5 minute read

NPD Insight

How will 2020 shape 2021?

Rory looks at whether trends formed in 2020 look set to carry forward into this year and assesses how else the UK toy market might develop post-lockdown.

It has been well documented that the toy market performed well in 2020, with +5% growth in the NPD EPOS data. There have been some consistent trends, with growth in key categories like Construction, Arts & Crafts, Games & Puzzles and Outdoor toys. Generally, there was a shift to higher priced toys that had strong perceived play value and often educational content, as parents used these items to help with home schooling over the year. But were there any surprising growth areas in 2020? Let’s use NPD Consumer data to look at some of the larger shifts in trends for 2020 and look ahead to what that might mean for 2021.

Looking at the changing demographics of who received toys in the UK market in 2020 is a good place to start. The two largest age groups for toys are 3–5-year-olds, who account for around a quarter of all sales, and 6–8-year-olds, who represent just over a fifth of all sales. Both groups saw value increases in 2020, consistent with the total market growth. The increases predominantly came from the categories you would expect: Construction and Arts & Crafts. This is in line with the theory that toys were used during home schooling to help parents and to provide time away from screens.

What is perhaps more interesting is that the age group which added more value to the toy market in 2020 than any other was the 18+ group, growing at +11% vs. 2019, adding more than £54m to the UK toy market. With most of the focus on kids, it’s easy to overlook how important adults are to the market; for example, they made up over a third of all Games & Puzzles value in 2020. Looking closer at that category, adults added just over £30m in 2020, with over half of that value from Puzzles. Puzzles undoubtedly benefited from the Covid-19 crisis, helping kids play and learn at home. But huge growth in the 18+ age range shows that the category is also helping adults make time for themselves and get back into puzzling, especially with the added positive impact this can have on mental health. The same can be said for the Construction category, where the 18+ age group added over £11m in 2020. When we look at the top sellers for 2020, higher priced items feature prominently, such as the Lego Technic Bugatti Chiron with an average price of £238, and the Lego Technic Porsche 911 RSR with an average price of £114. We have often spoken of toys being used as a refuge for kids during lockdown, but perhaps we can say the same for adults.

Another area of the toy market which has received a lot of attention is the switch to online purchasing, with online accounting for 57% of all toy sales in 2020. We know this was down to a lot of stores being closed for large parts of the year, especially in November. Online or digital also had a significant influence on the toys that were purchased. Traditionally, the biggest influence on toy sales is in-store shop displays, which accounted for nearly 15% of all sales in 2019. This figure obviously dropped in 2020, when in-store displays accounted for £110m less in value than the year before. Conversely, the main gains came from digital influences, with social media accounting for £24m more, online reviews for £74m more and websites an additional £24m. Added together, this means that digital influences added around £120m more to the toy market in 2020. The categories that are most influenced by digital are Dolls, Games & Puzzles and Arts & Crafts. Many of the big winners of 2020 are not only being purchased online, but also influenced by online content, be it YouTube videos, product reviews or just comments on social media pages.

Market conditions will soon be reverting to a more traditional scenario: the kids are now back at school and retail stores are set to re-open their doors any day. The big question is to what extent the shift the market experienced in 2020 will shape the rest of 2021? Will shoppers be drawn back to stores in the same numbers we have been accustomed to? Will adults continue to use certain toy categories to help them unwind? And with the kids back at schools, what impact will that have on toy sales moving forward? Time will tell, but I think it’s safe to say that some of the trends which emerged in 2020 will remain with us in the long term.

Property Progression:

Minecraft has been around for a few years now and was one of the first examples of a digital licence crossing over successfully into toys. The licence saw strong growth in 2020 of +68%, driven by Building Sets and Action Figures, and this trend has continued into 2021. The licence has nearly double the value in February as it had in January, with Standard Building Sets being the top subclass, worth around three quarters of the overall value.

Fastest Growing Categories in Toys

With the UK being under lockdown since the start of the year, the trends that were first cemented in March last year have continued into 2021. We have seen Standard Building Sets leading the way in terms of growth, adding around £12m to the market in 2021 so far. Interestingly, Playground Equipment is the second largest subclass for value gain, with parents looking ahead to the Easter break and kitting out their gardens in the hope of some good weather. The Family Board/Action Games category is the third top performer. We see a number of Games & Puzzles categories in the top 10, with Family Board/Action Games joined by Adult Puzzles and Strategic Trading Card games. Arts and Crafts, another lockdown winner, is also well represented in the top 10 with Craft Kits and Reusable Compounds both featuring in the top 10 for growth so far in 2021.