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November 22, 2016 13:53 ET

Toy Sales to Surge in Strong U.S. Holiday Retail Season, even as Black Friday Excitement Fades - BMO Experts

- Holiday shopping season seen vibrant amid job and wage growth

- Toys experiencing a fifth consecutive year of growth

- American retail sales (excluding autos and gas stations) expected to rise 4 percent year over year this holiday season

- Retailers' early sale promotions reduce some excitement around Black Friday

TORONTO, ONTARIO and NEW YORK, NEW YORK--(Marketwired - Nov. 22, 2016) - BMO analysts and economists are forecasting a robust U.S. holiday shopping season, with a third straight year of above-average toy sales growth as Americans look forward to rising purchasing power.

At the same time, Black Friday appears to be losing some of its prominence as the biggest shopping day in the United States this year amid increased year-round sale activity, extended promotions, e-commerce and stores opening on Thanksgiving Day.

"Looking at Black Friday, excitement has ebbed in recent years," said Jennifer Lee, Senior Economist, BMO Capital Markets. "As retailers offer promotions earlier each year, optimize other holidays for retail opportunity and utilize e-commerce, Black Friday may no longer be the biggest shopping day, in terms of sales and customer visits, in the United States."

BMO analysts and economists say factors ranging from wage growth to consumer habits, consistent job numbers and even the U.S. election should help drive a strong holiday shopping season this year.

"The impact of the recent U.S. election, especially the much-talked-about promise of sizeable tax cuts under the new administration, is contributing to the optimism we see from consumers," said Sal Guatieri, Senior Economist, BMO Capital Markets. "Overall, we should see U.S. retail sales – excluding autos and gas stations – grow at a solid 4 percent rate this holiday season."

BMO Senior Toys and Leisure Analyst Gerrick Johnson expects toys sales to experience a fifth consecutive year of growth in 2016, marking the third consecutive year of above-average growth.

"The trend of families coming together is contributing to a strong holiday season for toy sales, especially in board games and construction," said Johnson. "As Americans put a priority on family time, and parents push back against screen-based activities, the toy industry has continued to benefit from innovation. As better entertainment-related toys are being created, we are seeing the fifth consecutive year of toy sales growth and the third consecutive year of above average growth."

BMO Capital Markets analysts and economists forecast the following trends ahead of the U.S. holiday shopping season:

Jennifer Lee, Senior Economist and Sal Guatieri, Senior Economist, BMO Capital Markets:

  • Excitement around Black Friday as a standalone economic driver has ebbed in recent years with retailers introducing earlier and more aggressive promotions – in some cases even earlier than Halloween.
  • Many retailers have started to open their doors sooner, including major retailers who are choosing to open on Thanksgiving Day in order to increase traffic. At the same time, a number of large retail chains are refusing to open on Thanksgiving.
  • E-commerce has changed many buying patterns, as online sales rise at a double-digit rate and at least three times faster than overall retail spending.
  • The economy continues to churn out a decent number of jobs each month (an average of 180,000 over the past half year), enough to keep the jobless rate near nine-year lows.
  • Wage growth is finally picking up, particularly in some sectors where employers are finding it difficult to find trained workers. The Atlanta Fed's wage measure shows the strongest gains in eight years, at nearly 4 percent and a full percentage point faster than a year ago.
  • The promise of sizeable tax cuts under the new Administration could also see spending pulled forward.
  • Record-breaking stock markets should lift household wealth and confidence, supporting holiday spending.
  • Overall, we should see American retail sales (excluding autos and gas stations) grow at a solid 4 percent rate this holiday season (covering November/December) compared with 3.5 percent last season.

Gerrick Johnson, Analyst, Toys and Leisure

  • BMO expects U.S. holiday sales to grow +2.5 percent to +3 percent this year, decelerating from +6 percent growth in the first nine months of the year. This slowdown in growth is owing to difficult Star Wars comparisons against last year's Episode VII event.
  • For the year, this represents growth of +3.5 percent to +4 percent, which is still strong growth for the toy industry. It represents the fifth consecutive year of growth and the third consecutive year of above-average growth.
  • The toy industry is benefitting from strong innovation, a pushback by parents against screen-based activities, and better entertainment-related toys. We also see a trend within toys towards family-based activities, which is helping to drive growth in certain categories like board games and construction.
  • An uptick in birth rates over the past few years is helping toys sales as well, especially in the pre-school range. Other strong categories include dolls, collectible and outdoor toys.
  • Top items this year include Hatchimals and Paw Patrol from Spin Master, Shopkins from Moose Toys, Barbie from Mattel and Nerf from Hasbro.

To request an interview with Jennifer Lee, Sal Guatieri or Gerrick Johnson, please contact BMO Media Relations.

About BMO Capital Markets

BMO Capital Markets is a leading, full-service North American financial services provider. With more than 2,200 employees operating in 30 locations, including 16 in North America, BMO Capital Markets offers corporate, institutional and government clients access to a complete range of investment and corporate banking products and services. BMO Capital Markets is a member of BMO Financial Group (NYSE:BMO)(TSX:BMO), one of the largest diversified financial services providers in North America, with total assets of CDN $692 billion as of July 31, 2016, and over 45,000 employees

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