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European toys and games market banking on licensing and new lines for a happy Christmas and 2024

Circana, formerly IRI and The NPD Group, has today (4 October) unveiled new insights on the European toy market on the opening day of Brand Licensing Europe at ExCeL.

Across the seven largest markets in Europe (UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium and The Netherlands) Circana has tracked €7.9 billion worth of toy sales this year to the end of August 2023 – a decline of -3.6% in value terms compared to the same period in 2022.

“Like many discretionary categories, the toy market is fighting to maintain its share of consumers’ wallets,” commented Melissa Symonds, UK toys director at Circana. “A decline in disposable income, drops in birth rates and unpredictable weather, which always has a direct impact on sales of outdoor toys, have all contributed to the decline in the toy market value sales. But one way manufacturers are reaching consumers’ hearts is to capitalise on the power of fandom. As a result, the licensing market is booming.”

Due to unpredictable weather, outdoor and sport toys have declined by -16.5% YTD and -15.5% for the three summer months (June to August) where they represent no less than 16% of European toy sales.

Three super categories are increasing sales: Building Sets (+0.3%), Games and Puzzles (+7.3%) and Plush (+9.4%). The top 5 gaining classes YTD include: Strategic trading card games, traditional plush, card games, non-strategic trading cars and stickers, action figure collectibles.

Licensed merchandise, however, continues to play a big part in the toy market across Europe and has seen a big boost in the wake of a number of summer blockbuster movie releases. Across the EU7 (UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands), licensing now makes up 27% of total spend in toy sales, rising from 22% in 2020. An impressive gain of 26% in three years.

The top ten character-driven toys by sales value in the UK market – YTD August 2023 (£ sales) – are:

  1. Speed Champions Aston Martin 007 DB5 (LEGO)
  2. Speed Champions Lamborghini Contact (LEGO)
  3. Premier League 2022/23 Adrenalyn XL (Panini)
  4. 5 Surprise Mini Brands Disney Store Edition (Zuru)
  5. PAW Patrol Vehicle and Pup (Spin Master)
  6. Premier League 2023 Official Sticker Collection Multipack (Panini)
  7. Star Wars 501st Clone Troopers Battle Pack (LEGO)
  8. Speed Champions The Fast and the Furious 2 Nissan Skyline GT R R34 (LEGO)
  9. Minifigures Disney 100th (LEGO)
  10. Disney Up House (LEGO)


“The licensing of movies, video games and sporting events are all fueling growth of toy sales,” added Melissa. “The licensing of toys is keeping the sector in great shape as we move into the all-important Q4 holiday period. With the wealth of content available and more coming down the pipe, it will be fascinating to see just how high the share of licensed sales in the toy market can go in 2024 – though I do expect the 148 days of the Writers Guild of America strike to have a measured impact on the flow of new toys.”

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