The business of play

Steve Pasierb reports on what’s in store for the US toy industry


While US toy sales were up a dramatic 19 per cent 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 per cent of toy spending is online versus 36 per cent 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.

Covid-19 business guidance
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 center (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.

Protecting the business of play
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.

Helping our members forge ahead
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.

Toy, play & consumer trends
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.

Strategic view to 2021 and beyond
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 brick-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.

The Toy Association
Steve Pasierb is President & CEO at The Toy Association. Founded in 1916, The Toy Association™, Inc. is the not-for-profit trade association representing all businesses involved in creating and delivering toys and youth entertainment products for kids of all ages. The Toy Association leads the health and growth of the US toy industry, which has an annual US economic impact of $97.2 billion, and its 1000+ members drive the annual $27 billion US domestic toy market. The Toy Association serves as the industry’s voice on the developmental benefits of play and promotes play’s positive impact on childhood development to consumers and media. The organization has a long history of leadership in toy safety, having helped develop the first comprehensive toy safety standard more than 40 years ago, and remains committed to working with medical experts, government, consumers, and industry on ongoing programs to ensure safe and fun play.
www.toyassociation.org | www.thegeniusofplay.org | www.playsafe.org