Toy Industry Sales Stabilized as Economy Continued to Struggle In 2009

by Jay Cochran
February 02, 2010
"The holiday time frame represents a critical sales period for the toy industry. Consistent with what we've seen in previous years, November and December accounted for 40% of annual toy sales, and December alone generated 25% of annual 2009 industry sales in the U.S."

"The U.S. toy industry realized a decrease of less than 1% this year, and the fourth quarter saw an increase in unit sales of nearly 4% over last year. This momentum is great for the industry heading into 2010."

"Our sales data from some European countries shows an increase in toy industry sales outside the U.S. with the exception of the U.K. which declined largely due to the closure of Woolworth's, which had been prominent in retail sales of toys in that territory."

"Board game sales, a subset of the Games/Puzzles supercategory, saw an increase in revenues of 2% in 2009 over 2008. Board games have been one of the more resilient areas for the toy industry in recent years and at $1.1B in sales last year, board games account for 5% of total toy industry sales."

"Licensed toy sales accounted for 25% of total industry sales last year, down from 27% in 2008. Keep in mind that one of the big movies that generated toy sales this year was Transformers, and that is an owned-IP of Hasbro's, not a license. Transformers was one of the top five properties in 2009."

U.S. Toy Industry Sales Generate $21.47 Billion in 2009
Industry Sales Stabilized as Economy Continued to Struggle

PORT WASHINGTON, NY, February 1, 2010 – According to leading market research company, The NPD Group, U.S. retail sales of toys generated $21.47 billion in 2009 compared to $21.65 billion in 2008, a decline of under 1 percent. In contrast to fourth quarter (Oct. - Dec.) 2008, Q4 2009 sales reveal that, while revenues were flat due to heavy promotional activity at retail, unit sales were up 4 percent vs. Q4’08.

”2009 was a remarkably uneventful year for the toy industry, but in a good way," said Anita Frazier, industry analyst, The NPD Group. " In a time of continued economic turmoil, toy industry revenues were very stable, and the uptick in unit sales in the four quarter is a very positive sign for the industry heading into 2010.”

Looking at revenue sales performance across super-categories, Building Sets and Arts & Crafts experienced the most significant increases, at 23 percent and 7 percent, respectively. Action Figures and Games/Puzzles saw respective revenue increases of 4 percent and 1 percent. Looking at the opposite side of the revenue sales spectrum, Youth Electronics and Plush experienced the largest declines when compared to 2008, at 17 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

“The increase in Building Sets and Arts & Crafts speaks to the entertainment value these categories deliver," said Frazier. "Both can deliver hours of open-ended play, and Arts & Crafts in particular does so at very attractive price points.”

Counter to what many would expect due to the economy, unit share for toys priced under $5 decreased in 2009, both for the full year and in the fourth quarter. In 2009, while overall unit sales were down less than 1 percent (0.5%), the only price range that lost share were toys under $5. In other words, people were buying more toys priced in the mid-range (between $5 and $10).

All channels experienced flat to minimal gains in share of dollar sales, with the most significant changes being experienced by Toy Stores, which saw a decline of 1 percent mostly due to KB Toy stores closing, and Mass Merchant/Discount experiencing an increase of 1 percent.

Interestingly, while sales for children ages 8 and under still represent the lion’s share of total toy sales at 69 percent, the only age group to gain in share and absolute dollar sales was kids ages 9 to 12. Again, the significant increase in building sets sales contributed to the increase for this age group.

Top properties for the year based on total dollar sales (in alphabetical order) included Bakugan, Barbie, Crayola, Star Wars, and Transformers. Licensed toys represented 25 percent of total industry sales in 2009, compared to 2008's 27 percent. Based on dollar sales, Cars: The Movie, Disney Princess, Dora the Explorer, Star Wars, and Thomas and Friends topped the list of 2009's best-selling licensed properties (in alphabetical order).

“The highly sought-after Zhu Zhu Pets brought welcome excitement to the toy category this holiday, and many other properties benefited from this in Q4,” said Frazier.

About The NPD Group, Inc.

The NPD Group is the leading provider of reliable and comprehensive consumer and retail information for a wide range of industries. Today, more than 1,700 manufacturers, retailers, and service companies rely on NPD to help them drive critical business decisions at the global, national, and local market levels. NPD helps our clients to identify new business opportunities and guide product development, marketing, sales, merchandising, and other functions. Information is available for the following industry sectors: automotive, beauty, commercial technology, consumer technology, entertainment, fashion, food and beverage, foodservice, home, office supplies, software, sports, toys, and wireless. For more information, contact us, visit, or follow us Twitter at


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