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NPD analysis: Dream themes

NPD Group talks us through the top themes in the toy market.

The NPD Group has introduced a new theme attribute to its retailer sales tracker, to identify the value of popular and longstanding themes across the total toy market. Films, TV shows and other licensed content are strong contributors to these themes, which aim to cover a number of key areas of the toy market.

The largest theme and the most dynamic is Superheroes – which has increased 70% in value since 2014 and now exceeds £151 million in the 12 months to July 2017 and accounts for 6% of total toy sales. The annual growth for superheroes was five times the total toys growth in that time, with movies like LEGO Batman, Power Rangers and Spider-Man: Homecoming contributing to increased sales growth in the last six months.

Batman is currently the largest licence within superheroes, followed by Power Rangers, Avengers and Transformers. However, there are also new licences contributing to sales with one of strongest new licences in the last year being DC Super Hero Girls, which has sold just under £8 million with Mattel’s DCSH Girls Fashion Assortment doll, the top selling fashion doll item on the market.

Although movies help drive the continued interest in superheroes, there are continual TV and online content as well as top selling video games which add to the long-term popularity. This theme will continue to be a key performer for toys licensing especially with two big super hero movie team ups arriving in the next 12 months, Justice League and Avengers: Infinity War.


The second largest theme in toys is Princess with sales of £78 million in the last year. This is heavily influenced by the classic licence Disney Princess, as well as continued sales from Disney Frozen, Barbie and Princess Peppa ranges. Princess is a classic theme, but there are new films, Moana and Beauty and the Beast, which have expanded the Princess offer with more action-orientated characters. There is also a hybrid theme, Princess-Mermaid, which while small has grown +30% in the last 12 months.

After Princess, Pony is the next largest theme and grew +10% in the last year. Two of the fastest growing categories for Pony are plush and arts and crafts, while dolls remains the largest area. My Little Pony is the largest property within the theme, accounting for half of all sales and with a movie release in October, could increase that share in the coming year.

The Dinosaurs theme has sold £19 million in the last 12 months, an impressive amount for a theme without a major film or TV show release. However, this is one to watch for 2018 with the second Jurassic World film, Fallen Kingdom set for a summer release. Fairies have also seen growth in the last year, up +23% helped by Disney Fairies and Barbie, as well as the Fairy Garden property. Pirates is a smaller theme over the last year, but still sold £8.5 million.

This new ability to look at the toy market by theme offers a unique view of the UK and European toy market covering a number of classic ideas within the toy industry which can be used across the wider licensing industry as inspiration and re-invention.

While the overall themes are iconic, the growth and strength of their sales are heavily driven by latest licence offerings across all media further solidifying the link between licensing and toys.

NPD’s UK License Tracker aims to equip licensors, manufacturers and retailers to uncover opportunities and grow their share of the licensed product marketplace. You can find out more by contacting NPD on 020 8237 1300.

This feature originally appeared in the autumn 2017 edition of Licensing Source Book. Click here to read the full publication.

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