Sales of toys in the U.S. rose 7.5% in the first half of the year, past last year’s mid-year and annual growth rates, according to global information company The NPD Group. The firm now estimates that the industry will grow 7%, or $1.4 billion, for the full year.
Outdoor and sports toy sales were the fastest-growing sub-category this year, with $1.7 billion in sales and with growth nearly doubling to 32% of total toy industry growth for the year to date.
Star Wars toy merchandise continues to have the force as the biggest contributor to the industry’s mid-year growth, with sales rising nearly 200% through June, according to NPD.
After slumping in recent years, toy sales are booming, and movie, internet, and television tie-ins are a big part of that. But consumers’ priority of spending money on experiences over stuff is also driving the growth, as outdoor toys dominate sales.
“I expect to see continued growth for the U.S. toy industry for the remainder of 2016 and, if it reaches 7% for year-end, that would be the fastest growth of the U.S. toy market since 1999,” NPD U.S. toys analyst Juli Lennett said in a statement. “Toys with movie tie-ins will continue to contribute to the increase, stemming from those released both in 2015 and 2016. Television, over-the-top and other content providers, like YouTube and social media, will also continue to drive growth.”
Although last year saw the highly anticipated release of the latest Star Wars movie, sales for related toys could actually be even bigger this year, NPD found.
“Star Wars is already at $300 million for the year, compared to $700 million for all of 2015,” Lennett said. “With two-thirds of toy sales yet to come in 2016, Star Wars could be even bigger this year than last.”
The spike in outdoor toys is an example of millennials’ penchant for experiences over stuff spilling over into parenthood—a clue for toy retailers preparing for the holidays.
“I believe some of this explosion in Outdoor & Sports is a result of millennials seeking a healthier, outdoor lifestyle for their kids, as well as looking for more laugh-out-loud experiences with play, minus the rules and directions,” said Lennett. “I will be interested to see what new toys will help kids create this type of experience during the fall and winter months.”