Skates, skateboards and scooters help fuel 19% bump in first half toy sales

  • U.S. toy sales rose 19% to $11 billion during the first half of 2021, as parents sought to entertain their kids during the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns and restrictions.
  • Outdoor and sports toys have seen the largest boost over the last six months, reaching $2.9 billion in sales, up 11% from last year.
  • The NPD Group expects toy sales will continue to climb and get a boost from the child tax credit, which will be distributed in the second half of the year.

Sales of skateboards and scooters propelled U.S. toy sales to $11 billion during the first half of 2021, a 19% increase from 2020, the NPD Group said Thursday.

For more than a year, the toy industry has been bolstered by purchases from families stuck at home in lockdown during the ongoing coronavirus health crisis. Disposable incomes shifted from movie theaters, amusement parks and restaurants to toys, as parents looked for ways to keep their kids entertained.

With the new Covid-19 delta variant, this trend has continued.

Outdoor and sports toys have seen the largest boost over the last six months, reaching $2.9 billion in sales, up 11% from last year.

Hot summer months have led to increased sales of water-related toys, said Juli Lennett, NPD's vice president and industry advisor for U.S. Toys.

"With the vaccine still not available for kids under 12, 'safely social toys', like playground equipment and skates, skateboards and scooters also continued to grow," she said.

In fact, 10 of the 11 toy categories that NPD tracks, which include plush, dolls and games and puzzles, saw double-digit sales growth in 2021. The arts and crafts segment was the only one to decline, falling 1%.

Lennett expects toy sales will continue to climb and get a boost from the child tax credit, which will be distributed in the second half of the year. She said the two stimulus checks that were given out earlier this year had a "profound effect" on first-quarter toy sales.

"In the week that the first check hit bank accounts, the toy industry grew 17%," she said.

From January through July, Pokemon was the top-selling toy property, followed by Barbie, Star Wars, L.O.L. Surprise!, Fisher-Price and Marvel.

And it's not just kids that are enjoying these brands. Adult males, in particular, drove significant toy sales by buying trading cards related to Pokemon, Magic: The Gathering and the National Football League.

"Nostalgia has been a key driver of growth over the last 18 months," said Lennett. "Consumers have looked to fill the isolation with memories of happier times in their lives."

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