Counting Down the Hits

by Sandy Ruben

As a toy rep, I am asked these two questions most frequently: “What are the hottest themes right now?” and “Which once-popular themes are fading away?” Lately, I’ve also received these follow-up questions: “Are mermaids still strong?” “Pirates have slacked off, haven’t they?” and “What do you think of sloths – will they be big in 2018?”

In my quest to have all the answers, I surveyed a group of 23 toy retailers from across the country around Thanksgiving. The topic? “Trending themes.” I listed 18 of them, and storeowners ranked them highest to lowest. The resulting Top 10 list may help you with some of your buying decisions at Toy Fair and throughout the first quarter.

Let me start with the has-beens. In terms of “pirates,” our group essentially declared them dead. In addition, the themes of “fox” and “owl” are dying, but did you know that “hedgehogs” are as well?

Here are the 10 most popular toy themes right now, based on our survey.

  • Pineapples
  • Elephants
    A surprise to me – I had heard very little about the elephant theme until shortly before sending out the survey. We will be conducting this survey again after Toy Fair, and it will be interesting to see where elephants are ranked then. I suspect they may be higher.
  • Robots
    Coming off a solid year in 2017, “robots” is not a category to be forgotten yet.
  • “Toilet Related”
    In one of the biggest surprises for me, “toilet related” made it into our top 10. I should point out that the retailers were really split on this one. About half of them ranked it in the top 5, and the other half within the bottom five. Over the next few months, I will be closely monitoring this category, as it appears to be trending upwards quickly. I will also explore more specifically the items that are hot sellers in this category.
  • Superheroes
  • Princesses
    By all accounts, numbers 5 and 6 will continue as strong categories.
  • Sloths
    The relatively new trend had a very strong showing. Watch it closely. It seems to be growing.
  • Fairies
  • Mermaids
    It’s another surprise to me. I wondered if its popularity, so high in 2017, might be waning a bit. Not so, according to this group of stores.
  • Unicorns
    2018, without a doubt, will be the year of the unicorn. It was chosen as the hottest theme by 19 of the 23 stores surveyed.

If you’re wondering what came in dead last, I’ll tell you. “Bats,” the flying kind, was chosen number 18 by the large majority of respondents. As a category, it had been suggested by one of the participating retailers.

In terms of emerging themes, “Llamas” were written in most often by survey participants. I expect it to make our top 10 list during the next round of surveys.

Also receiving write-in votes were “Pandas” and “the Narwhal.”

Special thanks to the wonderful retailers who shared their insight.

• Big City Toys in Alabama
• Finnegans in Oregon
• Five Little Monkeys in California
• Geppetto’s in California
• Grand Rabbits in Colorado
• Hollipops Greenville in South Carolina
• Island Treasure Toys in Maine
• Kidstop in Arizona
• Learning Express Alpharetta in Georgia
• Learning Express Ann Arbor in Michigan
• Learning Express Chattanooga in Tennessee
• Learning Express Durham in North Carolina
• Learning Express Lake Zurich in Illinois
• Nana’s in Florida
• Piccolo Mondo in California
• Play in Illinois
• Shenanigans in Virginia
• Stamford Toys in Connecticut
• Totally Thomas in California
• Toy Maven in Texas
• Toys Unique in Texas
• Wonder Works in South Carolina
• World of Mirth in Virginia

Watch for the results of the next trend survey in edplay’s March/April issue. If a theme is trending strong in your store let Sandy know. Send your suggestions to, or call 843-696-4464.

In 2015, Sandy was honored by ASTRA as the Sales Representative of the Year.
A teacher by training, he opened a toy store in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1985. Fourteen years later, he founded Sandy Ruben and Associates – just Sandy and his Toyota covering six states. Since then, the group has grown to eight reps who cover eight states. Its showroom in Atlanta’s AmericasMart recently doubled in size to 4,500 square feet.


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