Film releases in licensed franchises are a critical contributor to growth in traditional toys in the US. Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the first Star Wars film to be released in seven years, was an enormous box office success, and created substantial opportunities for licensed toy sales during the holiday season. Other franchises, such as the second instalment in Marvel’s Avengers series – Avengers: Age of Ultron – and the well-received Jurassic World film, offered toy manufacturers high profile sales opportunities.
Traditional toys currently benefit to some extent from maturity in the consumer electronics market. In 2015, the growth of these products began to slow, with tablets volume sales falling by 4% and smartphones growing 7% in volume terms. As the penetration of consumer electronics has increased, traditional toys and games have been able to regain crucial holiday spending and move towards the spotlight again.
Electronic toys represented 23% of traditional toys and games sales in 2015, a decline from their peak in 2013, where they represented 25% of sales. Declines in children’s tablet sales as the market reaches maturity contributed significantly to the shift towards non-electronic toys.
Traditional gender roles are also breaking down, as growing numbers of American children play with both dolls and accessories, and action figures and accessories, regardless of their gender, while manufacturers have started to take a more gender neutral approach to their marketing of toys. In late 2015, Target, a major retailer in the US, announced that it would be removing gender labelled aisles in its stores, marking a push for inclusivity.
Domestic manufacturers control substantial portions of the traditional toys and games market, with Mattel Inc and Hasbro Inc holding a collective 33% of the category by value. Lego Group is the largest international manufacturer in traditional toys and games, with a 9% share in 2015.
Moose Enterprise Pty Ltd saw the largest increase among traditional toys and games manufacturers in the US in 2015, growing by 609% in value, as a result of the popularity of its Shopkins line of dolls. The transfer of the licence for Disney Princess dolls from Mattel Inc to Hasbro Inc in 2016 will greatly affect the performance of both companies . The addition of the line to Hasbro’s portfolio is critical, as the company continues to grow its licensed offerings.
Traditional toys profit from movie & video games licensing
Feature films have a substantial impact on the licensing landscape in the US. While more mature films, such as Star Wars and Marvel, which feature more violence, are frequently targeted at audiences over six years old, their popularity trickles into all age demographics. Likewise, films targeted at younger audiences, such as the Disney Pixar films, are frequently able to gain a mass appeal to the 7-12 year-old demographic, as well as some teenagers.
Crossover between media platforms has played a role in the development of licensing in the US. While feature films still provide a major source of licensing, the ubiquitous nature of some franchises, such as the video game Minecraft, has provided an additional source of licensed products. Increased child access to the internet through tablets and smartphones exposes children to new franchises and provides further opportunities for traditional toys and games.
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