Snow joke for toy sales

Retail sales fell 1.8 per cent in February according to the British Retail Consortium showing the January rise in sales as a short term blip rather than an ongoing trend.
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Retail sales fell 1.8 per cent in February according to the British Retail Consortium showing the January rise in sales as a short term blip rather than an ongoing trend.

The snowy beginning of the month as well as the end of the traditional sales season contributed to keeping consumers away from many stores. And while internet, mail-order and phone sales have increased, this has slowed compared to December growth.

The toy industry is starting to feel the lack of Woolworths in the market with both value and volume sales down. However, excluding Woolworths from 2008, the industry is up 0.5 per cent on a like-for-like basis. This is helped by an average price increase from £5.54 to £5.76 – the highest February price in the last three years. This average price increase was repeated across all categories with the notable exception of plush and outdoor.

In current economic conditions it is positive to see price increases coming through. All other toys, building sets and youth electronics had significant average price increases compared to the same month a year ago with building sets increasing by 19 per cent and youth electronics by 21 per cent.

All the super-categories have suffered from the loss of Woolworths, but building sets, infant and pre-school and all other toys have fared the best. Building sets sales have increased eight per cent in value compared to the same period last year, driven by standard building sets with both Lego Power Miners and Lego Pirates new ranges in the top new properties so far this year. Infant and pre-school continues to be the largest supercategory with sales approaching £15m in February.

Infant toy sales have grown seven per cent for the year-to-date, driven particularly by walkers and rattles. All other toys’ stability has been driven by educational/musical toys with High School Musical and Hannah Montana licences particularly influencing the market. Action figures has also had some strong sellers in the past month with the new Power Rangers Jungle Fury line, which has made it the number two selling licence in this category.

Licences continue to help drive the toy market and account for 32 per cent of all toy sales. During February Ben 10 managed to reach the top spot helped by the new Alien Force ranges now available. However, a number of other properties have also performed well in the last couple of months with Sylvanian Families and Bakugan now in the top 25 property lists and looking set to continue growing.

As the weather now starts to improve, we look forward to the summer and hopefully the good weather will improve consumer confidence and encourage them to purchase toys to make 2009 summer a strong one for the toy industry.


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