Toy industry, quo vadis?

The coronavirus pandemic is in many ways serving us as a catalyst to change and creation for every business, including toy industry.  

Looking at the pandemic’s immediate effect on toy industry, sales increased by 4 percent in the first quarter of 2020 (January – March) across the 13 global markets (G13)*.

But even though things have been looking “brighter” recently, as desperate homebound parents bought toys to help entertain and keep busy their children, the toy industry will certainly see its challenges in the next months or maybe years…

Below a quick outlook of parents and kids habits observed over past months (and that are not likely to fade away soon) related to the prime looming trends /opportunities to come. Nevertheless, the future could surprise us, as we’ve noticed recently…

Lockdown has taught us that the practice of social distancing is likely to increase in the future, so we’ll be seeing less foot traffic in physical stores, which is leading to an even faster growth in online shopping.

So the (real) Commerce is dead, long live the eCommerce!

And even if parents decide to make a trip into stores, they are not (yet) planning to take their children with them. The absence of children on next shopping trips to retailers will be a big challenge. The childless shopping might be having a negative impact because that eliminates impulse toy purchases and it makes more difficult to understand the purchasing process.

The uncertainty of the economic climate will make parents “think and count twice” before buying and will make them stick to essential toys / games.

To catch families’ attention now, and in near future, toy companies should be trying to offer kids and families products they can enjoy together. In that matter, brands should look for new ways to engage parents and kids at the same time.

Playing is now about the pleasure of sharing!

Also, another challenge for the next months will be the way families evaluate a toy, aside from reading reviews and recommendations, is watching more closely how their child interact with the toy. So they will become more demanding over the products: quality, features, creativity, durability…

Consequently, brands should also discover new ways of allowing families to discover and interact with products. There is need to turn to innovative marketing strategies: influencers’ in-home playdates, product demonstrations in “unusual places”, social media or platforms that are familiar to parents.

Families are tending to invest in established brands because now, more than ever, they want what’s familiar and reliable.  The smaller brands aren’t probably going to be able to break through right now. So this isn’t maybe the best time to launch new products.

…. Unless

Beyond families wanting all the above elements in a product, what children need from toys now is also changing, so they are looking for products that better reflect their reality. Parents will become more purpose-driven individuals, wanting to build something important rather than “optimize that shade of blue or whatever.”

For companies looking to break through now, the focus should be on launching creation-focused toys, which let kids create their own narratives and work through their anxiety through self-guided play. Toy companies should be focusing on giving kids the opportunity to tell stories through their play, to incorporate these moments and cope with them.

Children will also need to have more control in their lives and toy companies should focus on giving kids simple construction-focused toys that give them the freedom to build and a sense of competency plus a feeling of completion.

Furthermore, as now we appreciate more than ever the environment and the precious time spent in nature, search for eco-friendly toys could also offer immense growth opportunities.

The recipe is not complicated in the end: think outside the box, count on innovative marketing, come up with an essential, reliable, familiar offer of products that the whole family could enjoy, and they can easily discover and purchase online. Give a chance to purpose-driven toys that would permit kids to create, narrate, build freely, take back the control and stay in touch with nature.

*Courtesy of NPD Group/ Retail Tracking Service, January-March 2020


Auteur : Adriana Munteanu – Business Development –