‘Stealing from the shelves’: Toys are likely a bright spot in the midst of muted retail season

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HALIFAX – In a year plagued by a deadly virus, closures and cancellations, parents can’t wait to give their kids a Christmas like, well, every other. Overall vacation spending is expected to be eased as the second wave of COVID-19 worsens, causing continued economic uncertainty and tighter travel and assembly restrictions. A report from Deloitte Canada says holiday spending is set to drop 18%, with one in three Canadians planning to spend less.

But retail analysts say the lack of normalcy in 2020 could be a driver for strong toy sales. Much of the drop is related to lower travel, dining, and entertainment spending, and experts suggest parents will forgo gifts for each other or make other sacrifices to put toys under. tree.

“People will want to do something to keep things as close to normal as possible, especially if you have kids,” says Tim Sanderson, executive vice president and national retail manager at JLL Canada

In fact, the toy category has proven resilient throughout the pandemic so far.

Since the closures last spring, parents have picked up “boredom breakers” like jigsaw puzzles, Lego, arts and crafts supplies, board games and outdoor activities.

Today, retailers expect this trend to continue during the biggest gifting season of the year.

“With the closure of all children’s events, camps and schools, parents have really tried to compensate to make sure their children have fun, entertainment or entertainment,” says Gail Banack, Director of Children at Indigo Books & Music Inc.

“We continue to see this trend entering the holidays. ”

With strong toy sales expected, retailers have rolled out early sales to keep shopping safe and physically distant. Black Friday deals were extended during the month, for example, to distribute shoppers and avoid long lines.

They have also posted hot toy lists and tips ahead of schedule and encourage parents to shop early to avoid disappointment.

Messaging seems to be working. While there are fewer customers buying from stores, there are also fewer people who just browse or “shop”.

“There has been a decrease in traffic to our stores, but we see this offset by the increase in the average transaction value with larger baskets,” says Sarah Jordan, CEO of Mastermind Toys.

She says the toy store chain, which focuses on educational children’s toys, has also seen tremendous growth in online sales and curbside pickup orders.

“Customers are crossing off their holiday shopping lists earlier than ever to avoid crowds and last-minute trips to stores,” Jordan says. “Bigger bills fly off the shelves.”

Indeed, messages from retailers and courier delivery services urging people to buy early are working – perhaps too well, for the procrastinators among us.

Retailers say some stocks are already low as people buy earlier than usual.

Toys ‘R’ Us Canada vice president and chief retailer Sean Williams says the toy industry has avoided shortages of Tickle Me Elmo toys of years gone by – a plush toy for kids that sparked a frenzy holiday shopping in 1996 after it sold out.

But he says the pandemic is not something the industry could have prepared for.

“There has been an insatiable consumer demand for toys throughout the pandemic,” Williams says.

He says the first holiday sales figures far exceed our expectations.

“There are items that will disappear that will be much harder to find on the big day. ”

With that in mind, executives at three of the nation’s largest toy retailers are naming the most popular holiday toys, providing an overview of products that may be running out of stock – or are already running low.

One of the most sought-after toys this season is a collaboration between plastic construction toy maker Lego and video game company Nintendo. Lego Super Mario Adventures allows users to create real-life versions of video game levels, like deserts and grasslands.

“He made a spectacular debut,” says Jordan of Mastermind. “It turns out to be a popular article… if you want it, you should get it soon.

She adds, “If there’s one hit toy this season, it’s this one. ”

The next hot toy is the Star Wars ‘The Child’ animatronic edition – also known as Baby Yoda.

The Hasbro figure creates sound effects inspired by Disney Plus’s “The Mandalorian”, featuring a motorized head, ears and eyes.

“It’s just landed and it’s starting to fly,” Williams says with Toys “R” Us.

Another hot item would have to be Present Pets from Canadian toy company Spin Master.

The interactive animals unwrap, revealing one of two possible plush puppies programmed with over a hundred sounds and actions.

“For parents who aren’t ready to buy a puppy, this is a great alternative,” Banack says with Indigo. “He really combines the innovation of the pet with this trend that we’ve seen for years on unboxing. ”

Other successful sellers include Kidizoom Creator Cam from Vtech, Na! N / A! N / A! Surprise Ultimate Surprise Rainbow Kitty and Spin Master Hatchimals Pixies Crystal Flyers.

But toy retailers say classic children’s gifts such as games, puzzles, and outdoor activities are also expected to have strong sales this holiday.

“This is something that really took off during COVID and has held up,” Banack says.

She says many parents try to limit screen time for kids, increasing the appeal of some of the more traditional gifts.

“I think one of the goals of all parents who go on vacation is to get their kids out of the devices,” Banack says. “We think books are always a great choice. ”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 17, 2020

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