Spielwarenmesse: An insiders view on toy markets: Australia & New Zealand

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An insiders view on toy markets: Australia & New Zealand

from Steve Reece

The antipodean toy markets (Australia & New Zealand) are often forgotten by westward looking toy people. Yet for toy companies who have any success in English speaking markets such as the USA, Canada or the UK, there is a fairly straightforward win ‘down under’ which often does not take a great deal of incremental effort or investment.

In our industry, we are typically very focused on our home markets first, and the vast U.S. toy market second, with everything else as a bonus. Clearly there is some commercial sense in this approach – we need to prioritise our own domestic business, as it can be difficult to prove sales success for our products without it. Furthermore, the USA is by far the biggest toy market in the world with potentially huge volumes, so of course it must be prioritised also. In comparison, the Australian & New Zealand toy markets seem small in comparison/far less pressing, but it offers a lot of potential to expand ones toy business.

Expanding the market for English speaking licenses

To market size this opportunity, looking at a range of public domain market size stats, the Australian toy market can be estimated to be around 1/3 to ¼ of the size of the UK toy market – so not huge by any means, yet it can be a ‘low hanging fruit’ opportunity in many instances. For example, if you have a product line based on a popular English language originated license, it is very likely that the license will work in Australia. Maybe the content driving the license won’t air at the same time/run to the same growth trajectory, but nevertheless, typically the voice actors will be the same, so the toys will often be the same. Trend based toys may be less guaranteed to ‘land’ down under, but if a toy has the hallmarks of fad success in one market, those hallmarks are usually portable!

Media is the other major factor which makes Australia/New Zealand potentially easy wins for international toy companies. For English language speaking consumers, YouTube is one of the top internet search engines as well as the top content viewing platform globally. So practically speaking, webisodes which are used to support a toy launch can effectively support launch in multiple English language speaking markets. While Australia & New Zealand may be comparatively geographically remote/harder to physically access from Europe or North America, the reality is that media consumption is typically similar, and even where channels vary, the hot content for kids will often be the same.

2 peak seasons with Christmas in summer and winter in July

In terms of retail structure Australia is most similar to the USA -  in terms of there being a limited number of generalist retailers who have highest market share. Big W, Kmart & Target in Australia typically offer the biggest available chunk of toy sales opportunity. While not as much as half the market, these big 3 retailers do offer the most significant channel opportunity. Toys R Us is present in Australia, as are some top end department stores like David Jones, but are significantly less prominent versus other markets.

One further key local factor in terms of retail windows is the seasonality of the Southern hemisphere – so Christmas is celebrated down under, but this time of year falls in the summer months. Therefore, Australia in particular tends to see 2 peak selling windows for toys – Christmas gifting season, but also the catalogue season in winter around June/July.

Some key learnings about Australia and New Zealand

  • Australia is huge, logistics is a major challenge – imagine the USA with far less development in the middle and a much smaller commercial opportunity!
  • The second key learning came while working closely with an Australian company. For those in the toy industry who have struggled with the time difference between Europe or the USA vs Hong Kong & China, the difference with New Zealand & Australia is greater – at times as much as 13 hours from the UK for instance. This is always handy when chasing work, as a brief sent out by end of day in the UK would normally have been met and delivered by the very next morning. On the flip side, when things are super urgent – the time difference can be painful with early morning phone calls.
  • The final point which can often be learnt the hard way, is that while New Zealand is a substantially smaller commercial opportunity versus Australia (New Zealand is about 10-15% of the market size vs Australia), the two are both proud independent nations who don’t like to be confused with each other or annexed for the sake of commercial or conversational simplicity!

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Author of this article:

Steve Reece, CEO Kids Brand Insight

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