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Xmas is over and the New Year is here, but which toys will be the big hits in 2016?
As a toy wholesaler we spend an awful lot of time thinking about toys and if we are not thinking about them we are talking to toy manufacturers and toy shops. Of course at this time of year we are all talking about what we think will be the most popular toys during 2016.
Spielwarenmesse, which is Europe's biggest trade toy show has the same obsession and they have highlighted the new toy trends for 2016 in this way
- Train your brain - puzzles and creative play etc
- Everyday Hero - or as we would put it, dressing up costumes and action figures
- Design to Play - this is where the toy industry is influenced by designs from other areas, but it doesn't specify how or from where.
With all due respect to Spielwarenmesse this may be correct but it is also a little vague so for more specific predictions we can look to the films coming out this year.
2015 was all about dinosaur toys and Star Wars but whats coming up in 2016? We have new versions of classics such as Jungle Book, Tarzan and Alice in Wonderland, plus sequels for Kung Fu Panda, Teenage Ninja Turtles and Finding Dory. Personally the one I am looking forward to most is The BFG.
All of these focus on traditional story telling, nostalgia and classic characters and books rather than technology so we think this will influence toys significantly.
Toy crazes are always the most difficult to predict. Loom Bands were huge in 2015 but died almost overnight when questions were raised about safety leaving many toy shops with a LOT of excess stock. Predicting the next toy craze is almost impossible, and many toy manufacturers have tried and failed to influence crazes. There is some muttering about Floppets but we think they have already peaked. Could there be a return of the Teenage Ninja Turtles popularity? I am sure many parents would love this to be the next big thing (again) but crazes come from the playground rather than a think tank so this is one where we shall just have to wait and see.
And our predictions?
We think that the Let Toys be Toys campaign which campaigns for non gender specific toys (ie no more play kitchens all in pink and colouring books with spiders for boys and princesses for girls) will have an impact on toy design this year. The campaign and its supporters have persuaded a lot of the biggest retailers to stop displaying toys solely on the basis of gender which means that retailers will be looking for toys which can be played with by both boys and girls. This doesn't mean persuading boys to play with Barbie but it does mean that when designing toys for 2 year olds you don't automatically dump kitchen based toys in pink.
There are many parents who like gender based toys, and also many children who have a clear idea of what they want to play with so it won't mean the end of pink for girls/blue for boys but it will see the middle ground of non gender specific toys grow a lot larger.
Dinosaur toys have been huge in 2015 and we don't see their popularity declining in 2016. Dinosaurs rarely go out of fashion as there is something uniquely fascinating about them for all of us, the combination of their size and ferocity seems to have a permanent hold on our imaginations. In terms of media The Good Dinosaur will be released on DVD/Netflix in 2016 which will give Dinosaur toys a new boost. Dinosaurs are popular with everyone. Parents and teachers like them almost as much as kids which means that attention will stay focused on the Jurassic Age for a good time yet.
Finally we think animal toys will increase in popularity this year. This is partly influenced by the film schedule, Jungle Book, Tarzan and Dory all have animals (or fish!) as their primary characters and with animals there is always something for everyone which gives them a very broad appeal. They have the added benefit of being fascinating and/or weird or just straight forward cute! From Toucans to Tigers and Chickens to Cheetahs we think that soft toys and actions figures will become all about the animal kingdom.
The big thing about toys is that while film companies and toy manufacturers can put a lot of time and effort in to influencing which are the most popular toys ultimately it is the kids who will decide. That is one of the main reasons why it is such a fun industry to work in!