graph via wsj.comIt has been a difficult year for toy companies due to a massive inventory glut. In 2022, retailers bulked up orders and advanced shipping timelines hoping to thwart continuing pandemic-related supply chain chaos. This left shelves at both stores and warehouses groaning with excess goods. Retailers have spent the year working down inventories. Orders for new goods were light and late as they both reduced quantity and narrowed variety to bestsellers. Many retailers now say that they cleaned up their stock and are on more solid footing.

Light ordering meant less need for containerships and containers, the cost of which had skyrocketed during the pandemic. In addition, logistics companies ordered huge numbers of containerships to be built in the erroneous belief that demand would grow to the sky forever. Less need for shipping at a time of more ships has collapsed prices which is an obvious boon to manufacturers.

2023 has been a year to muddle and make it through. Most toy companies I speak with say they are flat to 15% down from 2022 sales. That said, they are almost uniformly optimistic about 2024. Their thinking is that reduced inventories and light ordering will largely empty the shelves by the end of the this year’s holiday sales season. Add in low transportation costs and companies are eagerly looking forward to 2024 with “Reasons to be Cheerful”:

However…despite gangbuster sales volumes during the five days from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday overall retail sales have started to slow with an actual decline in October. Consumers are beginning to get squeezed by dwindling pandemic savings and the resumption of student loan payments. Job and wage growth has also started to slow. Perhaps most important is credit card debt. Credit card debt and delinquencies have soared this year and soared at a time of astronomical interest rates.

combined graphs tj newsletter

American spending habits might not be sustainable much longer. I’m not saying that consumers won’t be in for one last splurge during the holidays. In fact, I kinda think that will be the case. What I am concerned about is that the hangover could set in early next year and it promises to be a doozy.

A recession has been forecast for about two years now but consumer spending has kept it at bay. The consumer may be beginning to crack and the recession may be about to roll in.


That leaves us with a mixed view. My crystal ball is never very clear, but my best advice to friends, families, and toy companies is: “Proceed…but proceed with caution.” Of course, that’s my advice most of the time anyway so take it for what it’s worth.

Happy Holidays to All!
And a Happy Sell Through Season Too!

Tom Keoughan