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Current trends in collectable toys

from Steve Reece

The collectable toy category has never been more vibrant! There was a time when the larger toy companies tended not to take collectable toys seriously, as the price points were so low that the category as a whole was perceived to offer poor return on investment versus toys selling for 5 or 10 times the retail price.

The global financial crisis of the late noughties made the toy companies realize that consumers will often buy collectable toys on impulse before they will buy a higher priced toy. Also coming out of the same resurgence of interest in collectable toys was the understanding that collectable price points are a playground currency and a huge brand potential.

From Shopkins to Lego Minifigures, collectable toys are big business across markets in the toy business now. Some of the collectable toy lines have shipped tens of millions of units in the last few years and have been top sellers.

Youtube challenges TV advertising

L.O.L. Surprise! has really smashed the collectable toy category. Huge demand has been driven via a marketing plan featuring no traditional TV advertising. This is really a massive demonstration of the power of YouTube as a marketing platform when the No. 1 toy can be launched without the traditional golden button of TV advertising!

LOL Surprise!

Surprising change in collectable price point

There is no doubting the huge success of L.O.L. Surprise!, yet one of the most paradigm shifting elements which has received less attention is the price point - $9.99 is a not untypical price point for L.O.L. Surprise!, which has more than doubled the standard collectable price point with demonstrably no impact on sales levels. For so many years, decades in fact, a collectable toy was definitely less than $5 retail, and maybe even as low as $2.99. Yet in my view this was an artificially low price point which was maintained due to ever present downward pressure from retailers on price points. $10 retail today is an impulse price point versus ten years ago when $5 may have been the ceiling. This uplift in price points could be one of the biggest long term impacts of the success of L.O.L. Surprise!

Plastic backlash is likely to change the choice of materials

Another key trend is the consumer and media backlash on disposable plastic based on environmental impact. A number of retailers and consumer product companies have seen a backlash on the use of collectable plastic toys for promotions this year already, and this trend looks set to continue. Longer term the use of sugar cane based ‘plastics’ or other sustainable materials may partially resolve this issue.

Flexible marketing methods hype collectable toys

Overall, the types of collectable toys which work are still much the same as they were decades ago, but now we have more powerful more flexible marketing methods and media available to us which seems to be feeding into the overall strength of the collectable toy category.

Aside from the threat of plastic backlash, there seems to be little which will hold this category back from future growth – exciting times!


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Spielwarenmesse eG.

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