NEW YORK — While youth electronics had a flat year in 2012, preschool tablets and augmented reality toys are expected to help propel the category into a strong 2013, and they will have a prominent presence at Toy Fair 2013, held here this week.
Nearly half of the top 10 toys in terms of U.S. dollar sales were in the youth electronics category, according to The NPD Group. LeapFrog dominated the list, taking four slots (including the No. 1 position) with its Explorer gaming system and LeapPad tablet and their related accessories and software.
Frederique Tutt, global toy analyst for NPD, told TWICE that the preschool tablet arena over-performed the toy market on both sides of the Atlantic in 2012, and that tablets for older children (such as Toys “R” Us’ Tabeo) are growing as well.
Tutt also noted that while toys with accompanying apps may have not broken through in 2012, there were still plenty more on the horizon. Also, “more than app toys, we see game manufacturers launch[ing] new apps for all their major board games to continue the gaming experience digitally on the go.”
Augmented reality is an additional segment expected to gain more notice in 2013, Tutt said, with some toys “using the device’s camera and superposing digital images” while others use an iPad in a protective case and enable it to become integrated into a play set.
Lego, which is launching an all-new iOS- and Android- enabled Mindstorms line, is due to have another strong year in 2013, Tutt said, and the company traveled to International CES last month to show off the line. The Lego Group is also the winner of the Toy Industry Association’s (TIA) 2013 Toy of the Year Award, given annually during Toy Fair, for its Lego Friends line.
Toy Fair, which is being held Feb. 10-13 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York, is on tap to be a record breaker of a show for TIA, its producers. There will be an estimated 31,000 attendees, up from last year’s 26,730, and show floor space will cover 375,366 square feet, also up from last year’s 366,489 square feet. The number of exhibitors will receive a slight bump, with 1,064 at this year’s show vs. last year’s 1,059.
A well-attended show is a welcome sight for the industry, which had a strong holiday season and end of the year, but still saw sales decline for the overall year.
NPD said December dollar sales topped $5 billion, which was up 1.3 percent from the prior year and the first time in three years it hit that mark. But the category took a hit for the year, blamed on lower November sales because of “waning consumer confidence, concern about fiscal policy and Superstorm Sandy,” said Russ Crupnick, NPD industry analysis senior VP.
U.S. retail toy sales were $16.5 billion for 2012, down slightly from $16.6 billion a year earlier.
Other products being launched at and around Toy Fair can be seen on this page, as well as CE toys that made last-minute appearances during the tail end of 2012. For ongoing coverage of Toy Fair, visit TWICE.com.