Local toy stores thrive amid pandemic’s return to board games, chess and card collecting

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US toy industry sales soared 16% in first half of 2020

By Tina Traster

Do you remember when your parents or grandparents had a card table or a living room with a chess set or a backgammon table or a 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle?

The time machine has arrived. The COVID-19 pandemic is causing many families to spend more time together at home, which means more time to play and have fun together.

The toy category, struggling since the death of Toys R Us, has taken a boost this year as desperate parents try to entertain their children.

“The holiday season – Easter, Passover – has been the busiest season we’ve ever had,” said Yaakov Miller, owner of Toyriffic in Pomona, which sells tactile toys such as puzzles, board games, educational and scientific kits. “The most popular item was puzzles.”

“We are looking for extraordinary demand growth,” said Ynon Kreiz of Mattel.

Miller said the lockdown was a challenge. “The state said alcohol was an essential, but not toys.” But the shopkeeper, who does not trade online, said he took orders over the phone and delivered the toys by car. Since reopening in July, business has stabilized although the toy seller said it continues to respond to requests for games such as Ticket To Ride, Catan, CodeNames.

The pandemic has been a challenge for many industries. But the volatile effects of COVID-19 have not been felt equally across all categories. It was a terrible year for suit sellers like Tailored Brands and Brooks Brothers, but a banner for retailers of outdoor gear, bikes, sweatpants, hammocks and liquor.

But toys have seen a notable rise – and analysts expect sales to be robust heading into the holiday season as families remain relatively housebound and many schools remain closed. Even the macroeconomic gloom might not slow the category’s growth.

US toy industry sales soared 16% in the first half of 2020, according to the NPD Group. Toymakers say the pandemic has driven much of that demand. Parents with kids home from school who don’t have organized sports and activities on the weekends are desperate for ways to keep them entertained.

Coresight Research predicts Christmas toy sales are expected to grow 5-10% year-over-year in 2020.

In the first half of 2020, puzzles led the way with 37% growth, followed by outdoor sports and toys (up 27%), construction games (14%), arts and crafts (11%) and exploration toys (1%). ), according to NPD.

Among specific toy properties, Disney’s Frozen toys led the way, followed by Star Wars, Little Tikes, Barbie and Lego Star Wars. However, the continued closure of movie theaters could negatively impact movie-related toy brands this holiday season.

According to Coresight, trending toys include ambitious play toys, interactive educational toys, licensed entertainment character toys, online games and links, outdoor toys, retro toys and unboxing toys/ surprise.

Games and puzzles have become mainstream products. They were among the top three performers in the toy industry “supercategory” between January and September, according to market research group NPD. Sales, at around $1.5 billion, were up 42% from the same period in 2019, NPD said in a late October report.

Over the past year, sales of chess sets in the United States have grown about 25%, only slightly faster than the overall toy industry, said Juli Lennett, an analyst at the toy industry at NPD, a market research firm. Since mid-October, when “The Queen’s Gambit” aired on Netflix, sales have increased by 125%.

At Goliath Games, a toy company that sells several varieties of chess sets, sales are up more than 1,000% compared to the same period last year, the company’s chief marketing officer told NPD. .

An eBay spokeswoman said the company had seen a 215% increase in sales of chess sets and accessories since the show began in October.

In-person card games have taken a break at ToyWiz in Nanuet, but comics director Carl Etter says sales are strong, especially action figures, comics and miniature games.

“The card game was our daily bread,” Etter said. “It boosts our sales, because that’s how we build our community. Due to restrictions we can’t hold tournaments, but that hasn’t stopped people from collecting. Sales were strong. »

At a time when other brands are struggling, or have not reopened in the Palisades Center, at least one toy store and one game store have opened. Lollipop Toys, an independent toy store specializing in toys for children ages birth to 10, has opened its new location on Level 1 next to 7-Eleven.

Good Game Lounge, a venue for games, streaming, tournaments as well as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs, opened its first location in the mall. The 8,500 square foot salon is located on the first level next to Sephora. Good Game Lounge was founded by entrepreneur Malik Adjoyi, a resident of Rockland County.

Mattel reports Barbie sales increased 29% in the third quarter, driving revenue growth of 10% for the entire company. This is the largest quarterly increase in two decades.

Meanwhile, pandemic demand has toy companies scrambling, judging by comments from recent third-quarter conference calls from the CEOs of Mattel and Hasbro, the two big U.S. toy players. And the jamming seems to continue.

“We are looking for extraordinary growth in demand,” said Ynon Kreiz of Mattel, famous for its Barbie franchise but also ranked No. 1 in games and puzzles in the United States by NPD for the card game Uno.