Digital Boosts Euro Toy Market

New developments such as the Angry Birds Star Wars tie-in and the licensing of digital intellectual property into the European toy market are providing a welcome boost to the toy industry, according to The NPD Group.

As of July this year, the licensed toy market in Europe year-to-date was worth £845 million, down 7 percent from the same period a year earlier. However, the total toy market for the same period was £3.5 billion, up 1 percent. 

“To boost sales, the toy industry is continually looking for successful licenses on screen or from the world of sports or music. Increasingly digital is providing those growth opportunities,” says Frederique Tutt, global toy industry analyst, The NPD Group.

As part of this trend, Hasbro has launched the Telepods action game based on Angry Birds Star Wars. Like Activision’s Skylanders and Disney’s Infinity, Telepods action figures integrate physical characters into the mobile gaming experience. The only difference is that the game is played on a tablet rather than a video game platform.

“While the toy market is holding its ground, digital gaming is challenging traditional play patterns. At the same time, breaking through with licensing is more difficult than ever due in part to more caution by retailers and a narrower range of retail outlets. So the Angry Birds Star Wars tie-up and digital intellectual property transferred onto physical formats is an exciting new opportunity for the toy industry,” says Tutt.

In fact, new NPD data shows that the Angry Birds Star Wars brand was the best new toy license in the big five European toy markets so far this year (as of July).

Sales of Angry Birds Star Wars toys during the first seven months of the year were £5.3 million, which puts the brand well ahead of second place Skylanders at £4 million and third place Monsters University at £2.9 million.

“When the Angry Birds Star Wars deal was announced, it created a huge buzz,” says Tutt. “Angry Birds, one of the biggest global digital sensations to-date, was joining forces with Star Wars, possibly the biggest license of all time, but in any case the No. 1 toy license of 2012 in Europe. The results are already impressive. Meanwhile, Angry Birds itself continues to do well with sales up 95 percent. It is rare in the licensing world to see a brand extension adding so much to the sales of the core brand.”

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