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N Is For Nerf, Novelty & Nintendo – A To Z Of The Toy Business

N Is For Nerf, Novelty & Nintendo – A To Z Of The Toy Business


Nerf has been around for more than 50 years as a brand. Originally a brand focused on outdoor sports toys, the brand came to the fore with a soft foam throwing ball in the shape of a football (that is an American football, not a European football/soccer ball!). In the last 10 to 15 years though, Nerf has moved up the ranks to become one of the biggest and most successful toy brands in the world via the dominant position the brand has in the foam blaster category of toys. There are many different variants of Nerf guns, from small to massive, and from single to multi-shot, but the core remains the same, a toy gun firing a soft foam projectile which kids just love to play with! In recent years, a number of licensed Nerf toys have come to market including products based on the video game Fortnite and long running Star Wars franchise. Little known fact: the original idea behind the Nerf brand came from famous inventor Reyn Guyer, who also invented the classic Milton Bradley game Twister.


Novelty or ‘new news’ are common demands from toy buyers. The toy industry features literally millions of products, with more than 65% of toys new on the market each year. That is just a huge amount of product development ‘churn’. The toy trade therefore is in a perpetual cycle of develop, produce and sell. When toy companies present to retail buyers around the world, they inevitably want to see what’s new, and many of these new toys become the hottest toys at Christmas.


The Japanese company Nintendo has had a significant impact on the global toy industry for two primary reasons: 1. The effect of their iconic console gaming machines on the broader toy business 2. Their iconic characters which have spawned strong selling toy products over decades. These famous characters include Mario & Luigi, Zelda and Donkey Kong. Nintendo started life way back in 1889 producing hand crafted card games, fast forward to today and the company had revenues of nearly $16 billion usd in fiscal year 2021. To put this in context, that’s nearly three times bigger than the largest toy company in the world. The video console business actually spawned out of and away from the toy business back in the 1970s and 1980s, and Nintendo’s iconic handheld gaming devices – the Gameboy & DS have had a long-term cannibalistic effect on toy sales, at the same time as driving sales of toys based on Nintendo characters.

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