As 89% of the world’s student population are affected by nationwide school closures, according to UNESCO, the US has seen a surge in sales of activity-based categories for entertainment and hands-on learning, says The NPD Group.
In the week ending March 21, sales of toys, books and office supplies rose considerably for everything from board games and activity books to coloring and chalk games in the US. That week total toy sales grew by 26%. The fastest-growing category was games and puzzles, which jumped 228% in a single week, driven by family board/action, card and children’s games. Building sets also saw a 75% increase in sales and arts and crafts was not far behind with 70% growth due to craft kits and reusable compounds flying off the shelves.
Outdoor and sports toys are also having a moment and grew by 20%. The NPD’s toy industry advisor Juli Lennett says this is likely due to consumers stocking up for lengthy school closures.
To that end, kids nonfiction books sales grew 66% for the week ending in March 21. The biggest subject categories seeing a lift were focused on education and activities, as general activity book sales grew 128%, study aids 235%, school and education 143% and language arts/handwriting 265%.
The art supplies category also saw a big bump. Coloring and art tools lifted the office supplies sales by 86% that same week. Within that, chalk sales grew by 56%, writing instruments, including window/glass markers grew 146%, color markers 81%, finger paints were up 313%, tempera paint 272%, watercolor paper 188% and painting accessories 111%. (Kids are putting those items to good use: children across the globe are putting rainbow drawings up in their windows and on sidewalks and driveways to cheer each other up during global lockdowns).
With Easter approaching quickly, all these categories could see a further lift, according to Lennett. “Parents are likely seeking stability for their kids by maintaining Easter traditions and also buying ahead, as shopping visits become few and far between,” she said in a statement.
However, it’s not a fully rosy picture, as the broader toy chain system has been disrupted. Retailers around the world have shuttered to slow the spread of COVID-19, supply chains have been disrupted, and Amazon is prioritizing shipments of essential goods in its warehouses over non-essentials like toys and art supplies. Parents stocking up on supplies, alongside broader distribution challenges, could lead to a toy shortage according to several industry experts.
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