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Weather Hampers 112th Toy Fair, But Toys & Gaming Categories Going Strong

NEW YORK — Brutal temperatures and unwavering ice storms weren’t kind to attendees and exhibitors at the 112th North American International Toy Fair, but the event still boasted a record-breaking 421,300 net square feet of exhibit space.

The show, held Feb. 14-17 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, here, hosted nearly 25,000 attendees, which was down just slightly from 2014’s crowd of 26,500, according to Toy Industry Association (TIA), producers of the show.

Although the weather put an inevitable damper on the show’s attendance, the toy and gaming categories are quite healthy, with year-over-year growth shown in the fourth quarter. The industry executives we spoke with were very optimistic about the outlook for gaming and electronic toys, especially with all the attention one of its newest entrants was receiving: robotics and drones. The TIA included robotics and robotic pets among its Key Trends for 2015, as well as remote-controlled toys that interact with smartphones.

According to The NPD Group, U.S. retail sales of toys generated more than $18 billion in 2014, vs. the $17.46 billion captured in 2013. While sales got a slow start during the all-important holiday season, NPD said the extra shopping day Christmas week helped propel year-over-year December sales by 6 percent.

Fourth-quarter sales were up 3 percent year over year; when broken out, the youth electronics category rose 11 percent.

Total video games sales reached $13.1 billion for 2014, which is up 1 percent over 2013. The bulk of this stemmed from hardware sales, which saw 20 percent growth; accessories also grew by 5 percent, with interactive gaming toys holding the top spot for the year, according to NPD. Both of these helmed stem software declines, a category that dropped 13 percent year over year.

Noted Liam Callahan, NPD director, games industry analyst: “Keep in mind that the results for December and 2014 as a whole show the console space is going through a period of two transitions: one being a generational transition from seventh-generation to eighthgeneration consoles, and, second, a format transition as console gamers become more comfortable with downloading games and what is being offered digitally.”

Bundles drove video game hardware sales in December, Callahan said, capturing 71 percent of hardware unit sales. This is up from 32 percent in the prioryear period.

Mobile gaming continues to ratchet up its growth, with consumer spending rising 38 percent from 2012, according to NPD’s “Games Market Dynamics: U.S.” report. This makes it the third largest piece of consumer spending on video games, said Callahan in a blog post

He added: “At least 60 percent of consumers ages 2 to 44 are gaming on mobile devices, but I have no doubt that anyone invested in the space wants even more people playing.”

TWICE corresponded with several executives in the toy and gaming industry to get their thoughts on the show and on the overall category. See the Q&A at left, and check out p. 28 and for more responses, as well as highlights of products shown at Toy Fair.