From “dual-use” collectibles and adrenaline-pumping active toys, to awe-inspiring robotics and “movie mania” playthings, the top toy trends of 2017 were announced February 19 by the U.S. Toy Industry Association (TIA) at its 114th North American International Toy Fair.
“This year’s trending toys reflect the creative force and vitality of the North American toy industry, which is coming off an excellent year of 5 percent sales growth powered by industry ingenuity,” noted Adrienne Appell, a leading trend expert at TIA. “With more room for innovation and a greater willingness to take risks, toymakers are pulling out all the stops to create highly ground-breaking products, reinvent play patterns, and refresh classic brands with cutting-edge technologies and exciting new licenses. Best of all, these toys build children’s developmental skills through collaborative, hands-on, and imaginative play.”
TIA’s team of trend experts meets with hundreds of global toy companies throughout the year to track the latest developments in toys, games, and youth entertainment. At New York Toy Fair, the team combs through thousands of products on the show floor before making an official announcement of the year’s hottest trends at a “Toy Trends Briefing” for media, buyers, and other show guests. The briefing was held during the show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center; products shown during the presentation will be hitting stores in time for holiday 2017.
The top six trends were:
Collectibles were a top contributor to toy industry growth last year (posting 33 percent growth with $1.8B in sales, per The NPD Group), and they are expected to maintain their popularity in 2017. This trend includes basic and affordable collectibles, collectibles that have multiple play functions, as well as some higher-priced licensed collectibles with intricate styling details for the most avid collectors and passionate fans. Collectible toys help children develop lifelong skills, including social skills (when negotiating and trading with friends), organization skills (as they maintain their collections), and perseverance (not giving up on the “hunt”).
Up & Active
Toys that encourage kids to get up and move – both indoors and outdoors – are on the rise. The latest active toys not only motivate kids to burn off excess energy, they are also engaging for the whole family and are more seamlessly integrated into other types of play. This trend includes tech toys that weave in active components, classic outdoor ride-ons, traditional games that incorporate physical activity, and digital toys that foster face-to-face play.
Toy companies are continuing to innovate and think outside the box as they incorporate engaging tech components into their products. The good news for consumers is that technologies that were just emerging a few years ago (like 3D printing) have become a lot more affordable for manufacturers, making high-tech experiences more readily available at realistic price points. This year we are seeing a surge in augmented and virtual reality toys, drones, virtual pets, robotics, and more. Most importantly, toymakers are successfully leveraging technology to enhance traditional play patterns rather than replace them.
Oh So Classic!
Along with their high-tech counterparts, low or no-tech toys with retro and classic styling and materials (like wood) will hold their own after a strong 2016 (last year, games/puzzles and dolls were among the fastest growing toy categories tracked by NPD). This trend includes retro brands that are either reinvented or reintroduced for a new generation to enjoy. These toys are appealing to parents, grandparents, and kids, and are a great way to foster intergenerational play.
Licensing has been a huge boon to the toy business for the past several years (capturing about 30 percent of total U.S. toy sales) and 2017 will be no exception, thanks to a wave of family-friendly movies hitting theatres. From two LEGO movies (Batman and Ninjago) to Cars 3, Smurfs: The Lost Village, and Beauty and the Beast, this might be the best year for movies (and toys with movie tie-ins) in recent history. Expect to see licensed toys featuring popular characters and stories across every single category – including ride-ons, plush, action figures, and puzzles.
From STEAM to STREAM
The trend in educational toys that teach kids important concepts like Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM), isn’t going away. In fact, it’s getting more comprehensive thanks to a slew of exciting and engaging products that ignite kids’ curiosity. In 2017, expect to see Robotics incorporated into the trend – transforming STEAM to STREAM. And we can’t forget the learning component imbued in classic toys like puzzles, memory games, building blocks, stacking toys, and other playthings that teach critical skills like problem-solving, creativity, and critical thinking.
Toy Fair is an annual event that is owned and operated by the Toy Industry Association (TIA). The show brings together close to 1,100 exhibiting manufacturers, distributors, importers, and sales agents to showcase hundreds of thousands of toy and youth entertainment products to retail outlets from more than 100 countries.