What’s in store for the US toy industry in 2021

Steve Pasierb, president and ceo of The Toy Association, outlines some of the key issues that the market will be facing in 2021.


While US toy sales were up a dramatic 19% in the first three quarters of 2020, the actual company-by-company results have varied widely, with some companies doing exceptionally well and others suffering. Surveys indicate 45% of toy spending is online versus 36% in the prior year.

Yet through all the uncertainty and retail disruption, The Toy Association has redoubled actionable information and direct assistance to those who are struggling and continues to make headway on important issues impacting all members of the toy and play community.


Since the onset of the pandemic, The Toy Association has been working with like-minded trade associations and industries to promote economic relief and advocate for funding of the Paycheck Protection Program, among other programs. The Association’s COVID-19 resource centre (toyassociation.org/covid) contains business and retailer toolkits for navigating the pandemic and guidance about specific government funding and relief programs. Throughout the summer, the Association hosted a series of weekly webinars to guide companies on a range of issues, including how to do business with a bankrupt retailer, insurance coverage in the COVID-19 era, manufacturing location strategies amidst turbulent times, and more. All sessions are available on demand at toyassociation.org/webinars.


While the health crisis is at the forefront of everyone’s mind, The Toy Association’s External Affairs staff is continuing to make headway on North American and global issues that are high priorities for the toy community, including advocating for legislation that tackles the threat of unsafe counterfeit toys sold on e-commerce platforms; breaking down trade barriers in nations around the world; pushing back on legislation that does not add to the already robust toy safety standards; making sure that marketing to children continues to be of the highest standard and safeguards privacy; and opening new markets for toy and play products.


Toy Fair New York, normally held in February, has been postponed to May 1-4, 2021. As long as it is safe to do so, the spring show will bring the toy community back together in person, before returning to the show’s usual place on the calendar February 19-22, 2022.

The 2022 show in the newly expanded Javits Center will be reimagined consistent with trends and changes to the marketplace. Attendees are encouraged to visit www.ToyFairNY.com to begin planning. In the meantime, look for announcements related to the highly successful Toy Fair Everywhere digital wholesale marketplace, offering a year-round full e-commerce solution for toy sellers and buyers at www.ToyFairEverywhere.info.


There have been many unpredictable changes in the world since March, but play has been a mainstay for many families stuck at home or distancing from friends. Trends related to play, shopping, and spending have certainly evolved and will undoubtedly impact sales for the holiday season and into the New Year.

To date, US sales have soared for puzzles and family board games, outdoor play equipment, and educational toys and games to help with at-home learning. Likewise, toy companies well-positioned with major retailers such as Walmart, Target and Amazon have seen consistently strong sales, as have companies and retailers with strong digital footprints and e-commerce sites. And classic and nostalgic toys and brands have acted as a kind of ‘comfort food’ for families seeking positive outlets in an uncertain world.

Looking ahead to 2021 and 2022, it is expected that many of the positive toy and play trends that emerged amid COVID-19 will remain strong. Trends The Toy Association team has seen in fall preview meetings include the continuing importance of play in family life, retro and classic toys that inspire nostalgia and bring comfort, and laugh-out-loud, silly and gross-out toys and games that will bring much-needed levity into everyone’s lives.


Building closer and more dynamic relationships between consumers and products via digital and social media will continue to grow in importance. Influencers, user-generated content, and fan groups will also impact toy trends and sales, and there is no turning back from the online shopping surge accelerated by the pandemic. At bricks and mortar stores, particularly at specialty shops, experiences will need to be even more personal, exciting, and hands-on than ever before to keep consumers coming back for more.

Entertainment companies launching major IP properties will continue to pivot and find new ways to drive consumer excitement in the face of an increasingly fragmented audience.

As for The Toy Association, its mission has been, and always will be, to create lasting value and to help businesses not just survive but thrive. Addressing the future of the industry as well as retail developments, consumer behavior, and the actions of governments will keep the organisation busy in the months ahead. Visit www.ToyAssociation.org to learn more about all of the Association’s resources and member benefits – from webinars and white papers to global advocacy and more.

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