Press Release


A quiet year for licensing, political uncertainty and the demise of Toys ‘R’ Us influence a seven
per cent drop, but collectables continue to surge, and the industry looks ahead to a very
promising 2019

22 January 2019, London: The British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA) and the NPD Group announced today at Toy Fair in London that UK toy sales declined by seven per cent in 2018 to £3.3bn. The decrease has been attributed to three major factors: the closure of Toys ‘R’ Us; a poor year for licensed products and a generally difficult year for some on the high street- and all surrounded by the  uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

Despite the downturn, sectors such as collectables and dolls performed well marked by 32% and 2% increases respectively. Collectables, including blind bags or ‘surprise’ products, accounted for one in every four toys sold in the UK. Online sales increased year on year by 8% with online accounting for 34% of all sales.

“Any sector would be disappointed to announce a dip in the market, but there are mitigating reasons behind the decrease, some of which are one off events, so the UK toy industry has a number of reasons to be very positive for 2019,” commented Natasha Crookes, Director of Public Affairs and Communications at the BTHA. “Losing a major retailer like Toys R Us, played a pivotal role in the downturn during the early part of 2018, due to discounting of stock. Add to that a year with no major film licenses, a dip in consumer spending and uncertainty for industry around Brexit, all combining to create a difficult year.”

“However, while all industries go into 2019 with some trepidation around the uncertainty of Brexit, the year ahead looks positive for the toy industry and we expect a return to growth.”  The downturn has been replicated globally with the French, Spanish, US and Australian markets also seeing a year on year decline. The UK remains the largest market in Europe and the fourth largest globally.

“2018 was difficult for the toy industries across the world, with several countries seeing a decline,” commented Frederique Tutt, global toy analyst at the NPD Group. “Despite the tough conditions, toy specialist retailers did well in the U.K., which was a positive boost to a struggling high street. This perhaps reflects a return to the theatre created by toy shops that bring the wonder of toys alive. Looking forward, 2019 has the potential to produce significant growth for the UK market thanks to a stellar line up of movie releases and the comeback of old favourite brands. We would expect this to drive incremental spend in the category.”

Alongside the market announcement, the BTHA also announced its continued commitment to promoting the value of play. In a press conference, held on the opening morning of Toy Fair, play psychologist Amanda Gummer reiterated the importance of a balanced play diet.  “With so much choice available to children when it comes to entertainment, it is more important than ever for parents to encourage their kids to find time for traditional play,” commented Gummer. “The benefits of traditional play to a child’s development are well documented, and it is beneficial to create a balanced play diet in a child’s life, incorporating a wide range of play activities. It is vital that children have plenty of active, social, free play and they don’t neglect this in favour of solitary, sedentary, passive screen time.”