our team has seen in fall preview meetings include the continuing importance of play in family life, retro and classic toys that inspire nostalgia and bring comfort, and laugh-out-loud, silly, and gross-out toys and games that will bring much-needed levity into our lives.
On the business side, we encourage all to nurture digital and social media connections between their company’s products and consumers, building closer and more dynamic relationships. That comes in addition to the continued impact of influencers, user-generated content, and fan groups. As for consumer buying habits, the pandemic has accelerated comfort with shopping via e-commerce, including segments of the population that were previously resistant to change. This fundamental shift will be permanent and continue its growth trajectory. Experiences offered by brick-and-mortar stores, particularly at specialty, will need to be even more personal, exciting, hands-on, and offering discovery than ever before.
As some of you know, The Toy Association has decided to postpone Toy Fair New York 2021 to May 1-4. As long as it is safe to do so, we are looking forward to gathering once again in person next spring before returning to the show’s usual place on the calendar in February of 2022.
Visit www.ToyFairNY.com to start planning, and in the meantime, to look out for announcements related to our wildly-successful Toy Fair Everywhere digital wholesale marketplace at www.ToyFairEverywhere.info.
As for The Toy Association, its mission has been, and always will be, to create lasting value and to help businesses not just survive but thrive. Addressing the future of the industry as well as retail developments, consumer behavior, and the actions of governments will keep the organization busy in the months ahead. Visit www.ToyAssociation.org to learn more about all of the Association’s resources and member benefits.