Sales of skateboards, Legos and other playthings propelled U.S. toy sales to $25.1 billion last year, a 16% increase from 2019, as consumers looked for ways to pass the time during the coronavirus pandemic, The NPD Group said Monday.
Toy sales through mid-March 2020 were flat with the prior year, the market researcher said. However, once families were in lockdown during the health crisis, disposable income shifted from other types of entertainment such as movie theaters, amusement parks and restaurants to toys. Toy sales spiked 38% in May of last year, a month after federal stimulus checks were distributed to the public.
Although May showed the biggest monthly gain of the year, sales rose again sharply, up 33% in October, as retailers rolled out holiday deals and Amazon hosted Prime Day.
Overall, retailers had a strong holiday season as families wanted to spread a little extra cheer during the pandemic. Holiday sales rose 8.3% from 2019, according to data released by the National Retail Federation.
Sports toys, which includes skates and scooters, saw the biggest gains, followed by fashion dolls and accessories and building sets like Lego. On Black Friday, Lego had to implement an virtual queue for online shoppers as traffic to its website surged.
The most popular brands, which accounted for 13% of all toy sales last year, included L.O.L. Surprise!, Barbie, Star Wars, Pokemon and Marvel Universe.
Toymakers also saw average selling prices rise in all product categories.
"The industry's resiliency is very much underpinned by the reality that, in times of hardship, families look to toys to help keep their children engaged, active, and delighted," said Juli Lennett, vice president and industry advisor of U.S. toys at the NPD Group, in a statement.