The rediscovery of play, surging kidult market sales, and greater social consciousness within play and toys are tipped to be some of the biggest toy trends to drive industry sales throughout the coming year, according to the Toy Association’s latest Toy Trends Briefing.
Following an historic year for the US toy market that saw toy sales skyrocket among the millions of families stuck at home in the long fight against the coronavirus pandemic, it’s unsurprising to see that the trends to have emerged from the past 12 months will be those expected to carry the industry forward for the next.
In its virtual announcement made yesterday, The Toy Association has now outlined those trends and the impact they are likely to have on the shape of the toy industry and consumer buying trends for the coming year. The Toy Trends Briefing can now be viewed online here.
“This year’s biggest trends underscore the ongoing impact of the pandemic on play; the toy industry’s growing commitment to helping kids become better global citizens; and the many social, emotional, and cognitive benefits of mindful, musical, and ‘kidult’ toys,” said Adrienne Appell, senior vice president of marketing communications at The Toy Association.
“The pandemic did not stop our trends team from virtually previewing hundreds of innovative new products as we set out to determine what will be topping kids’ wish lists between now and the holiday season. We are so excited to share a sneak peek at what kids and adults will be clamoring for as we dive deeper into the impact of COVID-19 on the future of play.”
Normally held at Toy Fair New York (postponed until February 2022), The Toy Association’s Toy Trends Briefing annually attracts media, buyers, and other industry professionals who want to see the latest developments in toys and play.
New for this year, the discussion included an overview of the state of the toy industry from The Toy Association’s Steve Pasierb, president and CEO, and an analysis of the US toy market from The NPD Group’s Juli Lennett, senior vice president and industry advisor for toys.
The rediscovery of play
A silver lining of the pandemic is that across the globe, families have been able to rediscover the value of play and spending more time together. The Toy Association expects that families in 2021 will be seeking new toys that promote togetherness, as well as inclusive playthings to be enjoyed by kids of varying abilities and interests.
This trend will include educational toys and activities, family games and puzzles with cross-generational appeal, outdoor and active toys, nostalgic brands, and role play toys.
The growing kidult market
Emerging pre-pandemic, but spurred greatly by it, the kidult market has seen particular growth as adults turn to toys to bring joy and levity amid the crisis. Toys and games have been a means of escapism for adults and offer a way to reconnect with their own inner child. The trend includes games fueled by adult topics, social media trends, and interests in collectables and building toys that appeal to hardcore fans.
Crowdfunded toys and those that invite casual fans into the fold across a wide range of platforms have also been and will continue to be key to it.
A musical mix
Driven by social media platforms like YouTube and TikTok that have become incubators for viral music and dance crazes, toys that get kids moving and grooving are expected to grow in the toy aisles. This trend includes toys inspired by music-infused social platforms, channels, and programming; innovative new audio players that encourage screen-free play; toys that encourage kids to mix and make their own music; unboxing toys that incorporate music into the reveals; and, of course, classic musical toys.
The art of zen
Toys aren’t just for fun, states the Toy Association, they also serve up a healthy dose of emotional support and wellness in times of stress and uncertainty. According to The Toy Association’s Genius of Play initiative, families surveyed nationwide said playing together was the best way to help kids process their emotions.
The organisation now expects that this year will see a growing demand for toys that help develop children’s social and emotional learning (SEL) skills; toys that promote mindfulness and self-care; comforting plush toys and dolls; and sensory/fidget toys that offer moments of zen.
Socially conscious play
As families look for new ways to become better global citizens, toy makers are responding with toys that foster social responsibility and awareness. This trend includes dolls that promote diversity and cultural awareness; eco-friendly designed toys (and packaging) that also teach kids about sustainability; plush that promote the protection of endangered species; toys that give recognition to the essential workers critical to society; playsets with farm-to-table elements; and STEAM toys that feature renewable energy sources.
With many theatrical releases moved to streaming services or taking a hybrid approach in 2021, licensed toy sales will be driven by what’s happening on non-linear channels (Disney+, Netflix, HBO Max, and others) and, in the absence of live events, through video gaming (i.e. gaming systems, platforms, and brand anniversaries).
This shift will create new opportunities for original IPs bolstered by social media platforms (such as TikTok and YouTube) to cut through the noise and make an impact at retail across multiple categories alongside traditional entertainment licenses.