Toys Sales Are Up but Who Is Benefiting?


I noticed that sales of alcohol were up 55%, very likely resulting from parents having to teach their kids at home.


When families are stuck inside, kids want to / need to play. For that reason, toy sales, as reported by NPD, are up. NPD advises that during the week that ended on March 21, total sales of toys were up 26%. For an industry that typically rises and falls by single digits, that’s a significant number. An even bigger number is the growth in games and puzzles, up a whopping 228%. Not surprisingly, art and crafts were up 70%, and construction toys were up 75%. Surprisingly, even outdoor toys sored in sales with a 20% uptick.

Parents, suddenly thrown into the breach as home school teachers are using educational activity books as teaching tools. As a result, educational activity books and art supplies were up triple digits across the board.  I noticed that sales of alcohol were up 55%, very likely resulting from parents having to teach their kids at home.

All of this is good for some but not for all. It is significant and worrying that toy sales are up while so many toy stores have shuttered. Obviously, e-commerce providers like Amazon and Wal-Mart and benefitting while consumers are learning new purchasing habits.

When toy stores reopen, they may well find that there will be no surge in demand because consumers stocked up from e-commerce sellers during the lockdowns and find themselves with an overabundance of inventory.

The recovery is going to be bumpy and uneven. Bricks and mortar toy retailers are going to need to spend this downtime envisioning what is to come, and making plans to meet it. It will also be wise to evaluate their current e-commerce strategy.

Here are three ideas I think bricks and mortar toy retailers may want to consider:

1.    What long term shifts toy consumption will arise due to the lockdown?

        a.    Will educational toys and books take on an even greater significance as parents learn first hand about children’s earning styles or lack thereof.

       b.     Will color and craft activities take on a resurgence in interest?

       c.     Will the current family time generate new, physical ways to play, and as a result, less screen time?

2.    Burlington Coat Factory announced a few weeks ago that they were shutting down their e-commerce sites and going strictly bricks and mortar. That doesn’t seem too smart in retrospect, and there is undoubtedly some second-guessing going on at that company. Those bricks and mortar retailers who have shied away from internet sales are going to have to take a hard second look. Those consumers who have previously been reluctant to shop online (think grandparents) are going to discover that it’s not so hard to do after all.

3.    How do bricks and mortar retail stores attract people, now agoraphobic (afraid of crowds), back to the market place?

No one knows their consumer better than those who own and run retail stores. It’s essential to take a hard look now at what is to come and get ready not just to overcome but take advantage of it. 

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