Next-generation toy collectibles for today’s digital natives

Unboxing and code-cracking: How toy-makers ensure collectibles become a hit

London 20th Sept 2018: The NPD Group, a global information company, today reveals that despite a lower price tag, collectibles represent a significant slice of the UK toy market, both by volume and value. Collectibles have been a main stay of the toy market for years, but recently the category has been rebooted by manufacturers adding creative new elements to meet the demands of today’s savvy young toy collectors. Sales of collectibles increased by 29% in the first eight months of 2018 alone and by 156% since the same period in 2015. Key to success are unboxing, surprise, exclusivity, and a good sprinkling of social media shareability.

From football stickers to Shopkins, three in 10 toys sold in the UK between January and August – or 15% of total spend – were collectibles. L.O.L. Surprise! is not only the top-selling collectible, it’s also the number one selling toy overall, further highlighting the importance of this category to the toy market. And with an average price of £3.91, these toys are usually well within the budget of those relying on pocket-money to build their collection.  

Top five best-selling collectible toys in the UK – January to August 2018
L.O.L. Surprise! MGA Entertainment
FIFA World Soccer Panini
Pokemon Esdevium / Asmodée
Hatchimals Spin Master
Shopkins Flair Preziosi
Source: The NPD Group Retail Tracking Service – U.K.

Collectibles come and go so brands must constantly innovate

Older people may have fond memories of collecting bubble gum cards, affordable packets of overseas postage stamps, toy soldiers and small toy cars, but today, the business of collectibles is almost unrecognisable. New toys are being launched all the time as manufacturers look to tap into the trend, and they are having to work harder to meet the expectations of the current generation of collectors. Gone are the days of the surprise element being delivered by simply ripping open a blind pack to see what was inside.

For instance, emulating the runaway success of L.O.L. Surprise!, many new launches – such as Lost Kitties or Ready2robot - have incorporated an ‘unboxing’ element where packaging becomes part of the play and the experience. The child’s patience is rewarded with a new figure and accessories to add to their collection. Other manufacturers have gone one step further with ranges including Lock Stars and Treasure X, providing challenges such as puzzles to solve and codes to crack. Treasure X collectors are encouraged to “rip, dig and fizz” to find the parts needed to build a treasure hunter character. There’s an added element of anticipation as a very small number of boxes contain gold-plated treasure.

Video sharing site YouTube is awash with popular videos showing kids unwrapping these boxed toys with delight and surprise. Amongst the most successful young influencers, Tiana from Toys and Me (UK) or Ryan from Ryan’s ToyReview (US) have respectively over 9 million and 16 million subscribers and have generated 4.5 billion views collectively since they started posting their fun videos. These social media influencers are hugely aspirational for children who like to replicate the unboxing thrill at home - with or without a camera.

Frédérique Tutt, Toys Global Industry Analyst, The NPD Group, says: “With a sales increase of 156% in the last three years, it’s no wonder that toy manufacturers are keen to tap into the current popularity of collectibles, and they know it takes imagination and creativity to have a hit. Collectible ranges must tick a number of boxes if they are to appeal to today’s discerning collector, many of whom have grown up in the digital world. New launches are becoming increasingly innovative, incorporating elements such as unboxing, code-cracking and exclusivity. Some rate each toy as ‘common, rare or super-rare’, adding to the thrill of opening each new item purchased. It also provides another joy of collecting – swapping with friends and other enthusiasts.”

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