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US toy industry stays stable in 2009, tween sector grows

It looks like the US toy industry did not suffer as much as other sectors in 2009. The NPD Group has released year-end figures, showing toys generated US$21.47 billion in retail sales, down less than 1% from 2008 numbers.
February 2, 2010

It looks like the US toy industry did not suffer as much as other sectors in 2009. The NPD Group has released year-end figures, showing toys generated US$21.47 billion in retail sales, down less than 1% from 2008 numbers.

NPD analyst Anita Frazier says that the stable number, less than a 1% decline from US$21.65 billion in 2008, along with the bump in Q4 unit sales, is a positive sign for the industry as it heads into 2010.

As for supercategories, building sets (up 23%) and arts & crafts (up 7%) saw the biggest increases, which Frazier credits to construction toys’ open-ended play pattern and extended entertainment value, and the attractive price points of arts & crafts items. Meanwhile, action figures (up 4%) and games/puzzles (up 1%) also experienced revenue increases. Interestingly, youth electronics saw the largest decline at 17% compared to 2008, followed by plush at 13%,

Notably, unit share for toys priced under US$5 decreased in 2009. Though overall unit sales were down 0.5% for the year, the only price range that lost share were toys under US$5, and consumers were buying more toys priced in the mid-range (between US$5 and US$10).

All channels saw flat to minimal gains in share of dollar sales, though toy stores did see a 1% decline, mostly due to the closure of KB Toy. The mass merchant/discount channel saw an increase of 1%.

Though sales for kids ages eight and under still rep a major chunk of total toy sales (69%), the only age group to gain in share and absolute dollar sales was the nine to 12 set. Again, the significant increase in building sets sales contributed to the increase for this age group.

As for top properties based on total dollar sales, they include Bakugan, Barbie, Crayola, Star Wars and Transformers. Licensed toys repped 25% of total industry sales last year, compared to 27% in 2008. Based on dollar sales, Cars: The Movie, Disney Princess, Dora the Explorer, Star Wars, and Thomas and Friends topped the list of 2009′s best-selling licensed properties. Frazier adds that the popular Zhu Zhu Pets brought excitement to the toy category this past holiday season, and several other IPs benefited from this in the fourth quarter.

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