UK toy market grows to £3.5bn for first time and becomes largest in Europe, NPD Group shows

The UK toy market saw a 6.3 per cent uplift in sales in 2016. This increases the market value to more than £3.5bn for the first time, according to The NPD Group who released the figures today in partnership with the British Toy and Hobby Association at this year’s Toy Fair.

The growth equates to a gain of more than £200 million year on year with 415 million units sold in 2016, an increase of 7.5%, driven in part by collectables. The UK is now the largest market in Europe and fourth largest in the world.

“Naturally we are delighted to see the UK toy industry returning significant growth despite the political uncertainty last year,” commented Jon Diver, Chairman of the British Toy and Hobby Association. “We were pleased to hear Prime Minister May confirm last week that the government is set to provide clarity to the Brexit process which was concerning many of our members. Our industry is innovative and creative and to sustain growth we look forward to more clarity on the process of Brexit, particularly the relationship with Europe on free trade agreements, customs union access and favourable tariffs with WTO members.”

A survey of British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA) members suggests that the industry is positive about the year ahead despite concerns over Brexit. The greatest concerns of UK toy makers are; the devaluation of the Sterling against the Dollar which will lead to price increases (66%), the lack of decision or clarity on Brexit (61%) and anxiety over the uncertainty regarding exporting to, and trade deals with, Europe as the industry’s largest export market (20%).

Despite the difficulties the industry faces in the coming year, companies are confident in their ability to produce innovative toys and games that will sustain the interests of children and their families. This confidence is underpinned by the industry introducing 63,400 brand new toy lines to the market in 2016, the equivalent to 33 per cent of business or £1.1 billion at retail.

On average throughout 2016, £350 was spent on each child aged 0-9 with an average price of £8.35. This has largely been driven by the growth of the collectables market in the UK which has seen a year on year increase of 44%, accounting for almost 1 out of 4 toys sold. This year-round trend of toy-buying is relatively unique in comparison to the continent, with just 22% per cent of sales in December, giving the UK the lowest level of seasonality out of the top five European markets.

Frederique Tutt, global industry analyst for the NPD Group added, “It has been a good year for the UK toy market. £3.5bn makes the UK the fourth largest market in the world and 2016’s growth has surpassed the USA at 4.7% and France at one per cent. As well as collectables, the games and puzzles sector has driven growth with a year on year increase of 21%.”

“Thirty six per cent of sales were conducted online, an increase of 4%, while click and collect sales grew year on year by 14%, suggesting that while the final transaction is made online, there is still a place for brick and mortar retail units in the UK.”

Despite the political and economic uncertainty following the Brexit vote, more than 80% of British Toy and Hobby Association members and exhibitors surveyed predict growth in 2017. The key sectors predicted to help this growth are the continued successes of collectables and board games, alongside licensed toys, S.T.E.M products and robotics.

Jon Diver from the BTHA added, “Although there are still some concerns, our members remain optimistic about the year ahead and trust in their ability to innovate their products to grow their businesses. The toy industry creates products which help develop the skills and knowledge children need to become the scientists, creatives, and innovators of the future through play. To have a government committed to the same empowerment for children can only be good for the future of the United Kingdom.”