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UK toy market sees 5% value growth in 2020

Biggest spike in sales came during the first lockdown; total sales for the year reached £3.3 billion.

Despite a difficult trading year for many industries, the toy market remained buoyant and resistant in 2020 as overall sales increased in value by 5%, with the biggest spike in sales coming during the first lockdown of 2020 (+22%).

Total sales for the year were £3.3 billion, maintaining the UK’s position as the largest toy market in Europe and fourth largest globally, The NPD Group reported.

Games and puzzles saw the highest category growth (+19%), with families spending more quality time playing together. Puzzles, which can be enjoyed both in groups and individually, increased by 38%. Meanwhile, building sets and outdoor toys also experienced significant growth in 2020 growing by 18% and 15% respectively.

The periodic closure of schools and nurseries also meant that many parents turned to educational toys for assistance to help bolster their children’s cognitive development. This drove a 9% increase in sales of learning and exploration toys such as scientific sets and musical instruments.

In addition to this, ‘kidults’ are now responsible for more than one quarter of toy sales.

When it came to Christmas, with concerns over shortages of supply and delivery capacity, consumers heeded the advice to shop early. The toy sector enjoyed a strong November, up 11% YOY, followed by lower than usual sales in December (down 9% YOY), exacerbated by lockdowns across the UK.

Classified as essential retail and able to remain open during lockdowns, grocery chains fared well for toy sales in the last two months, up 10% YOY.

When it came to the top sellers of the year, preschool favourite PAW Patrol was among the top 15 – with Spin Master’s PAW Patrol Vehicle and Pup coming in at number six.


“The top 15 sellers of the year tell much of the story for toys in 2020. We turned to toys and games to help fill the long weeks of lockdown,” commented Frédérique Tutt, global industry analyst at The NPD Group. “We turned to toys and games to help fill the long weeks of lockdown. Toys provided the hub for fun, entertainment, education, exercise and stress relief. They helped make the decidedly abnormal feel normal  – especially at Christmas.

“Manufacturers and retailers worked hard to meet the need for toys of all kinds for all ages, shifting sales to online and Click & Collect, and to grocery chains to fulfil demand. 2020 accelerated changes already underway in the toy sector and underlined the importance of innovation, strong supply chain and channel management.”

Roland Earl, director general at the BTHA, added: “2020 was an extremely challenging year for retail as a whole, and toy retailers of all sizes had to adapt and innovate in this difficult environment in order to ensure consumers could still obtain the products they require.

“The end of year statistics reflect the role that toys and games played in bringing enjoyment and assisting families and individuals to navigate the difficulties of repeated closures and lockdowns. Despite varying functions, objectives and age suitability, all toys are ultimately designed with one overarching goal – to bring fun, enjoyment and play value to the recipient and never has this been more important.”

Roland continued: “Looking ahead to 2021, the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic will remain for some time, though toy designers will continue to innovate during tough conditions to ensure families have access to the items they want and need. Brexit will continue to have an impact on all industries in 2021, and the toy sector specificially will continue with its thorough preparation following the deal announced at Christmas.”

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