Christmas sales eventually kick into life but not enough to create annual growth
A storming finale to the Christmas period was not enough to prevent the toy market from a flat feeling in the full year figures, experiencing zero growth over the 12 months.
While sales in the final week before Christmas were up 31 per cent on the same period the previous year and the week after Christmas also up 10 per cent, ultimately, however, full year sales saw no decline or improvement in value terms on last year's figures.
Unit sales did, however, improve by four per cent over the 12 months, although the average price fell from £8 to £7.72 after yet more fierce price promotions at retail. This was in line with underlying retail trends which saw prices down 1.4 per cent year on year, according to the British Retail Consortium's Shop Price Index.
Some categories did experience growth. Infant pre-school saw the biggest rise, by some eight per cent boosted by sales of Leapfrog's LeapPad which, in fact, was the best seller overall, beating Character Options Robosapien down in to third place.
Dolls and building sets also experienced growth, six per cent up on 2003. The boys toys sector a decline of five per cent.
"Last year we had four per cent growth in the total market, this year it was flat,"explained NPD's toy service manager Frederique Tutt. "October and November sales were so low that only the last two weeks before Christmas just about made up for it. One of the easiest explanations for it is that boys have simply gone away from the market again.
"There was nothing for older boys to get excited about, so they have gone out of the market."
By Ronnie Dungan