Report: U.K. Sales of Games, Puzzles, Building Sets Surge in 2020

The U.K. toy market increased in value by 5 percent as sales of games, puzzles and building sets surged in 2020.

License Global

January 14, 2021

3 Min Read
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In 2020, Brits turned to toys to cope with the challenges created by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new NPD report.

“The top 15 sellers of the year tell much of the story for toys in 2020,” says Frédérique Tutt, global industry analyst, The NPD Group. “We turned to toys and games to help fill the long weeks of lockdown. Toys provided the hub for fun, entertainment, education, exercise and stress relief. They helped make the decidedly abnormal feel normal - especially at Christmas. Manufacturers and retailers worked hard to meet the need for toys of all kinds for all ages, shifting sales to online and Click & Collect, and to grocery chains to fulfil demand. 2020 accelerated changes already underway in the toy sector and underlined the importance of innovation, strong supply chain and channel management. One thing is certain, the importance of playing together with toys, games and puzzles as a family, group or alone has been re-established during the lockdowns. Many people have also rediscovered the value of nature and the environment in the pandemic, and one encouraging sector trend is that green issues have come to the fore, and many manufacturers are reducing packaging and incorporating eco-friendly materials in their products. Finally, when cinemas hopefully reopen later on in the year, blockbusters will boost toy sales once again.”
Despite a difficult trading year for many industries, overall sales in the toy industry increased in value by 5 percent, with the biggest spike in sales coming during the first lockdown of 2020 (+22 percent). Total sales for the year were £3.3 billion.
Games and Puzzles saw the highest category growth (+19 percent), with families spending more quality time playing together. Puzzles increased by 38 percent alone. Building sets and outdoor toys also experienced significant growth in 2020, up 18 percent and 15 percent, respectively.
The periodic closure of schools also meant that many parents turned to educational toys for assistance to help bolster their children’s cognitive development. This drove a 9 percent increase in sales of learning and exploration toys, such as scientific sets and musical instruments.
This adult and teen category now represents 27 percent of total toy sales, up 16 percent since 2016.

The year saw an extremely strong November for the sector, up 11 percent, year-over-year, followed by lower-than-usual sales in December (down 9 percent, year-over-year).
Throughout 2020, Britons moved online to buy their toys. Retailers adapted and maximized their omnichannel offering to reach customers during lockdowns and tiering. As a result, in the 12 months ending September 2020, online toy sales grew to almost half (49 percent) of all sales. 
“2020 was an extremely challenging year for retail as a whole, and toy retailers of all sizes had to adapt and innovate in this difficult environment in order to ensure consumers could still obtain the products they require,” says Roland Earl, director general, the British Toy & Hobby Association. “The end of year statistics reflect the role that toys and games played in bringing enjoyment and assisting families and individuals to navigate the difficulties of repeated closures and lockdowns. Despite varying functions, objectives and age suitability, all toys are ultimately designed with one overarching goal - to bring fun, enjoyment and play value to the recipient and never has this been more important. Looking ahead to 2021, the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic will remain for some time, though toy designers will continue to innovate during tough conditions to ensure families have access to the items they want and need. Brexit will continue to have an impact on all industries in 2021, and the toy sector specifically will continue with its thorough preparation following the deal announced at Christmas.”

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