Comparisons are difficult though with the differences between the warm sunny weather this year and snow and rain last year in the same month as well as the impact of Easter moving dates.
With Easter falling in March in 2008 and in April this year, it comes with little surprise that the first quarter of 2009 looks behind last year for the toy industry.
However, April should be a telling month for the industry to determine strength of sales for the Easter period versus last year. In the first quarter the average price, however, has continued to grow from £5.47 to £5.86 with a number of high priced items continuing to perform well especially kids’ cameras.
Despite the economic conditions, some categories have managed the changing market better than others with Building Sets, Outdoor & Sports and All Other Toys performing better than the market.
Building Sets has benefited from a range of new items since the start of the year with the new Lego Power Miners property continuing to show strong growth. Some dry, warmer weather than expected in March has helped the Outdoor category, with ride-on sales increasing six per cent in March (compared to March 2008) driven by Little Tikes and In The Night Garden properties. The All Other Toys category performance has been driven by Educational & Musical Toys up 11 per cent for the year to date.
Infant and Pre-school remains the biggest category accounting for just under a quarter of the total toy market in March with the Infant category showing small growth for the year to date driven by walkers, rattles and mobiles as well the strong performance of Playskool and Playmobil.
Action Figures is the third biggest category and the most heavily reliant on licenses, reflected in its strong performers such as the new Ben 10 Alien Force range and Bakugan. Bakugan is now the strongest performing new property across toys so far this year and is now within the top 25 properties.
A number of properties continue to perform well within the toy market with Ben 10 and Star Wars in number one and two positions. Peppa Pig continues to make its way up the rankings as does Barbie. Peppa growth, surprisingly, is not from Infant and Pre-school items, but from Plush, Arts & Crafts and Games & Puzzles items, while Barbie has benefited from heavy PR around the 50th birthday this year.
With Easter falling in April this year and some spring weather already arriving there is optimism for the toy market in the next few months.