Over the half-term school break, we were interviewing children aged two to nine for an upcoming qualitative research project. One of our icebreaker questions was, “What would you like for Christmas?”
Traditional big-ticket items like bikes and scooters ranked highly, followed by smaller items like Nintendo Switch games, L.O.L Surprise! dolls and Pokémon cards. As you’d expect, technology also featured. It never ceases to amaze me when a four-year-old child asks for a phone. Although four years is young, according to Youth TGI, 22 per cent of seven year olds have their own phone and 18 per cent of them have a smartphone.
We know phones and devices pose a very real threat to the traditional toy market, but we also know that children who have their own smartphones or tablets are likely to have acquired them as a hand-me-down rather than a new purchase.
Christmas remains a time for toys and games gifts. According to Mintel 27.9 per cent of all gifts bought for Christmas 2017 were toys, with 60 per cent of purchases being made in November – a little earlier than one would anticipate, but with the increase of Black Friday events in the UK not surprising.
So, what will be the top requested toy for Christmas 2018 in the UK? One of the indicators has always been the DreamToys list – a summation of expert predictions from the Toy Retail Association and British Toy and Hobby Association – as well as the key retailers’ predictions (Amazon, Argos, Tesco, Hamleys, John Lewis – no Smyths Toys yet, why?!).
In terms of licenses predicted to do well, Fingerlings is set to perform strongly across both genders with their untamed Dinosaurs and Hugs ranges – dinosaurs being a very savvy choice with the recent success of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. LEGO Harry Potter merchandise also appears across many of the lists, with the latest instalment of Fantastic Beasts releasing on 16 November keeping Wizarding World properties front of mind. We know boys are more likely to be motivated to purchase toys when the main driver is TV or movies, so these seem like solid predictions! Finally, MGA’s L.O.L Surprise! shows no change in its popularity. Excluding John Lewis, L.O.L Surprise made it on to every retailer’s top choices.
So, how much validity should the industry place on these lists? Looking again at the NPD data for 2018, the top 10 items across the total toy market (YTD September 2018 vs. 2017) was split across three brands: L.O.L Surprise! followed by Fingerlings and PAW Patrol. All three were featured in the Dream Dozen. It should be noted that the list itself tends to favour licenses, with 41.6 per cent of last year’s list made up of licensed toys, when overall the market was only 26.8 per cent.
In 2018 we saw a decline of 10 per cent in licensed toys – perhaps DreamToys is attempting to bolster the licensed market? While PR is great, the real solution to the market dip is undoubtedly the emergence of new licenses. The properties that saw real growth in 2017 entered the market less than five years ago – such as PAW Patrol, PJ Masks and Hatchimals, excluding Panini stickers for obvious reasons. Next year, Santa, please can we have some new properties? Pretty please!
Loveday Weller is Insight and Innovation Manager at Giraffe Insights, part of the Generation Media Group
Sources: NPD Group, Youth TGI, Mintel: Christmas Shopping Habits 2018, UK February 2018