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NPD: The movies making an impact this summer

Toy properties with a movie origin is one of the fastest growing sectors over last four years.

The UK toy market is a dynamic one where licensing plays an important part – with both increased licensing of traditional toy brands to other categories, as well as the traditional film and TV licences creating new toy ranges.

Over the last four years, one of the fastest growing areas of the sector has been toy properties with a movie origin, up +65% in 2016 vs. 2013, growth over x3.5 faster than total toy market and now worth over £337 million (Source: NPD UK Toys Retail Tracking).

Each year brings different film releases to the market, with both live action and CGI films contributing to movie toy growth in the last four years. The largest categories for film licences are action figures and building sets, but there are film properties across all areas of the market.

2016 movie headlines were still dominated by Star Wars, with the double hit of The Force Awakens momentum from 2015 and new spin-off Rogue One in Q4, leading Star Wars to be the largest UK toy property ever seen by NPD with sales over £101 million. Elsewhere in 2016, super heroes continued to drive toy sales with The Avengers and Batman contributing to toy sales, and Batman v Superman added a new licence to the superhero portfolio.


The top new film property last year for toys was DreamWorks’ Trolls which sold £12 million of toys – and sales for Trolls have continued to be strong into 2017. The start of 2017 was heavily driven by LEGO Batman sales, with Batman the number two property in the UK at the start of the year (YTD February 2017), while March saw the launch of the new live action Beauty and the Beast licence.

Looking ahead to this summer’s big releases there are a number which have historically been top sellers for the UK toy market. Transformers is a true evergreen property within the action figure market, consistently within the top ten properties. However, it always experiences a significant uplift when there is a movie release, with Transformers: The Last Knight the fourth in the franchise and the first film in three years.


Expanded cinematic universes from Marvel and DC super hero properties are also strong performers for toys and this looks to continue this year. With Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor sequels, as well as Wonder Woman and DC’s team up film, Justice League towards the end of the year, 2017 could be a bumper year for super heroes.

The summer also sees Spider-Man swing back into action. Traditionally during a film release, Spider-Man toy sales hit the top 20 properties across total toys and during the previous film release in 2014, sold over £28 million of toys.

Another historic big hitter, this time from the animated movie front, is Disney-Pixar’s Cars. Cars 2 drove the property to be number one for toys in 2011 with £49 million of sales – with sales across a number of different categories – and the latest movie will be a big one to watch.

Also in the race is Despicable Me 3 with the return of Gru and the ever-popular Minions, who will be looking across multiple categories for sales this year after selling £35 million of toys in 2015 when the Minions movie was released.

With such a heavy line-up of previously strong film licences, as well as new brands like The Emoji Movie and My Little Pony, 2017 could well be a record year for movie licences.

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

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