NEW YORK, Feb 6 (Reuters) - U.S. toy sales made a slight comeback in 2006 and are poised for a sharper rise this year, according to data released on Tuesday by market research firm NPD Group.
U.S. toy sales crept up to $22.3 billion in 2006 from $22.2 billion in 2005, helped in part by a 22 percent increase in the youth electronics category.
In the fourth quarter of 2006, the industry posted toy sales of $10.6 billion.
Toy makers have been struggling to adapt to a changing marketplace in which children are putting down traditional toys at earlier ages for more high-tech gadgets such as MP3 players and video games.
But some toy makers are now looking to drive future sales by combining the two.
Mattel Inc. MAT.N is rolling out Chat Divas, a doll that can move and lip sync to music played on Apple Inc.’s (AAPL.O) iPod music players.
NPD said the vehicles category saw sales rise 5 percent, with the arts and crafts and infant/preschool categories seeing gains of 4 percent and 2 percent, respectively, over 2005.
The four categories posted combined sales of $9 billion, NPD said.
And with movies such as “Transformers,” “Spiderman 3” and “Fantastic Four: Rise of Silver Surfer” coming down the pike, 2007 should be a strong year for the action figure category, NPD industry analyst Anita Frazier said.
“As a rule of thumb, licensed products will comprise approximately 25 percent of total toy sales in any given year,” Frazier said in a statement.
Action figure sales fell 9 percent to about $1.25 billion, after a strong 2005 when they saw a boost from sales of Star Wars toys.