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A Look At The 2019 Toy Market And Top Performing Brands

The NPD Group, which tracks toy sales across 13 major markets, released their 2019 toy market numbers a while ago. And while toy sales were down 3% overall across all the tracked markets, it’s not all bad news. One toy supercategory saw very healthy growth even in 2019. Can you guess which one? Click through for the answer!

A Disney Store ar Target

A Disney Store at Target

The US toy market declined by roughly 4% in 2019. Some of the decline can be explained by TRU liquidation sales in 2018, which inflated the numbers somewhat in that year. The second half of 2019 saw a much smaller decline in the US. Overall revenue was still $20.9 billion, approx. $900 million less than in 2018.

In the UK the toy market declined by 6% to £3.2 billion total sales (ca. $4.1 billion).

Germany’s toy market however, grew by 3% and is the second largest market in Europe behind the UK, but only by a small margin. If 2019 trends continue in 2020 then Germany may become Europe’s biggest market in 2020. It has to be noted that in Germany the former TRU stores were not closed down and were taken over by Smyth’s instead.

So while the toy markets either declined or grew in various key markets (most markets with declining sales saw the closing down of a major toy retailer) one toy supercategory had very healthy growth in 2019.

And that is “Action Figures”! The supercategory grew by 11% in 2019! And things get even more interesting when we look at the various sub-categories that contribute to the “Action Figures” supercategory.

  • Action Figure Playsets & accessories (+21 percent)
  • Action Figure Collectibles (+16 percent)
  • Battling Toys & Playsets (+41 percent)

However, before you pop your champagne and think that various Star Wars playsets at Walmart or Star Wars action figures in general are a key factor here…

According to the NPD Group both Toy Story and Fortnite are responsible for almost half of the Action Figures supercategory growth. In Europe “Fortnite” was the top gaining toy property of the year. 2019 was also a great year for Marvel. Star Wars also grew in 2019 (2018 was very bad), but it’s not one of the key brands responsible for the growth. All that being said it’s maybe not too unreasonable to assume that Star Wars playsets contributed to the healthy growth in that sub category. Hasbro certainly took note here!

Licensed toy sales increased by 3%, compared to 2018. Key contributors to the growth were Frozen II, Toy Story, Fortnite, Pokemon and the LEGO movie.

The NPD Group also released a list of the top 5 best selling toy properties across the tracked markets:

  1. LOL Surprise
  2. Barbie
  3. Marvel
  4. Hot Wheels
  5. Nerf

Things look a little bit different in Europe, where Playmobil takes the number 1 spot, ahead of LOL Surprise. But Playmobil plays a much smaller role in the US and is not among the global top performers. However, it’s a brand to be reckoned with in Europe.

Star Wars is absent from this list. Mattel is certainly happy that Barbie is back on track and that Hot Wheels is still strong. But Hasbro has also a few winners with Marvel and Nerf, Nerf, while not really liked by most Star Wars collectors, who remember several Nerf “enhanced” Star Wars vehicles, continues to be a popular Hasbro brand.

So while action figures (and associated things like playsets etc) enjoy increasing popularity, it seems most of the growth comes from other brands, not Star Wars. But at least Star Wars contributed somewhat to rising sales, which is always good news. And people don’t need to worry about action figures in general. The category grew in 2018, it grew again in 2019, quite a lot, actually. Now we only need to hope that the coronavirus pandemic will not derail things too much, the economy is already taking a hit. 2020 may be a tough year for many toy companies when people fear to go to shops or supply chains from China are disrupted. Things look better again in China though. So maybe 2020 won’t be too bad.

The analysts at the NPD Group predicted (before corona arrived) that the action figure category will keep growing in 2020 and 2021. It certainly is a golden age for action figure collectors, maybe not necessarily for Star Wars collectors, but action figure collectors never had so many lines to choose from.

Do you collect any action figure lines other than Star Wars? Marvel? Funko Pops?

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