With the onset of 2013 comes the debut of new toy ranges from the world's largest licensors and licensees.
The toy expo season is culminating at the U.S.' largest industry event, the American International Toy Fair, sponsored by the Toy Industry Association. Occurring Feb. 10-13 in New York City, the event brings together more than 1,000 exhibitors in a wide range of toy categories, from action figures to games, construction toys to ride-ons, eco-friendly products to plush, seasonal goods to preschool-focused items and many more.
Although U.S. toy sales were mostly flat in 2012, according to research from The NPD Group, toy sales remain a $16-plus billion industry. Last year, sales declined only slightly, from $16.6 billion in 2011 to $16.5 billion in 2012, bolstered in part by a strong year-end finish during the holiday season. Licensed toys accounted for a large portion of these sales, and continue to be a driving force in the business segment.
Predicting trends in the toy arena can be equally as challenging. According to NPD, the categories with the most growth last year were building sets, arts and crafts, dolls and infant/preschool ranges.
"Construction [toys] continued to see double-digit growth from 2012 to 2013, with LEGO Friends successfully expanding construction play to girls," says Tara Hefter, vice president, licensing, Jakks Pacific. "I would expect to see additional girls' construction offerings with licensed brand names appear in 2013."
The licenses that performed strongest in 2012–Warner Bros.'s Batman; Disney's Cars, Disney Princess, Mickey & Friends and now Star Wars; HIT's Thomas & Friends; Nickelodeon's Dora the Explorer; and WWE–are mostly well positioned to endure into 2013 thanks to recent acquisitions (Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm, Mattel's acquisition of HIT Entertainment, etc.), continued release of content and perennial evergreens. Other trends forthcoming, as predicted by License! Global in the November/December 2012 issue ("Global Toy Trends") are the continued excitement surrounding the superhero genre, thanks to a plethora of films set for 2013 release from Marvel and Warner Bros., the ongoing product support for virtual properties (apps) and the reliance on retro and evergreen programs to fuel retail spending.
Warner Bros. Consumer Products is kicking off 2013 with a roster of global licensees for its portfolio of entertainment properties, led by the upcoming summer release ofMan of Steel, a new telling of the Superman legend from director Zack Snyder. Mattel will unveil a broad range of toys for the property, including action figures, play sets and collectible figures. Other partners tapped to develop product in support of the film include Thinkway Toys for role play, Jakks Pacific for collectibles and novelties and Cardinal Industries for games and puzzles. WBCP will also support its Batman evergreen with a DC Super Friends program from Mattel and Fisher-Price, a range for the Looney Tunes and The Looney Tunes Show properties, product to support the TV comedy "The Big Bang Theory" and the continuation offerings for The Hobbit property.
Under that retro/evergreen umbrella falls multiple properties that will be debuting hot new product on New York's Toy Fair floor.
From Saban's massive Power Rangers Megaforce program comes a wide range of product from licensees Bandai, Mega Bloks and Mattel, which will merge the property with its perennial Hot Wheels property with a car assortment and action set.
Also from Bandai are several new Ben 10 ranges to support the Emmy award-winning Cartoon Network franchise. On deck is the Ben 10 Omni-Net Omnitrix, an i-compatible interactive product that allows kids to integrate the Ben 10 app or video game into physical play; the compact Omnitrix Shuffle, which plays any of the 10 alien voices from the series when attached to a mini-figure; and the Ben 10 Transportation Station play set.