Traditional toys come out on top for the UK’s £3.6bn toy market

Products in traditional categories like Action Figures, Building Sets and Vehicles drove sales in 2022, while Plush was the best performing category.

The BTHA and The NPD Group revealed their annual industry insights as Toy Fair opened its doors this morning (24 January) at London’s Olympia.

Against a challenging economic backdrop in 2022 that saw UK toy sales decline 3% to £3.6bn, it was traditional toy categories – plush (soft toys), building sets, action figures and vehicles – which drove toy sales, with all four categories seeing positive growth during the year.

The best performing category of 2022, plush (soft toys), up a significant 29% YoY, delivered exceptional results for the toy industry due to its popularity with a wide audience, and its collectability appeal.

2022 saw the top toy properties going to the classics Star Wars, Marvel Universe and Barbie, and the fastest growing went to Squishmallows and Jurassic World. Licensed toys grew for the fourth consecutive year, up by 5.5%, now accounting for 31% of the market – the highest ever share.

The average selling price of a toy now at £10.54, shows that toys remain accessible all-year round purchases. In 2022, consumers increasingly favoured toys that cost between £30 and £50 suggesting that people were making more considered purchases.

“The UK toy industry has continued to deliver toys and games for consumers at affordable prices during 2022 among high levels of inflation, and a cost-of-living crisis” commented Kerri Atherton, head of public affairs at the BTHA. “Last year, new product innovations were vital to driving sales in the UK toy industry which led to growth in the plush toy category. With a strong line-up of new releases for 2023, the UK toy industry has signs to be optimistic about the year ahead.”

Melissa Symonds, executive director, UK Toys at The NPD Group, added: “New licensed properties like Gabby’s Dollhouse and classics like Star Wars drove major sales throughout 2022. With Disney celebrating their 100th anniversary and movie releases such as Barbie, Transformers, and Super Mario, 2023 looks set to be another good year for licensed toys, an instrumental part of the UK toy industry.”

Christmas shoppers appeared to leave their shopping until the last minute in 2022 with week 51 results up 15% on the previous year.

In-store purchases increased throughout the year with offline sales accounting for 51% of the UK toy market, an increase of 6% from 2021. Online sales are still ahead of where they were before the pandemic, when online sales accounted for just 35% percent of the market.

Melissa continued: “In 2022, we saw consumers returning to make more purchases in store during the year. Consumers are increasingly choosing to shop with specialist toy stores, which saw an uplift of 16% in sales, with consumers seeking out large product ranges offering choice and value.”

Toy Fair runs at London’s Olympia from 24-26 January.

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