Toy Trends: China and the U.S.

NPD has released toy sales data for the first six months of 2021 for China and the U.S. Although the data was released separately, I wanted to make a side-by-side comparison to discover how U.S. and Chinese children are similar and different when it comes to toys.

Based upon my analysis of the NPD data, it appears that Chinese and American children and their parents have very different tastes in what kinds of play they find most appealing. Consider the first chart shown below, “NPD Super Categories By Revenue, China vs. the United States.”

As an example, the Outdoor Sports & Toy category is currently number 1 in the United States. Yet, it ranks 8 in China. On the other hand, Action Figures, number 1 in China, ranks 7th in the U.S.  Arts & Crafts, number 2 in China, ranks 10th in the United States.

NPD Super Categories By Revenue, China vs. United States

China   United States
Action Figures & Accessories   Outdoor Sports & Toys
Arts & Crafts   Games / Puzzles
Building Sets   Dolls
Dolls   Infant / Toddler / Preschool
Explorative & Other Toys   Building Sets
Games / Puzzles   Explorative & Other Toys
Infant / Toddler / Preschool   Action Figures & Acc.
Outdoor Sports & Toys   Plush
Plush   Vehicles
Vehicles   Arts & Crafts
Youth Electronics   Youth Electronics

The second chart, shown below, compares how the toy industry fared in China and the United States for the first six months of 2021.  NPD provided the percentage of increase or decrease in 2021 when compared to 2020. I put the two sets of figures side-by-side.

This comparison gives us a picture of what children and families played with during the second year of quarantines.  As an example, we may determine that Chinese children spent less time playing outdoors than American children. Why? Because the Outdoor Sports and Toys category declined 8% in China while it increased 11% in the U.S.

On the other hand, it looks like Chinese and American children chose slightly different methods of comforting themselves. Chinese children preferred dolls (+43%), while American children preferred plush (+39%).

Both the U.S. and China are seeing birth declines. Still, China saw a minor increase (+.04%) in the Infant/Toddler/Preschool segment while the category was up 17% in the U.S. All children love playing with technology. Yet more American children (+15%) turned to Youth Electronics than Chinese children (+4%). On another note, Chinese (-35) and American children  (-1%) alike were tired of Arts & Crafts

January – June 2021 Sales in China and the United States Compared to 2020

Super Category   China   United States
Outdoor Sports & Toys   -8%   11%
Games / Puzzles   13%   17%
Dolls   43%   15%
Infant / Toddler / Preschool   0.04%   17%
Building Sets   5%   23%
Explorative & Other Toys   28%   38%
Action Figures & Accessories   26%   35%
Plush   11%   39%
Vehicles   17%   32%
Arts & Crafts   – 3%   -1%
Youth Electronics   4%   15%

We can speculate on what drives these differences, but the big takeaway is although children are children, where a child lives makes a difference in how they choose to play. Those American companies wishing to enter the domestic Chinese market need to keep this in mind when determining whether they have the right products at the right time. 

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