With holiday excitement building up as early as this September, the big retailers are laying out their offers for toys to entice consumers. Amazon already listed 100 toys for the season on its website in August while Wal-Mart announced last Wednesday more than 1,000 new toys, which includes more than 300 (representing 25 percent) that will be exclusive to its stores.
Target on the other hand said that it plans to sell more than 1,400 new and exclusive toys both in its stores and online, lower than the 1,800 it sold in 2016. These include a Jetson-branded electric scooter, a Hatchimals egg and a Shopkins mall that are part of 11 toys that are exclusive to the store.
Meanwhile Toys R Us committed to match prices from other retailers like Amazon, Target, Best Buy or Wal-Mart if customers are able to find better deals there. The retailer is offering a layaway service with no fee required and replacing its “Fab 15” list with “Geoffrey’s Top 20.”
The early unveiling by retailers is an indication of the pressure they face as more consumers shop online and competition stiffens. Toys play an important role in exciting shoppers and eventually bringing in more sales. This is critical for a toy retailer like Toys R Us, whose baseline depends on the holiday season and its debt of $400 million is due in 2018.
According to The NPD Group, toy sales reached $20.4 billion in 2016, a 5 percent growth, largely due to solid sales across popular categories such as entertainment properties, collectibles, interactive toys, puzzles and tech-infused toys. However, collectibles grossed $1.8 billion last year, a growth of 33 percent with collectible items – where buyers don’t know what they are getting (blind packs) – growing by 60 percent.
Collectible toys remain one of the most popular categories enjoyed by kids in their quest to collect them all. The top toys in this segment include Disney’s Tsum Tsums, Lego’s traditional figures, Spin Master’s “Colleggtibles,” and buildable BrickHeadz characters.
Other popular items are interactive robots like My Little Pony Magic Twilight Sparkle, a pink animatronic horse that responds to touch and some fluffy tigers that have dozens of sounds and motions. Toy maker Mattel, is ready to debut a battery-operated Barbie’s DreamHorse and a robotic horse toy from the Zoomer line is on its way.
Toys that depict characters familiar with kids are also likely to fare well, although investors were disappointed with Hasbro’s lines of “Despicable Me 3” and “Cars 3.” These toys invoke imaginative memories in kids and the upward trend is expected with toys from “Justice League,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” and “My Little Pony: The Movie.”
Toys molded around blockbusters have also seen a boost in sales. “Star Wars” toy sales peaked at $500 million after the release of “The Force Awakens,” and sales for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” are expected to grow with the thrill for the upcoming film release in December.
Tech toys are also gaining momentum in the crowded space with Hasbro releasing a Dance Code Belle doll that can be coded to dance and an animatronic dog that can be coded to make sounds. Crayola has released Fashion Superstar that lets users create their own masterpieces on paper and transfer those designs into an app. This category is a good tool for kids to learn to code.
This year’s variety of toys in different categories will definitely excite kids and parents going into the holiday season.