By Jonathan Alexandratos
Each year, Toy Fair presents a Toy Trends Briefing, in which experts discuss which types of toys have sold well in the past year, and what that means for future toys soon hitting the market. I like these briefings because they offer some insight into why our toy stores carry the products they do. In a way, it’s like pulling back the curtain on the entire industry.
The first trend discussed was one called “H2O Play.” This includes any toy that in some way interacts with water. Typically, the first toy that comes to mind may be the water gun, but this category is far larger than that. For instance, speaker Kristin Morency Goldman said that, last year, Sky Rocket hit it big with their Blume line, essentially plastic plants that, when watered, “grow” into dolls. Now, Sky Rocket is producing Bloom Pets, in which the plants reveal animal figurines. While these types of toys are exceedingly popular, Goldman said experts aren’t sure why. Sometimes the toy industry is like that – a product becomes a hit just, sorta, because.
The next hot trend right now is called IRL, shorthand for “In Real Life.” These are the toys influenced by online content. The simplest example is how the blind box trend took off after YouTubers made popular unboxing videos of the toys. (Blind boxes themselves have been around much longer, but those videos helped make them a trend.) This means that toy manufacturers are looking for new ways to make the virtual world unfold into the real one. Expect more apps, YouTube content, and digital connectivity in toys coming out in 2020.
The “Generations of Play” category is also trendy right now. These types of toys appeal to all ages by combining new play features with retro elements. One toy shown in this category was a miniature pool table (think roughly the size of two coffee table books laid flat next to each other). It appeals to an older crowd, but the low price point and smaller size can entice younger buyers. Perhaps the most exciting toy in this category, though, is Mall Madness, which will officially be making its comeback this year.
In the briefing, we were told that 2020 isn’t going to be a great year for kids entertainment movies, but companies are trying to incorporate appropriate licenses into their active play toys for all ages. This category, called “Boom Smash Crash,” is on the rise right now because it gets kids and adults up and moving. This is where you can buy bikes designed to replicate the ones on Stranger Things, or hopscotch mats that fold out onto the floor. While not all of these toys are important to collectors, they do sell incredibly well, and may help to explain why there are so many of them.
These hot categories are different from 2019 in that the “Gross Out” sector wasn’t mentioned at all. Any toy that features vomit, poop, or any other bit of magic of the human body was said to be on fire at the 2019 briefing. One can expect these items are still selling well enough (there are plenty out there), but other categories like those mentioned above are starting to trend more. Keep an eye out when wandering your local toy aisles and see if your experience exemplifies what the experts say is hot!