We have long occupied the top spot as Europe’s biggest spenders on games and gizmos for their offspring - and we are expected to spend £1.1bn on toys in the run-up to Christmas – an average of £105 and nine products per child.
For the first time, the total number of toys sold in the United Kingdom this year will exceed 400 million. The result is a bewildering array of baubles being pushed for the festive season, ranging from a pen that draws in molten chocolate to an adjustable selfie stick with a karaoke microphone which allows excited users to record their own shareable music videos.
Industry figures gathered for the unveiling of the “DreamToys” list of most popular toys detected a number of trends emerging as parents spend on their children, including a resurgence in interest in games and puzzles to be played as a family.
Sales in this sector have grown by 15 per cent so far in 2016.
Chip shop saveloy
Two of this year’s lead toys, chosen by leading retailers such as Argos and Selfridges, are Silly Sausage – a reaction game centred around poking, pulling and shaking a red plastic sausage seemingly modelled on a chip shop saveloy – and Speak Out, a game which entails participants repeating random phrases to each other while wearing a speech-hindering mouthpiece.
Frederique Tutt, global toy industry analyst for French-based consultancy NPD, said: “We’re predicting a very merry Christmas for the toy industry with sales reaching 400 million toys for the first time and potential record in sales of more than £3.3bn for 2016.
“It is the sales in the more traditional categories that have been growing the market, with games and puzzles, along with dolls and plush, accounting for 70 per cent of the growth. There is a real desire for families to spend quality time together, playing games and puzzles.”
The year’s most desirable toy is fast emerging as the Hatchimal – a furry creature which emerges from an egg, encouraging its owner to feed and nurture it as it develops. Good husbandry is rewarded with extra levels and new games.
Such is demand for the toy, launched last month, that retailers are already reporting low stocks and examples are being sold on eBay for up to three times their £59.99 retail price.
Other items being touted as likely candidates for a place under the Christmas tree are Lego’s Star Wars Rebel U-Wing Fighter, costing £70, and the Nerf N-Strike Elite Hyperfire foam dart gun at £60.
The enduring popularity of collectables such as football swap cards or Lego mini figures was underlined by figures showing that the sector accounted for £1 in nearly every £8 spent on toys.
An item from the Shopkins range – the Chef Club Hot Spot Kitchen – features on the list of the 12 predicted best-selling items.
Gary Grant, chairman of the DreamToys selection committee, said: “The one unifying thing that I see is a sense of real family fun at the heart of many of the toys represented. I’m sure that’s what many families are looking for this year, great value toys and games that all the family can play.”