Toy review site Toy Insider this week announced its 12th annual Toy Insider holiday gift guide, detailing the season’s "hot toys," toys geared to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills, and the top tech toys.
Suggestions from the site include several throwbacks (updated with new features like Bluetooth), including mini arcade games, Teddy Ruxpin and Tickle Me Elmo. The guide also includes board games for various ages, Hatchmials and kid fitness devices like SoundMoovs, Avengers 12V 4×4, and Thank & Learn Smart Cycle. Slime is also a hot trend, with toys like Smooshy Mushy, from Redwood Ventures, and make-your-own slime kits poised for popularity this season.
The site's "Hot 20" list includes Go! Go! Smart Wheels Race & Play Adventure Park for infants and toddlers, Disney Junior Doc Mcstuffins All-in-one Nursery for preschoolers, Oonies Starter Kit for elementary school kids and Lego Star Wars First Order Star Destroyer for tweens.
Toy Insider breaks down categories by age as well, providing gift-givers (presumably including Santa Claus) with insight on toys and children’s entertainment, according to the site. Reviews tag toys according to which skills they promote, including large and small motor skills, emotional and social skills including language development and school readiness.
"Toys that enhance kids’ knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) can help turn intimidating subjects into fun play experiences," according to Toy Insider.
Sales of toys surged last year, and many more retailers got in the game. Macy’s added toys to its off-price Backstage stores as well as in full-line stores over the holidays, Hudson’s Bay added toys to its holiday merchandise and Kohl’s brought in the popular American Girl doll line for the season. Amazon’s toy sales last year were some $4 billion, about 20% of the market, according to Jeffries analyst Stephanie Wissink. More than half of those came during fewer than 60 selling days, and more than a third (35%) of sales took place in December alone. Recently bankrupt Toys R Us was a stronger competitor last year, and Amazon is poised to benefit from its current struggles, according to a client note from global investment banking firm Jeffries.
Toys R Us isn’t out of the picture, but its fourth quarter consolidated net sales last year fell $192 million year-over-year to $4.66 billion, due mainly to a decline in same-stores sales and store closures in the U.S., including the company’s Times Square flagship store in New York. The retailer had a strong start to the holidays, but in the weeks following Black Friday faced sluggish sales and intense promotional activity.