North American International Toy Fair organiser the Toy Industry Association (TIA) has announced its six-strong shortlist of trends that will likely drive sales and influence consumer attitudes over the coming one to two years.
From 'dual-use' collectables and adrenaline-pumping active toys through to awe-inspiring robotics and 'movie mania' playthings, many examples of products that embody the top toy trends of 2017 were drawn from first-time exhibitors showcasing their wares in the newly established fresh enterprise area on the lower ground hall.
“This year’s trending toys reflect the creative force and vitality of the North American toy industry, which is coming off an excellent year of five per cent sales growth powered by industry ingenuity,” Adrienne Appell, TIA trend expert, said.
“With more room for innovation and a greater willingness to take risks, toymakers are pulling out all the stops to create highly ground-breaking products, reinvent play patterns, and refresh classic brands with cutting-edge technologies and exciting new licenses.
"Best of all, these toys build children’s developmental skills through collaborative, hands-on, and imaginative play.”
The TIA's top six trends for 2017 are:
Collectables were a top contributor to toy industry growth last year, which according to NPD Group figures posted 33 per cent growth with US$1.8 billion in sales, and they are expected to maintain their popularity in 2017.
This trend includes basic and affordable collectables, collectables that have multiple play functions, as well as some higher-priced licensed collectables that boast intricate styling details for the most avid collectors and passionate fans.
Collectable toys help children develop lifelong skills, including social skills (when negotiating and trading with friends), organisation skills (as they maintain their collections), and perseverance (not giving up on the 'hunt').
Up and active
Toys that encourage kids to get up and move – both indoors and out – are on the rise.
The latest active toys not only motivate kids to burn off excess energy, they are also engaging for the whole family, and can be seamlessly integrated into other types of play.
This trend includes tech toys that weave in active components, classic outdoor ride-ons, traditional games that incorporate physical activity, and digital toys that foster face-to-face play.
Toy companies are continuing to innovate and think outside the box as they incorporate engaging tech components into their products.
The good news for consumers is that technologies that were just emerging a few years ago (like 3D printing) have become a lot more affordable for manufacturers, making high tech experiences more readily available at realistic price points.
This year we are seeing a surge in augmented and virtual reality toys, drones, virtual pets, robotics, and more. Most importantly, toymakers are successfully leveraging technology to enhance traditional play patterns rather than replace them.
Oh So Classic!
Along with their high-tech counterparts, low or no-tech toys with retro and classic styling and materials (like wood) will hold their own after a strong 2016 (last year, games/puzzles and dolls were among the fastest growing toy categories tracked by NPD).
This trend includes retro brands that are either reinvented or reintroduced for a new generation to enjoy. These toys are appealing to parents, grandparents, and kids, and are a great way to foster intergenerational play.
Licensing will continue to contribute strongly to the toy industry bottom line, and 2017 will be no exception, thanks to a wave of family-friendly movies hitting theatres.
With two new Lego movies (Batman and Ninjago) as well as Cars 3, Smurfs: The Lost Village, and live-action remake of Disney animation, Beauty and the Beast, 2017is shaping up to be a big year for movie- and entertainment-branded toys.
Licensed toys featuring popular characters and stories will appear across every single category, from role-play and ride-ons, to plush, action figures, and puzzles.
From STEAM to STREAM
The STEAM trend in educational toys that teach kids important concepts (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) isn’t going away, in fact, it’s getting more comprehensive thanks to a slew of exciting and engaging products that ignite kids’ curiosity.
In 2017, robotics has been incorporated into the trend and the acronym – transforming STEAM to STREAM. TIA trend experts also highlighted the fact that many traditional and classic toys like puzzles, memory games, building blocks, stacking toys and others, foster the development of critical skills such as problem-solving, creativity, and critical thinking.