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Toys and Games

Hulk Car Races Across Retailers’ Holiday Toy Lists

On the evening of Labor Day, 105 days before Christmas, Toys ‘R’ Us unveiled its Holiday Hot Toy List for 2015, and was quickly followed by Target and Kmart. It wasn’t, however, the earliest “hot holiday toys” proclamation. That distinction went to Walmart, which dropped its list just before the end of August. When helping shoppers build their holiday lists, apparently, you can never start too early.

As one might expect, licensed brands figured prominently, capturing five of TRU’s coveted “Fabulous 15” spots, five of Kmart’s “Fab 15” picks, seven of 24 spots on Walmart’s “Chosen by Kids” list and a dozen of Target’s 32 top picks. Star Wars was the top licensed toy brand cited, earning mentions for five separate products across the various retail lists (even though it did not appear at all on Walmart’s list, which was published before “Force Friday”). The single toy mentioned most by retailers, however—it appeared on all four lists—was Jakks Pacific’s Hulk Smash RC Vehicle. It was followed by Wicked Cool’s Girl Scout Cookie Oven and Spin Master’s Paw Patrol Paw Patroller, which each appeared on three lists.

Retail sales of licensed toys in the U.S. and Canada rose 7.0%, faster than any other licensed product category, to just a hair under $7 billion in 2014, according to TLL’s Annual Licensing Business Survey. The NPD Group estimated that sales of licensed toys outpaced overall toy sales in 2014 by almost 2 to 1 (7% v. 4%). Disney’s Frozen had much to do with that, generating $531 million in licensed toy sales with more than 300 different items on store shelves, according to NPD. That dominance looks to be shifting to Star Wars this year, but Frozen toys continue to sell and the property is represented by three items on the retailers’ holiday lists.

In the first half of 2015, the U.S. toy industry grew by 6.5%, according to The NPD Group. For full-year 2015, the research firm expects 6.2% growth in toy sales, due in part to licensed toys and other brands on the retailers’ hot holiday lists. “The success of Disney Frozen, Minecraft, Shopkins, and Paw Patrol are some of the key reasons why 2015 has thus far been a particularly robust year for toys,” Juli Lennett, SVP of NPD’s U.S. toys division, said at midyear.

“Also, with the movie releases of Minions and Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens falling in the second half, and continued momentum from Jurassic World, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and others, licensed toys will continue to invigorate toy sales,” Lennett said.

Retailers’ Pick of Top Licensed Toys for the Holidays
Toy Licensee Licensor Walmart TRU Target Kmart
Dinotrux Mega Chompin’ Ty Rux Mattel DreamWorks Animation X
Doc McStuffins Take Care of Me Lambie Just Play Disney X
Doc McStuffins Vets n Pets Care Center Just Play Disney X
Frozen ERO vehicle KidTrax Toys Disney X
Frozen Ice Castle Mattel Disney X
Frozen Sing Along Elsa Doll Jakks Pacific Disney X X
Girl Scout Cookie Oven Wicked Cool Girl Scouts X X X
Hulk Smash RC Vehicle Jakks Pacific Disney X X X X
Lego Dimensions Benny Fun Pack Warner Bros. Lego X
Lego Dimensions Starter Pack Warner Bros. Lego X
Lego Minecraft Crafting Box LEGO Microsoft X
Paw Patrol Mission Chase Spin Master Nickelodeon X
Paw Patrol Paw Patroller Spin Master Nickelodeon X X X
Pie Face game Hasbro Rocket Games X X
Playmation Marvel Avengers Starter Pack Hasbro Disney X
Playskook Sesame Street Play All Day Elmo Hasbro Sesame Workshop X X
Star Wars BB-8 Droid R/C (Target Exclusive) Hasbro Disney X
Star Wars BladeBuilders Jedi Master Light Saber Hasbro Disney X
Star Wars Legendary Jedi Master Yoda Spin Master Disney X
Star Wars R2-D2 Interactive Robotic Droid Thinkway Toys Disney X
Star Wars Signature Light Saber Hasbro Disney X
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 24″ Mutations Playset Playmates Nickelodeon X X
Thomas & Friends TrackMaster Shipwreck Rails Set Fisher-Price HIT X


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