Toy wars: how do films affect sales in the toy industry?

Genie Todd, marketing executive at Aardvark Swift Recruitment, looks at how the big screen can sway licensing and toys sales in 2016.
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When I think back to going to the cinema as a child, I always remember going to McDonalds afterwards for a happy meal so I could get my hands on the latest film toys.

For me, films and toys have always maintained a link with one another, but what effect do films have on the sales of toys as a whole?

According to the British Toy and Hobby Association, toy sales in the UK have grown by 5.9 per cent to £3.2 billion. Licensed products currently make up a quarter of this revenue, and the success of this largely relies on the film industry.

In 2014, The LEGO Movie made over £31.6 million at the box office, leading to a 10 per cent boost in LEGO toys sales. And by 2015, the demand for construction toys almost doubled, causing LEGO to surpass Mattel in becoming the world’s largest toymaker that year.

However, it was Frozen merchandise that dominated toy sales in 2014, despite the film’s release being at the end of 2013. The popularity of Elsa and Anna dolls overtook Barbie, leading Disney to have their strongest quarter ever.

In 2015 it was all about dinosaurs and minions thanks to the success of Jurassic World and Minions. Research by NPD found that sales of licensed toys “grew by seven per cent, or two time faster than the rest of the toy market, in the 12 months ending April 2015” with future sales looking particularly strong from Walt Disney, Universal and DreamWorks Animation.

So with these figures, what can we expect for licensing and toys sales in 2016?

Despite being released at the end of last year, it’s looking like Star Wars will continue to dominate the toys shelves in 2016, from lightsabers to figures and construction toys. Having gained the title for the best box office opening weekend ever, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has grossed £365 million so far, beating its previous successors Avatar and Titanic.

With ‘Force Friday’ generating over $700 million in the sales of Star Wars Toys in 2015, there’s no doubt that the popularity of Star Wars will only continue in the toys industry this year.

And it’s not just Star Wars that could influence the toys industry this year, with 2016 looking like a strong year for blockbuster films.

Disney’s success in toys sales is likely to increase with the release of Finding Dory and The BFG this year. 2016 could also be a big year for the sales of superhero and action figurines and toys, with Marvel’s Captain American: Civil War and DC’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice being just two of the superhero films set to hit the cinemas this year.

So 2016 is looking to be a big year for blockbuster films and toy sales in the UK, as companies like Disney, Marvel and LEGO continue to lead the way in film related toys.

The growing figures each year really demonstrate just how much of an effect films can have on the toys industry, as children long to delve into their favourite worlds and galaxies!


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