Retail Trend Watchers Are Eyeing the Staying Power of Pikachu and Friends
This was the Summer of Pokémon. Within days of its debut last July, Pokémon GO, the augmented reality game was breaking records and setting new ones. In just five days, it became the most popular game in mobile history, with its free downloads eventually reaching 500 million. While the action was concentrated among Millennials (who grew up with Pokémon), teen users were spending more time hunting Pokémon characters than posting on Twitter and Instagram combined. Females, traditionally a smaller segment of gamers, stepped up to Pokémon GO, becoming 40 percent of the user population. Since the game forced players off the couch and into the outside world, there were unintended consequences. Some, engrossed in the hunt, were robbed. A number were arrested for trespassing. Many got traffic tickets, and a few even fell off cliffs.
Pokémon GO Fans Have a Hearty Appetite for Branded Merchandise
When fans weren’t catching and training the elusive pocket monsters, they were shopping for merchandise that reflected their passion. Online sales of Pokémon merchandise were nothing short of spectacular. According to the Adobe Digital Price Index, sales of Pokémon-branded items rose 105 percent in July, compared to the previous year, with the hottest items being video games, toys and t-shirts. But what’s next? Can the frenzy continue into the holiday season? Will bricks-and-mortar stores reap the same success as online purveyors of Pokémon merchandise? Retailers have their fingers crossed and retail trend watchers are optimistic.
The Summer’s Frenzy is Cooling, but the Holiday Season Still Looks Strong
Pokémon GO was too hot not to cool down, but even as usage ebbs, the franchise itself remains a powerhouse. Gina Collins, CMO at Build-A-Bear, one of the stores licensed to sell Pokémon merchandise, is bullish on the coming season. “Sales have continued to gain momentum,” she reported. The chain’s inventory of 20th Anniversary Pokémon Pikachu plush dolls has sold out and there are wait lists for the next shipment.
Anthony Morales, assistant manager at Build-A-Bear in Fairfax, VA, reported that more and more customers are hunting Pokémon-themed items. “It feels like the 90’s all over again. We just had a group of kids that got a lot of Pikachu dolls and they were playing and talking in little Pikachu voices,” he told Ad Age.
Pokémon Items are Headed for the Kids’ 2016 Holiday Wish List
Pokémon fans can choose from an abundance of branded merchandise in the coming season: plush toys, clothing, accessories, and action figures, along with the Pokémon card game. Late November will see the launch of two new video games, Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon, likely to be best-sellers in that category this holiday.
Toy Insider predicts that “the Pokémon GO craze will command a lot of space on kids’ wish lists.” Their own Hot 20 List for 2016 includes two Pokémon-themed products. At the number nine position is Pokémon My Friend Pikachu (from Tomy) a plush toy that speaks, lights up and wiggles its ears. At position 20 are the soon-to-be-released Nintendo video games Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon.
If predictors of retail trends are right, 2016 holiday sales are in for a big boost, thanks to Nintendo’s crew of irresistible pocket monsters.