By Andrew Rogers
The 65th annual Toy Fair at London’s Olympia exhibition centre was once again full of fun and magic, making it one of the best-loved trade shows on the planet. While those exhibiting at the show were full of optimism for the year ahead, NPD this year announced that UK toy sales had fallen for the first time in three years. Compared to the 12 months, toy sales in 2017 were down 2.8%.
The industry need not be too alarmed. The UK is still the largest toy market in Europe, and toy sales are still worth a whopping £3.4 billion. However, what the figures do show is that the toy market may be set to become even more competitive, and as crazes amongst kids (and adults) change rapidly, toy makers need to make sure they’re keeping up.To help you get up to speed, here are just some of the toy trends that we’ll be keeping a close eye on for the year ahead.
Fidget spinners kicked off the craze for tactile toys, and there’s been no stopping the category since. This year the buzz is around squishy toys. If you can squeeze it and squash it, then kids are going to want it.
Squishy toys have also seen a boost thanks to the online craze for making slime. By way of a reaction to increasing screen time, slime has become hugely popular both for kids and adults as something fun but also relatively low tech. Slime is just one of many toys kids can really get their hands into. But it’s far from the only one, as foam characters capture the hearts of kids looking for something squishy that they can hug and collect.
Tactile toys aren’t just for kids either. Adults – even those without children of their own – are flocking to toys they can spin, squish and slide. Adults are buying more toys for themselves than ever before, and the toy industry is seeing so-called ‘kidult’ toys as a major source of growth.
Tactile toys aren’t alone in appealing to both kids and adults. It’s thanks to its broad appeal that collectables were one of the best performing toy categories in 2017, with growth of 17%.
One of the top toys for last Christmas were Fingerlings Monkeys (small monkeys that you can hang off your fingers as if they were clinging to a miniature tree). Kids love them, and many wanted not just one, but the full set. The collectibles category has also seen a big increase in mystery collectables. While practically not all that different from a Kinder Surprise, there has been a flood of new entrants into the market, partially thanks to the massive popularity of unwrapping and unboxing videos on YouTube.
L.O.L Surprise dolls were a massive hit at Christmas, with each mystery pack containing an adorable collectable doll inside. Hatch and grow toys have also seen growth, with Hatchimals and similar products continuing to sell strongly.
Mermaids, dinosaurs and superheroes
It’s no secret that the big licenses, particularly attached to blockbuster family movies, will dominate the toy shelves each year. Increasingly, they’re also spawning entire categories of similar products that while not directly connected to the license, are certainly inspired by it.
Expect to see lots of mermaids and dinosaurs in 2018, as cinemas gear up for a new live-action Little Mermaid movie, and the latest installment in the Jurassic World series. It will come as no surprise that Star Wars will dominate yet another year, as the standalone Han Solo: A Star Wars Story debuts.
Industry watchers might also want to keep their eyes peeled for superhero-themed toys. Not only are there a raft of new Marvel movies planned, Disney and Pixar will also be lifting the lid on the sequel to the hugely popular Incredibles.
While new crazes can be difficult to predict, we’re pretty sure we’ve seen some of the biggest sellers for Christmas 2018 at this year’s Toy Fair. Whether it’s a squishy stress buster or a cute collectable, there should be some fantastic products under the Christmas tree this year.