Britain’s toy industry suffered “difficult” trading conditions last year due to declining consumer confidence following Brexit and a snap general election, manufacturers said.

The British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA) – which represents over 80% of the industry in the UK – has released new figures showing overall sales fell 6% to £3.2billion in 2019 in a context of great gloom. However, online sales of toys and games increased by 2% year-over-year to give a market share of 37%.

Predictions that 2019 would be ‘the year of movies’ have failed to materialize, with many blockbuster titles such as Frozen II and Star Wars launching too late – and too close to Christmas – to give the sector a boost much needed. However, the United Kingdom remains the fourth largest market in the world, after the United States, China and Japan, and the largest in Europe followed by Germany.

Natasha Crookes from the British Toy and Hobby Association said: “2019 was an unusual year by any standard. The ongoing Brexit issue has undoubtedly had a dampening effect on consumer confidence, while a general election in the middle of the busiest trading month of the year has not helped.

Typically, more than half of all toy sales take place during the fourth business quarter from October to December, and 26% in December alone, just before Christmas. But the calling of the December 12 general election left consumers “distracted and worried”, Crookes said.

She was speaking at the London Toy Fair, a three-day BTHA event at the Olympia in West Kensington for its 67th consecutive year, which featured hundreds of exhibitors showcasing toys and games likely to be popular at Christmas next.

“We are entering a new era with many structural and economic changes to come,” said Frédérique Tutt, global toy analyst at NPD Group. “The toy market is no exception to other retail sectors and is in a period of transition, adjusting and recovering from a difficult 2019 while finding its way forward. strong leading brands and licenses, toy sales were down 6% in 2019.”

Despite tough business conditions, the toy industry continued to innovate, the BTHA said, with more than 32,000 new products launched in 2019. Action figures saw sales growth of 9%, driven by Fortnite, Avengers and Toy Story, while board games and puzzles generally proved their resilience, with a 1% increase.