The extinct creatures of Jurassic Park have a good chance of succeeding in toy stores this Christmas together with the galactic figures of starwars, the gadgets of Harry Potterthe dolls of Pokemon or the universe of Marvel superheroes. Licensed items – which are generated as a result of a movie, a series or a book, and which are usually a little more expensive – have given the bright note to accumulated sales so far in 2022 and right now they are one of the main drivers of the sector, with almost a third of the market share and an advance of 14%. But the toy industry will need something more to make this Christmas truly magical in its accounts.
In the first semester of this year, slightly less than 160,000 children were born in Spain, a figure that anchors the statistics in the poorest data in the historical series that begins in the forties of the last century. Despite the fact that birthday parties and special dates, such as the end of the year or the return to school, have recovered some ground after the pandemic, the Spanish Association of Toy Manufacturers (AEFJ) estimates that the campaign will end (on the 6th of January) with a moderate increase in sales of 2% at best. If inflation is discounted, as the NPD Group consultancy figures, it could happen that the number of units distributed decreases. One more year, everything rests on the high seasonality – around 75% of the invoicing is expected at Christmas and 10% will be concentrated in the last week of the year.
Marta Salmón, president of AEFJ, crosses her fingers. “Hopefully we reach that 2%, it is also true that a large part of the billing will come from exports, which can grow by 5%.” She says that the toy is very sensitive to prices and that companies (270 in Spain) are making efforts not to make them too expensive. “The margins are limited, and the increases, in any case, will be well below the CPI. We are aware of the situation that households are going through”. Families, contrary to what it may seem, are not opting for the cheapest, perhaps because they do without toys that they do not consider essential. Products of less than 10 euros are showing a worse performance than those of medium ranges, between 30 and 50 euros.
Parents will find a catalog renewed by 30%, according to NPD, which handles data on what most distributors move, from Toys “R” Us to El Corte Inglés, Carrefour, Alcampo, Eroski, Poly, Sabeco, JAC, Juguettos, Toy Planet, Juguetoon or Amazon. Its analyst Fernando Pérez explains that in the doll segment, the largest category in the national market (representing 20%), the Barby-type mannequin doll is working well. He also highlights everything related to constructions and trading cards due to the World Cup. “His route will depend on who has the selection.” Technological toys, however, do not have the pull that many analyzes predicted in the past. “There are many products with some electronics, but the innovation has come more in terms of content and designs.”
This Christmas, manufacturers do not expect significant traffic jams or bottlenecks either because they have learned to better manage the maritime transit of their orders with China, the main country of origin of the products.
From Famosa, manufacturer of Nenuco, Pinypon or Nancy, they believe that launches such as their Trotties dolls, the tattooed Nancy or the license of the BBC Bluey drawings will help them maintain the leadership in sales in Spain that they achieved in 2018. “It is This is a difficult start to the campaign due to the calendar effect, but we look at Christmas quite optimistically”, describes its marketing director, Irene Sotillo. At El Corte Inglés, Guadalupe Corzo, director of toy purchasing, recalls by email that last year the sale was brought forward due to fear of shortages at Christmas. “And it did not happen, but the advance of the purchases was real.” This year it will be her, she calculates, more like any pre-pandemic. In their case, they expect an upward campaign, growing ahead of the market average. Equally optimistic is the Juguettos chain, made up of 235 stores in Spain, which is in full expansion, according to its director, José Luis Díaz. “We are growing 9% and we already have a 15% market share.” It is true that two crises repositioned the map of toy manufacturers after the bankruptcy of Toys “R” Us in 2018 and that of Imaginarium in 2021. The former were acquired by Green Swan and became an Iberian company with 46 stores, and Imaginarium laid off most of its staff and was left with only three establishments.
Now there are fewer children, but they receive more gifts. And although they become adults sooner, older customers generate new demands, such as collecting objects from a saga. “In our case, we depend 48% on Christmas, we seek to diversify during the rest of the year with more personalized campaigns,” says Díaz. the calls stand out kidults, products for adults who do not want to stop being children and who grow four times more than the rest. “They have always existed, but before they were more of a niche and now the manufacturers have found that they make up for the lack of children,” explains Fernando Pérez.
Beyond the trends, the battles are also being fought on the channels. Stores want to grow online by taking advantage of the greater digitization of their buyers, and 100% digital toy retailers fear losing sales now that health regulations no longer limit physical purchases. Cristina Rodríguez, creator of Mumablue, a start up of personalized stories, he hopes to be able to repeat sales in 2021. “Retail is at full capacity and that can dampen the activity of the last two years, where e-commerce stores benefited.” If before Amazon served as marketplace generalist, now competition is emerging on other platforms, from YouTube to TikTok, or from the websites themselves such as Unilae (the PcComponentes store). For Juan Carlos Altares, commercial director of Stelii in Spain, a best-selling device in France without a screen and without an internet connection where children can listen to and record audio stories, it is clear that the market situation is not the best, but parents will not let to buy toys no matter what.
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