January was the strongest performing month since last May, according to the British Retail Consortium, with like-for-like sales growing 1.1 per cent for the month.
Many consumers were taking advantage of the bargains available and New Year sales to purchase replacement goods and essentials rather than treating themselves to extras. However, as clearances ended, growth did begin to slow.
Within the toy market, December saw a strong growth in volume as parents were reluctant to let children down at Christmas. This was helped by the large number of sales throughout December and led to a volume growth of seven per cent for 2008, putting the market on a steady footing going into 2009.
The average price fell again for the third January in a row as sales and special deals continue to dominate the market place as well as many pocket money items performing well. Among the 11 Supercategories, All Other Toys grew in value, up seven per cent – driven by strong growth in pretend play and musical/educational toys. Action figures, outdoor and sports toys and plush all saw some volume growth in January.
Action Figures grew six per cent by volume and were worth 5.9m in January. This was heavily driven by the continuing strong performance of Ben 10, whose 15cm Action Figure continues to be one of the best selling items with the toy market. Other strong performers were the Star Wars Clone Wars Action Figures and the launch of Bakugan figures in the final quarter of last year.
Plush is the fastest growing category in terms of units with an increase of 12 per cent, driven by traditional plush which accounted for nearly two thirds of plush sales. There has been a decline in the average price paid for plush from £4.43 in January 2008 to £3.84 in January 2009. Top sellers have been Mr Men Show Friends Assortment, Fifi Bedtime Beanies and Wall-E Cute Mini Plush. Infant and pre-school has lost value from the pre-school area while infant continues to grow.
The New Year has seen a number of new properties picking up sales with Bakugan and Magnext continuing to be the most valuable new properties. However, Lego Power Miners and Mega Bloks Struxx have also gained share and look to continue growing as the ranges are extended and distributed.
As the excitement over the Toy Fairs quietens down, it will be interesting to see how a number of new and revitalised properties will perform in the current market conditions. There was an air of quiet enthusiasm for the year ahead and with the launch of several big named films in the next few months the industry looks forward to a positive 2009.