Toy sales top £1.7bn over Christmas with Smyths a standout performer, Kantar reports

British shoppers spent an additional £19 million on toys over the 12 weeks to 26 December 2021 according to new figures from Kantar, an increase of 1.0% on the previous year.  Growth was driven by physical stores, up by 16%, while online sales declined by 11% as consumers made the most of festive shopping without restrictions.

Joanna Parman, strategic insights director at Kantar, comments: “The toy market really gathered momentum at the end of 2021. A lockdown-free few months meant shoppers grabbed the chance to hit the shops and they spent £906 million in physical stores, £124 million more than in 2020.  In-store shopping had a fantastic bounce back in the run up to Christmas in particular. 

“However, it’s important to remember that digital isn’t going anywhere.  We saw this clearly in the week of Black Friday when toy sales surged by 124%* compared with an average week in 2021.  As usual, this was driven primarily by online shopping.  Retailers who can get both channels right stand to make the most impact on shoppers.”

Smyths Toys, Amazon, and Argos top the table over the 12 weeks to 26 December 2021, with over a third of the total toy market between them.  Second only to Amazon, Smyths found growth through a resurgence of footfall in its physical stores while maintaining a strong performance online.  Smyths enjoyed the strongest growth of any retailer, earning 1.6 percentage points of market share and securing 11.3% of total value sales. 

Parman continues: “The combination of a Black Friday online boom followed quickly by a return to in-store shopping meant Smyths Toys had a real advantage over many of its competitors.  It reaped the rewards of having both a streamlined digital presence plus a popular store estate.

“Tesco was also one of the season’s strongest performers and it gained an impressive 10 million new toy shoppers in October.  Competition is fierce and a long tail of retailers, including the likes of The Entertainer, TK Maxx and B&M, all claimed similar slices of spend over the final few months of 2021.  Narrow margins between different stores means it’s all to play for in the fight for market share.”

While 47% of toy sales over the 12 weeks to 26 December were made online, there is still significant headroom for growth in physical stores and retailers should prioritise driving footfall in 2022.  Parman said: “Our research shows the enduring appeal of physical shops, and highlights just how important a compelling bricks-and-mortar offer remains for the toy sector.  Despite strong performances from online channels and digital retailers, there’s a clear opportunity for toy stores that can get customers back into their high street shops.  It’s likely that shoppers aren’t going to swing between purchasing online or instore, but will establish a more stable balance between the two.”

The fastest growing sectors over the festive period included creative and learning toys as well as vehicle toys.  Arts and crafts also proved particularly popular.  This suggests that people wanted to prioritise quality family time by making something together away from screens and devices. 

* Data for the week to 28 November 2021 vs. an average week in 2021.