Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY)

Classic toy bulwark


After the pandemic-induced lockdowns boosted toy sales last year, key toymakers say they're optimistic about another strong year.

The toy business has been among the bright spots during the pandemic as parents look to keep their kids occupied. But they're turning to classic toys like Barbies to get their kids — stuck on Zoom calls all day — using their imaginatio­n again.

“Screen-free play has become really important for parents,” said Ali Mierzejews­ki, an editor at toy review site The Toy Insider.

Still, not everyone is doing well.

Toys R Us said last month it was closing its only two stores that opened in malls in November 2019 as part of a small U.S. comeback. And many other mall-based toy stores have suffered as shoppers shift more of their buying online. They're getting further squeezed by discounter­s like Walmart, whose curbside pickup services have been popular.

Overall, U.S. toy sales soared 16% to $25.1 billion last year compared to the previous year, when that figure fell 4.5%, says the NPD Group.

Mattel Inc. and Hasbro Inc. said they're poised for strong growth this year after reporting better-than-expected fourth-quarter sales.

Mattel's 10% increase to $1.63 billion in sales was fueled by dolls including Barbies. At Hasbro, board games helped to drive revenue up 4% to $1.72 billion for the quarter.

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