With the U.K. still battling challenging economic times, toy sales have continued to decline, but for traditional toy offerings there have been encouraging signs, with growth across several categories. Here, we look at just a few of the trends from the show floor.

Ian Hart, Senior Digital Editor U.K. & EMEA

January 24, 2023

5 Min Read
London Toy Fair
London Toy Fair

Against a challenging economic backdrop in 2022 that saw U.K. toy sales decline 3% to £3.6 billion, it was traditional toy categories that came to the fore. Plush, building sets, action figures and vehicles have been driving toy sales and all four categories saw growth during the year. Plush had a positive year, with sales up significantly by 29% YoY, driven by a combination of sensory, innovation, licensing and flexibility. 

To combat the economic struggle, retailers strive to make toy purchasing as accessible as possible all year round, with the average selling price of a toy now at £10.54. However, in 2022, consumers increasingly favored toys that cost between £30 and £50 suggesting that people were making more considered purchases.  

“The U.K. toy industry has continued to deliver toys and games for consumers at affordable prices during 2022 amongst high levels of inflation and a cost-of-living crisis,” says Kerri Atherton, head, public affairs, British Toy & Hobby Association (BTHA). “Last year, new product innovations were vital to driving sales in the U.K. toy industry which led to growth in the plush toy category. With a strong lineup of new releases for 2023, the U.K. toy industry has signs to be optimistic about the year ahead.”

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Watch: License Global at London Toy Fair 2023

Licensed Toys 

Licensed toys grew for the fourth consecutive year, up by 5.5%, now accounting for 31% of the market – the highest-ever share. 

According to NPD, the most in-demand licensed properties continue to be “Pokemon,” “Star Wars,” Barbie, Marvel Universe, Squishmallows, Fisher-Price, Hot Wheels, NFL, LEGO “Star Wars” and “Jurassic World” and that was evident from walking the show floor, while “Gabby’s Doll House” is currently one of the fastest growing properties. 

“New licensed properties like “Gabby’s Doll House” and classics like “Star Wars” drove major sales throughout 2022,” says Melissa Symonds, executive director, U.K. toys, The NPD Group. “With Disney celebrating its 100th anniversary and movie releases such as Barbie, Transformers, and Super Mario, 2023 looks set to be another good year for licensed toys, an instrumental part of the U.K. toy industry.”

The launch of “Jurassic World Dominion” in June really made 2022 the year of the dinosaurs, tapping into the nostalgia element with fans of the earlier movies in the franchise, while also bringing a new, younger section of fans. Nostalgia was a common thread on the show floor with several of BTHA’s Top-25 Hero Toys, announced at the show, being based on characters who reigned during the ’80s like Elmo, Barbie, Sylvanian Families and Wallace and Gromit. 

“We know that parents, grandparents and carers love passing on traditions to their children and purchasing toys that remind them of their childhood, such as the Care Bears Dare to Care and the Build Your Own Wallace & Gromit Rocket, both Hero Toys,” says Rebecca Deeming, communications and events manager, BTHA. “We expect to see this trend continue in the next year, with the nostalgic trend clearly popular with consumers.” 

Kids Movies 

The "Super Mario Bros. Movie" trailer was released in October creating quite a buzz, while Nickelodeon and Paramount are set to mark the 10th anniversary of “PAW Patrol” with a movie sequel, “PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie,” due for release in October.

The newest “Trolls” movie, is coming to theaters in November and you only have to search for #barbiecore on social media to see the sense of anticipation of the forthcoming live-action Barbie movie. 

Return to In-Store Purchasing  

Data from The NPD Group suggests Christmas shoppers left their purchases until the last minute, with 2022 week 51 results up 15% from the previous year. The increase could be attributed to customer expectations of potential issues with home delivery, which meant high street toy and game retailers enjoyed an uplift of in-store sales during Q4. In-store purchases increased throughout the year with offline sales accounting for 51% of the U.K. toy market, an increase of 6% from 2021. Online sales are still ahead of where they were before the pandemic, when online sales accounted for just 35% of the market.  

“In 2022, we saw consumers returning to make more purchases in-store during the year,” says Symonds. “Consumers are increasingly choosing to shop with specialist toy stores, which saw an uplift of 16% in sales, with consumers seeking out large product ranges offering choice and value.” 

STEM toys  

As License Global explored in a recent article looking at how licensing can make toys more accessible for children, STEM toys are only going to go from strength to strength. LEGO is just one company doing great work in this space, through its Brick-by-Brick play therapy program. 

The changing sensory needs of children could also be a factor in the growth in plush toys, enabling kids to go to bed with their favorite characters, their best friends, around them. 

Board Games 

Following the announcement last week that All3Media International and Identity Games are to distribute the official “The Traitors” Board Game to the U.K. and Eire, cast members from the series drew a crowd on the Vivid Goliath stand.

Ravensburger used the opening day of Toy Fair to announce the launch of a Disney Labyrinth 100th Anniversary version of its “Labyrinth” game, while the Marvel “Villainous Twisted Ambitions” Expandalone game is set to launch in spring. 

Toy Fair 2023 is taking place now through Jan. 26 at Olympia London. If you are attending this week, read about what you can expect, in License Global's interview with Rebecca Deeming.

To read further insight, visit License Global’s 2022 Global Toy Report.

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Toy Fair

About the Author(s)

Ian Hart

Senior Digital Editor U.K. & EMEA, License Global

Ian joined the License Global editorial team in May 2022 as digital editor for the U.K. and EMEA, becoming Senior Digital Editor in April 2023.

Ian is a huge fan of sports and entertainment brands and, as a father, toys and kids' brands are a large part of his life!

He has been at Informa (formerly UBM) since 2018, where he was previously the editor of SHP, a B2B digital publication aimed at health & safety professionals.

Ian studied journalism at university before spending seven years in online fantasy gaming. Prior to moving to Informa, Ian worked in B2B trade print media, in the automotive sector, working on various publications aimed at independent automotive technicians and parts distributors.

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