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The toy market in the US and in Scandinavia

Despite the economic situation, toy sales keep stable

21/05/2012

Uncertainty about the economic situation is a common element in the US, Sweden and Norway, and the toy market is no stranger to it. Although in 2011 the economies of these three countries registered positive growth figures, with values ​​close to 2% in the US and Norway and about 3,9% in Sweden, consumers have adopted conservative attitudes when buying: price and product value have become two of the major factors in buying toys. Jackie Breyer, Lena Hedö and Paul de Glasenapp, editors of  trade magazines that cover the toy industry and members of ITMA (International Toy Magazines Association), analize the status of the toy industry in their countries.           

         
United States: In the current economic environment, consumers are looking for high-quality and lasting toys
In the US, toy market is driven by fourth quarter sales, when it is easier to find the hottest and highest quality toys. However, the seasonality of the market has shrunk due to sales of low-priced toys –such as collectibles and Christmas stock-keeping units–, which occur throughout the year, and purchases of outdoor toys in the spring and summer. There is also a surge in sales leading up to Easter and Halloween.
Along with the brick-and-mortar store sales, online toy trade is experiencing an spectacular growth in the country. For Jackie Breyer, editor-in-chief of the trade magazine The Toy Book , internet has entered strongly in the industry, not only as a sales channel but also as a communication tool between producers, retailers and consumers. Internet and applications are increasingly a source for properties in the US toy industry, in which the licensed toys account for approximately 25% of the toy market. Along with the popularity of applications, there is a growing trend towards the introduction of toys designed for smartphones and tablets, and many traditional manufacturers are introducing tablets specifically designed for kids.
Regarding the current economic environment, Breyer recalls that now more than ever consumers are looking for value, not just price: consumers have had to cut back on spending and they do not want to waste money on products that do not last, they are looking for high-quality toys that their kids will play with over and over again, and they are willing to pay a little bit more for that kind of value. Despite this, the price will remain a key factor in the choice of toys and, even if the economy improves rapidly, it will take awhile for consumer confidence to rise.

           

Sweden: Ecological toys will be one of the main trends
In the Swedish toy market, like in the Norwegian and Dutch markets, the presence of small independent retailers is higher than that of large distribution chains. According to Lena Hedö, editor of the trade magazine specialized in the toy market Leksaks , while independent retailers represent over 60% of the market, big retailers only account for the 15% of the market share.
Another feature of the toy sector in Sweden is the high presence of licensed toys: although no specific figures are available, Hedö estimates that 70% of sales are licensed toys –including brands such as Barbie and Monster High in this percentage–. For Hedö, one of the big trends for this year will be organic toys, a category that has aroused a great interest despite its sales are already low.
Regarding the economic situation, Sweden is not affected with the same intensity as other European countries: according to data from Eurostat, the European statistical office, last year Sweden's GDP grew by 3.9%. Although this economic growth, the Swedish population is concerned about what happens in Europe, and this makes people spend less.
             
Norway: The economic crisis is not necessarily a bad new for the toy sector
In Norway, 90% of toys sold are from recognized brands such as Hasbro and Mattel products, the Lego construction sets, Simba-Dickie's toys or Disney licensed products. Paul Matheson de Glasenapp, editor of Baby, Hobby & Leketøy, says the Norwegian toy market is focused primarily on products and licenses originated in the US, especially the properties of Disney and Marvel. Meanwhile, toys without license have to offer very low prices.

Regarding the current economic situation, is not necessarily a bad new for the toy sector and, even, it can lead to a boost in the sales figures: according to De Glasenapp, in cases of economic downturn, sales of toys can increase to nurture children and prevent them from experience a sense of poverty.
          
Full text of this information, based in a series of interviews with ITMA members, is available in the April issue of Express and in the June issue of Juguetes B2B.

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