Batteries Not Included With This Year’s Hottest Holiday Toys

Childhood classics expected to outsell their cutting-edge technological counterparts

TORONTO, December 10, 2013 – Tablets, video games and cell phones are expected to take a back seat to puzzles, dolls and board games this holiday season. According to The Evolution of Play, a recent study from global information company The NPD Group, Canadian parents still place high value on “traditional”* toys despite the aggressive campaigning from popular technology brands: purchases and spending for traditional toys are ahead of technology items (89 per cent / $203 versus 71 per cent / $193) and approximately one-quarter of parents consider themselves “traditional only” buyers.

Despite this trend, Canadian parents cannot overlook the role technology has in their children’s playtime, however the learning opportunities these toys offer in comparison to the traditional variety is a conflict with which they often struggle. Nevertheless, children strongly influence what is purchased for them, and while their use of electronic devices continues to increase, parents still feel that they have control when it comes to making the final decision.

“We’re finding that parents are really conflicted about how new technologies affect play, and many are worried about the long-term effects of not getting enough exposure to classic childhood toys,” said Pam Wood, director of Retail Business at The NPD Group. “Though the majority of parents believe technology has made learning fun, they’re concerned that it has the potential to make kids lazy and that it does not promote enough interaction with others.”

Naturally, children want products that are popular. When parents were asked what impacts their child’s desire for toys, the biggest influencer was what their friends are playing with (72 per cent), followed by what they see in stores (65 per cent) and what is advertised on television (50 per cent). When shopping for their children, however, Canadian parents will make purchases based on which of the following five segments they fall into:

  • “Emotional Buyers”: This group prefers all toys to have an educational aspect and wants their kids to have more than they did when they were young. These parents are comfortable with technology, but struggle with promoting balanced playtime. This segment spends the most money on toys, most of which fall into the traditional category.
  • “Whatever They Want”: These parents want their kids to have more than they had as children and their children, influenced by friends and what they see online, are most likely to ask for electronics. This group is the second biggest spenders of all the segments.
  • “Impulse Buyers”:  Two-thirds of this group’s purchases are made on impulse and they are least likely to make purchases online. These parents spend more on traditional toys than electronics items and their children are most influenced by what they see in the stores.
  • “Parent Knows Best”: They tend to prefer traditional toys to electronics, but spend less on them than any other segment. Their children, who tend to be older, are influenced by what their friends have.
  • “Anti-Tech”: These parents, who value the classics and are most likely to avoid technology, spend the least amount of money on toys. Their children tend to be younger than those in other segments.

While parents buy items for their children regularly, some have reduced their spending in the last year due to economic reasons (26 per cent); one-third (37 per cent) cited that the shift is a result of a lower disposable income. It is not surprising, therefore, that price and promotions are of the utmost importance for them when choosing a retailer. In order to easily find and compare discounts, over half (55 per cent) of parents typically shop online.

“Oftentimes the need for parents to save money is rivaled by their desire to provide more than they had, and this can be a very difficult imbalance to reconcile,” continued Wood. “However, the negative effects of spoiling kids are typically top of mind, so traditional toys – which seem less flashy, offer a certain feeling of nostalgia and are often more affordable – are an appealing compromise.”

Interestingly, Canadians and Americans do not share the same attitude towards traditional and technological toys. For instance, Canadian children do not use smartphones as much as American children, and the Anti-Tech segment that exists north of the border is not prevalent in the U.S. Further, Canadian children are more likely to be influenced by their friends and less influenced by what is on television, and Canadian parents are more inclined to hunt for discounts when selecting a retailer.


*Examples of Traditional and Technological Toys:

Traditional Technological
Includes dolls, puzzles, action figures,children's arts & crafts kits or supplies, sporting goods, stuffed toys, vehicles, ride-ons, construction sets, pretend play and dress up, and games. Includes electronic devices, such as DVD players, digital cameras, cell phones, tablets, MP3 Players and CD Players, as well as video game consoles, portable gaming devices, video games (on disk), digital video game downloads, and apps.


This report is based on information and insights obtained from The NPD Group’s Canadian online consumer panel consisting of 41 questions that were fielded to a representative sample of male and female adults age 18+ with a child age 2-12 in the household. A total of 1,740 parents completed the survey, which was in field from September 24, 2013 to October 1, 2013.


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Kylee Berencsi
APEX Public Relations

The NPD Group, Inc.
900 West Shore Road
Port Washington, NY 11050

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