Which toy brands have the hottest prospects this holiday season?
The months leading up to Christmas are crucial for toy companies.After all, it's when they generate about 40% of their sales. And each year, those sales depend on what's trending. In 2017, old-school board games and Lego sets are getting a boost, as parents push back against tech, says Gerrick Johnson, a New York-based BMO Capital Markets toy analyst. Despite that, it's the toys that have tech embedded in them that are the hottest. Last year, it was all about Toronto-based Spin Master's Hatchimals. This year, another Canadian firm, WowWee Toys, looks poised for greatness with Fingerlings Baby Monkeys.
Mattel, the world's largest toy maker, has had a tough year, but long-time brands still promise brisk holiday sales. Their Nerf Rival Nemesis MXVII-10K Blaster and Barbie Dreamhouse meet parents' demands for toys that promote traditional play.
Hasbro, Jakks Pacific and Lego
The largest toy companies, like Mattel and Hasbro (which produced Transformers), have huge overheads and require blockbuster returns. Licensing deals with movie franchises have often produced these sales, but in 2017 the glut of big-franchise releases meant no one toy stood out. The exception is sure to be the December installment of Star Wars. Hasbro's The Last Jedi Lightsabre, Jakks Pacific's Star Wars figures and Lego Star Wars kits are hoping for big sales.
Zing and Just Play
Florida's Just Play has leveraged YouTube star JoJo Siwa's popularity to produce a singing doll that's become the season's hottest fashion toy, while Oregon-based Zing Toys has Canada's highest-selling action figure with Stikbot, which arrives with a green screen and allows children to create stop-motion videos, which they can then download to the Internet.
The Toronto-based company expects great holiday sales with a lineup that includes Hatchimals Surprise and Luvabella dolls. "It's clear that Spin Master is having the best year of any toy company in the business," says Jim Fisher, editor-in-chief of TTPM, a toy-review website. "They take a lot of chances that other toy companies wouldn't. They have a lot of creativity."
Canada may have found its next Spin Master in WowWee Toys. This private Montreal firm has traditionally made high-tech toy robots, drones and cars, and is expected to have one of the season's biggest sensations with Fingerlings Baby Monkeys, a little animatronic toy that wraps around your finger and responds to sound, motion and touch.
The company's Pokémon cards, plush toys, foam figurines and board games are consistently at the top of the collectibles category, which last year grew 33%—more than any other segment.
Elmer's Glue and Games Workshop Group
Low-tech toys, like fidget spinners, were enormously popular in 2016, and 2017 promises more of the same. One category that's seen enormous growth is board games, like Pie Face, produced by Hasbro, or Warhammer by Games Workshop Group. So far, this year's lowest-tech hit has been slime, a do-it-yourself product that kids are making at home with Elmer's white glue (owned by Newell Brands) as the main ingredient.