The NPD Group announced U.S. retail sales of toys generated $25.1 billion in 2020, an increase of 16% or $3.5 billion. Unit sales for the year were flat while the average selling price increased by 16%*.
Much of the growth in 2020 was directly correlated to the COVID-19 pandemic and the changing consumer behavior associated with widespread lockdowns and school closures, the disposable income diverted from other types of entertainment to toys, as well as the onset of federal stimulus checks. While toy sales through mid-March 2020 were flat vs. 2019, widespread lockdown measures led to an abrupt increase in sales. This was further amplified by the distribution of stimulus checks beginning in April, resulting in the strongest month of growth for the year in May (+38%). Toy industry growth peaked again in October with an increase of 33% when the holiday season kicked off with Amazon Prime Day along with other retailer deals the same week.
“2020 was an unprecedented year for the U.S. toy industry. The growth we’ve seen in the toy industry speaks to the fact that parents are willing to put their children’s happiness above all else,” said Juli Lennett, vice president and industry advisor, U.S. Toys, The NPD Group. “The industry’s resiliency is very much underpinned by the reality that, in times of hardship, families look to toys to help keep their children engaged, active, and delighted. Put simply, toys are a big part of the happiness equation.”
One major theme in 2020 was the growth of online shopping. Some retail closures and consumer hesitancy towards shopping in stores led to a surge in online toy sales. In the first three quarters of 2020, the online channel gained 10 share points from the 23% share in 2019, leading to 75% growth in overall online toy sales year over year**. Not only did pure play online retailers do well, but brick and mortar retailers that had buy online, in-store pickup, or curbside options, also outperformed.
The top dollar growth subsegments in 2020 were sports toys, which includes skates, skateboards and scooters (+31%), fashion dolls and accessories (+56%), building sets (+26%), games (+29%), and summer seasonal toys (+24%). The top properties of 2020 included L.O.L. Surprise!, Barbie, Star Wars, Pokémon, and Marvel Universe. The top five properties combined accounted for 13% of all toy sales on the year.
While units declined in seven of the 11 supercategories, average selling price increased in every supercategory. The increase in average price was a key driver of the growth in dollar sales and was driven by a shift in product mix to higher-priced categories.