What’s the hot Christmas toy? Whatever your child wants

The pandemic gave toy makers and retailers two back-to-back winning years, but the industry isn’t expecting the same level of growth in 2022.

North Texas-based toy companies say they’re confident about their businesses even though retailers are more cautious about this Christmas and worrying about the prospects of a recession next year.

According to NPD Group figures, the U.S. toy market was $38.2Billion last year. This is after an increase of 20.6% for 2020 and 14.2% for 2021.

While toy sellers aren’t expecting another huge spike, consumers can look forward to finding some deals, said Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of The Toy Association.

Major toy shortages aren’t expected, but Pasierb warned, there’s no hot toy yet. He said that while Squishmallows remain popular, the plush toys that now have over 1,000 characters have been around since 2017.

That could change around Thanksgiving when the Toy Association’s Peoples’ Choice awards come out, he said. “If your children have a toy that their hearts are set on, buy it soon because it could end up being a hot toy later.”

You never know what viral video Tiktok might show, or what unexpected boost may make it difficult to find a toy.

Goliath Games created 25,000 Password board games for holiday orders. But, retailers have already depleted that supply since NBC’s revival of the classic game show Password. The show’s premiere was in August. It is hosted by Keke Peter. Jimmy Fallon is the late-night host and a regular contestant. He takes on a rotating list of celebrities.

“The supply chain has loosened up and we’re able to fill orders, but we didn’t know Jimmy Fallon was going to start playing Password,”Brian Turtle, national sales manager at Richardson-based Goliath, (second largest manufacturer of board games behind No. 1 Hasbro. Goliath is privately owned and operated by a Dutch family that makes outdoor puzzles, toys, and games. It’s been buying other companies and last year purchased Endless Games, which makes the a popular family board game, The Floor is Lava.

“Retailers are buying about the same from us as last year, but that’s still at a high level after the big spikes in 2020 and 2021,”Turtle said. Goliath’s crime, suspense-based board games are trending with college students and young adults who then like to say on TikTok that they’ve “cracked the case.”

Pasierb and Turtle were at the Toy Industry Association’s Toy Fair, the first one held in person in two years. It ended Thursday at Dallas Market Center. There were more that 300 exhibitors and 2,600 attendees from the industry. This included 450 retailers, who were there to place orders for the holiday season as well as to preview holiday 2023. The pandemic canceled the last two years of the Dallas show and the industry’s bigger Toy Fair that had been held every February in New York for 117 years.

The Dallas trade show attracted major retail toy buyers from Walmart, Target, Amazon and Sam’s Club and Costco, Barnes & Noble to smaller regional toy retailers.

“Major retailers may be doing some deep discounting. They’re wanting to position themselves as fighting inflation,” Pasierb said. “There really weren’t big sale promotions the last two years, and the toy industry hasn’t seen inflation that other categories have.”

He stated that today’s average toy is now $10.30. This is an increase of $10 compared to eight years ago.

Scott Houdashell and Curtis McGill, inventors of Hey Buddy Hey pal (a marillo-based toys manufacturer), said that price sensitive was a common theme in negotiations.

McGill stated that big box retailers are concerned about Amazon’s price competition. “but it’s also easier to sell to brick-and-mortar retailers after we’ve already proved an item by selling 10,000 units on Amazon.” The company has a new Halloween game called Stack-o-lantern selling on Amazon now that’s doing well.

Two of Hey Buddy’s popular toys, Cake and Bake, a board game that’s inspired by food challenge TV shows, and Gift Box, an ornament decorating kit, are priced slightly higher online to help stores compete, he said.

“We are seeing a little pullback on orders. Most stayed the same and one order spiked 30% with a new item,”McGill stated.

Shahnoor Adam is cofounder and CEO of Dallas-based Best Ride on Cars. She claimed that she and Alex Damanwalla, her husband, increased the annual sales to over $10,000,000 after the pandemic years.

Walmart placed a bigger order after it decided to add the company’s products to its stores after previously selling the brand online only.

The company’s ride-on toys range in price from $99 to $399, Adam said. “By putting it in stores, Walmart is helping the customer feel and see the value.”

Adam stated that her Dallas warehouse was fully stocked for the holiday season and early next year.

Emmy Grimes is cofounder of Dallas-based Once Kids. She stated that Once Kids will be moving some production from Dallas to address any future supply chain issues.

Once Kids, a manufacturer and distributor of wooden building blocks compatible for Lego or Mega Bloks plastic pieces, was a popular stop on Toy Fair.

Grimes stated, “Toys are being sought by retailers in an effort to appeal to ecofriendly parents.”

The company started with building blocks sets that Neiman Marcus sold in 2014. Since then, it has expanded its customer base to include Pottery Barn Kids (Barkley & Noble), museum & zoo gift shop, and Pottery Barn Kids(Pottery Barn Kids). It’s added wooden heroes and villains action figures with stories about the trees they’re made from. You can personalize all products with colored pencils, markers or crayons.

Prices start at $10 for a 4-inch action figure and go up to $250 for larger sets.

The company is privately held and has seen a decline in annual sales. Grimes said “we’ve had our ups and downs,”The business has increased by more than 80% in the past two years.

This week at Toy Fair “we were able to see the retailers we wanted to see,” Grimes said. “People showed up. The show was popping.”

Shopping for toys?

Walmart released August’s top toys list, which included 55 must-haves. It featured Paw Patrol, Jurassic World, Lego and Jurassic World. Surprise, Magic Mixies, among others. More than half the toys are below $50 and many of them are under $25.

The Toy Insider published the Hot 20 toys at last Wednesday’s Toy Fair in Dallas. The trade publication lists top toys based upon age. It also published the top 10 toys for stems and a dozen toys under $20.

The industry’s Toy Association overall Toy of the Year and People’s Choice award winners in various categories will be announced Nov. 21 in time for Thanksgiving weekend shopping. The Toy of the Year is determined by a panel of experts. Voting for the People’s Choice Award, which is decided by online consumer votes, will remain open through Nov. 11. Voting is open for the public at toyawards.org



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