How Star Wars Is Propelling The Toy Industry

The Force is strong with toy sales, apparently.

Buoyed by the success of the latest Star Wars movie released just before Christmas, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” sales of Star Wars toys have been leading a bullish toy industry, which is poised to post its best numbers since 1999, and there’s still months to go in the year that will be capped off with the biggest toy shopping season of them all — Christmas.

In the U.S., the toy industry grew at 7.5 percent through the first six months of 2016, way ahead of last year’s annual growth rate, according to a new study by The NPD Group. Toy sales are estimated to grow by 7 percent throughout all of 2016, a jump of $1.4 billion, but if the next Star Wars movie — “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” which is set to bow on Dec. 16, just in time to get your kids super-excited about all the cool, new characters the film is set to introduce for the holiday shopping season — proves to be as successful or lucrative as the last one, those numbers could jump even further.

“I expect to see continued growth for the U.S. toy industry for the remainder of 2016, and if it reaches 7 percent for year-end, that would be the fastest growth of the U.S. toy market since 1999,” according to Juli Lennett, senior vice president for The NPD Group, specializing in the toy industry. “Toys with movie tie-ins will continue to contribute to the increase, stemming from those released both in 2015 and 2016. Television, over-the-top and other content providers, like YouTube and social media, will also continue to drive growth.”

Oh, and what movie debuted in 1999? “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace,” the first new Star Wars move since the original trilogy.

Star Wars is enjoying a great year in toy sales thanks to its first new theatrical release in 10 years (sorry to remind all you Star Wars fans out there who are still trying to forget about “Revenge of the Sith”). Sales of Star Wars toys ranked first in terms of dollars from January to June and rose 200 percent over the previous, according to NPD’s data.

“Star Wars is already at $300 million for the year, compared to $700 million for all of 2015. With two-thirds of toy sales yet to come in 2016, Star Wars could be even bigger this year than last,” Lennett said.

Through the first six months of 2016, the top 10 selling toy brands are: 1) Star Wars; 2) NERF; 3) Shopkins; 4) Pokémon; 5) Barbie; 6) LEGO Star Wars; 7) Little Tikes; 8) Disney Frozen; 9) Hot Wheels; and 10) Minecraft.

And with the amazing success of the Pokémon GO game, you should expect to see sales of Pokémon-related toy sales climb throughout the year as well, with Pikachu possibly giving Yoda a run for his money when all is said and done by the end of the year.

But with Disney’s plan to release at least one new Star Wars film a year for the foreseeable future — not to mention the TV shows, video games, novels and comic books — Star Wars does not appear poised to cede control of children’s imaginations anytime soon.

So, you might want to start getting used to those lightsabers and Darth Vader helmets, because the Force figures to be a big player in the toy industry for the foreseeable future.

Another interesting aspect of NPD’s report is that outdoor and sports toys are now by far the most lucrative category of toys sales, “exploding” by 32 percent this year to $1.7 billion in sales. So much for all those people who say today’s kids are lazy and never put down their video games long enough to even leave the house.

“I believe some of this explosion in outdoor and sports is a result of millennials seeking a healthier, outdoor lifestyle for their kids, as well as looking for more laugh-out-loud experiences with play, minus the rules and directions,” Lennett said. “I will be interested to see what new toys will help kids create this type of experience during the fall and winter months.”


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