Toy sellers pin Christmas hopes on grandparents’ spending

A squeeze on parents’ budgets and concerns over shipments for Christmas have dominated the festive run-up.

One analyst said grandparents would play a bigger role in buying toys.

Early indications suggest that sales are similar to last year but the type of toys on the shelves and the way they are bought has shifted.

The Toy Retailers’ Association has revealed the DreamToys list of what are predicted to be the biggest sellers this year and it shows how suppliers, retailers, and – to some extent – consumers are playing it safe.

Toys linked to big TV and film brands like Star Wars, Pokemon and Paw Patrol dominate the list. Well-recognised brands such as Barbie and Hot Wheels also feature.

Covid lockdowns put a dampener on many a family Christmas last year, but it also changed how and what toys and games were bought.

Analysts said that sales grew unexpectedly in 2020, with outdoor games, puzzles for adults and large Lego sets all selling well.

Online sales of toys and games outstripped those bought in stores owing to pandemic restrictions, said Melissa Symonds, UK toys director for the NPD Group consultancy.

But owing to the reopening of the High Street earlier this year, that trend is expected to reverse, she said. Sales of “impulse buys” such as stickers, collectables, action figures and dolls are also expected to pick up.

The return of festive family gatherings, and pressure on parents owing to general rises in the cost of living, mean grandparents’ spending is expected to go up this year.

NPD estimates that an average of £81 would be spent on Christmas toys for children aged up to 11, with each typically receiving seven toy and game gifts.

Fear of shortages
Shipping and freight delays have dominated the agenda for the sector in recent months, even though consumer demand has been relatively unaffected.

Last month, Barbie maker Mattel said families were still prioritising spending on children. It had raised prices after soaring shipping and raw materials costs.

Gary Grant, boss of The Entertainer, who chairs the DreamToys selection committee, said manufacturers and retailers had stocked up on the big-brand toys which were predicted to sell well.

He said the relatively large size and low value of toys meant they needed to be imported by ship, rather than by plane, to be viable. However, he was confident that most shipment problems seen in the summer had been overcome.

He predicted no wholesale shortages, but still some disappointment close to Christmas.

“We expect a bigger list of items that are more challenging to get,” he said.

He described the next two weeks as critical to ensure everything needed arrived in time to sell before Christmas.