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Toy Industry’s Pandemic Boom

Toy sales in the U.S. grew 16 percent last year to $25.1 billion, according to a January report from New York research company The NPD Group. The industry was among the few that managed to outperform in 2020 amid COVID-19’s assault on the economy.Two Valley companies are positioned at the center of the sector’s growth: entertainment and media giant Walt Disney Co.

in Burbank and toy manufacturer MGA Entertainment Inc. in Chatsworth.According to the report, the five top-selling products in 2020 included MGA’s L.O.L. Surprise! fashion dolls and toys based on Disney’s Star Wars and Marvel brands, which it licenses out to manufacturer Hasbro Inc., in Pawtucket, R.I.Those products, plus El Segundo-based Mattel’s Barbie dolls and Nintendo Co.’s Pokémon products made by Wicked Cool Toys in Bristol, Penn., accounted for 13 percent of all toy sales on the year, NPD said.Notably, Hasbro’s fourth-quarter earnings report indicated its Star Wars product revenue grew nearly 70 percent last year despite it being the first year without a Star Wars movie in theaters since 2014.

“This growth was driven by the strength of the Disney+ global rollout of ‘The Mandalorian,’” the report said. “Hasbro’s Star Wars lines grew significantly behind increasing fan engagement globally in black series and the vintage collection, a reemergence of our kid’s business fueled by Lightsabers, and our new vehicle line, Mission Fleet.”Hasbro added that success is bound to continue with Disney promising to release six Star Wars original series for its Disney+ platform over the next few years.

Disney’s consumer products segment, which includes merchandise and toys, brought in revenue of $1.7 billion last year, up about 2 percent from 2019, according to its first quarter 2021 earnings report.As for MGA, the L.O.L. Surprise! doll was named by NPD as the year’s top toy property in the U.S. and Canada.

NPD noted toy sales in the first quarter of 2020 – before the onset of the pandemic – were relatively flat against that of 2019. It attributes the boom to changing consumer behaviors associated with lockdowns and school closures, like online shopping, as well as the disposable income diverted from other types of entertainment that haven’t been allowed during the pandemic. Federal stimulus checks helped too, it said.

Juli Lennett, NPD’s vice president and industry advisor of U.S. toys, said in a statement: “The industry’s resiliency is very much underpinned by the reality that, in times of hardship, families look to toys to help keep their children engaged, active and delighted.”

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