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Analysis-Santa’s sleigh to be lighter as people buy fewer toys

by Wanda Rich
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Analysis-Santa’s sleigh to be lighter as people buy fewer toys

By Richa Naidu and Aishwarya Venugopal

LONDON (Reuters) – Santa Claus may not have as much to give this year because hard up shoppers in Europe and the United States are prioritizing food and household staples, global toy makers and industry experts said.

Consumers worldwide have struggled to cope with high inflation and sluggish economic growth. The holiday season, which begins with Black Friday at the end of November and lasts roughly until the end of December, is expected to be especially tough for retailers selling discretionary items, executives say.

Favourites such as Barbie dolls, Transformers action figures and Hot Wheels cars will still be at the top of children’s wish list, said Loo Wee Teck, consumer electronics industry manager at Euromonitor International.

But many parents can’t afford them this year, according to executives. The top selling Barbie doll on Amazon, “Barbie Pop Reveal”, currently costs parents 19.99 pounds ($24.89). Meanwhile, Hot Wheels’ Scorpion play set was 35 pounds in 2020, according to parent blogs, but the same toy is about 60 pounds on Amazon.co.uk this year.

“The most important thing for people this holiday is to have food on the table for their families,” Isaac Larian, CEO of Bratz doll maker MGA Entertainment, said in an interview.

Toymakers Hasbro and Mattel have already warned of weaker industry sales. But trading could prove even tougher than expected, executives at four toymakers and experts told Reuters.

Larian is expecting holiday sales at his company, which also makes Little Tikes toys and sells products across Europe and the United States, to decline by 10-12% worldwide versus last year.

Demand in the lead up to Christmas will be “smaller” than last year, said Nic Aldridge, managing director at Bandai, the maker of Tamagotchi virtual pets.

Aldridge anticipates more price cuts as retailers look to shift older products.

“The was an abundance of supply from previous years so there is a lot of clearance stock and a lot of deep discounting,” he said.


Global sales of action figures like Transformers and Spiderman are projected to decline by 2% this year, Euromonitor


Anticipating the lower demand and already holding surplus inventory, many retailers ordered in less product than usual this year. That means products that are in demand may sell out quickly. Black Friday will give retailers an early indication.

“We are seeing some early Black Friday sales start just now,” Barbie maker Mattel’s president and chief commercial officer, Steve Totzke, told Reuters on Monday.

Mattel’s inventory levels at the end of the third quarter declined by double-digit percentage versus the prior year, with weeks of supply down high single digits, it said last month.

MGA Entertainment ordered and made less product, Larian said, because it wanted to be “cautious and conservative” but now expects to run out of some new toys as a result.

U.S. imports of toys fell by 32% year over year in the three months to Aug. 31, 2023 in dollar terms, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence’s trade data firm Panjiva. That’s usually a key ordering period for holiday stock. Shipments by sea – measured by number of containers – fell by 8% in September.

“The market for toys has been declining for the whole year,” said Florian Sieber, CEO of German toy maker Simba. Demand from consumers in Europe is lower than last year and last year was already down from the previous year, Sieber added.

Still, some anticipate a late surge in demand.

“We are expecting a good holiday season for Mattel,” Totzke said. “We expect to continue to gain share throughout the holiday season.”

Frédérique Tutt, Global Toys Advisor at data firm Circana, formerly NPD, said toy sales were down about 7% year-on-year in countries it tracks in the first nine months of the year, but that she expects shoppers to come through in the three weeks before Christmas. The categories with the best performance to date are games and puzzles, plush, building sets and vehicles, she said.

“There’ll be some money set aside for toys,” said Jerry Storch, chief executive officer of consultancy Storch Advisors and former CEO of Toys-R-Us and Hudson’s Bay Co. “But it’s a reality that there won’t be as many toys sold this year as last year.”

($1 = 0.8032 pounds)

(Reporting by Richa Naidu; Editing by Matt Scuffham)