5 Must-Have Toys This Holiday Season

December 23, 2015, 6:56 PM UTC
A Barbie doll is arranged for a photo in Cambridge, Massachu
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 14: A Barbie doll is arranged for a photo in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2007. Mattel Inc. is recalling 18.6 million Chinese-made products around the world, its second recall in two weeks, mostly because they contain magnets that may fall out and be swallowed by children. The recall includes 18.2 million Barbie, Polly Pocket and Batman toys with magnets, the world's biggest toymaker said today in a statement. (Photo by Jb Reed/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Photograph by Jb Reed — Bloomberg/Getty Images

Here’s a Star Wars spoiler no one saw coming: While the hit Disney property is expected to generate over $1 billion at retail this year, it isn’t enough to break into the upper stratosphere of the toy aisle.

A list of the five top-selling items compiled by research firm NPD Group, which closely monitors the toy industry, finds that not a single Star Wars toy was popular enough to make the cut. That doesn’t imply that Star Wars gear isn’t selling well—it is certainly a popular property—but it does demonstrate that other brands have done a better job breaking out with a singular hit.

The toy industry has enjoyed strong demand during the past few years thanks to the popularity of a few key brands from Disney (DIS), most notably Frozen in 2014 and Star Wars in 2015. Toy industry sales are up 7.5% in the U.S. for the first nine months of 2015, NPD has reported, indicating a very strong tailwind for companies like Mattel (MAT) and Hasbro (HAS).

NPD provided Fortune with data on the five top-selling toys from early October through December 12, the most recent data available. An important caveat: Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit theaters on December 18, so some of the gear tied to that property isn’t expected to roll out until late in the holiday season. Star Wars sales are also expected to be strong early next year.

Here are the five most popular toys in the U.S. this holiday season:

5. Pie Face Game – Hasbro

Earlier this year, Hasbro took note of the Internet-driven buzz around the "Pie Face" game and astutely bought the rights to manufacture and distribute the game after it became a viral sensation on Facebook. That bet has paid off—the toy is the most popular game in the U.S. currently, completely out of stock at Toys 'R' Us and Walmart and in scarce supply on Amazon.com. The game, which retails around $19.99, is pretty simple: Players load a mechanical hand with whipped cream and take turns testing their luck by cranking a spinner. Eventually, it releases and someone ends up with a face full of whipped cream.

4. Paw Patrol Paw Patroller – Spin Master

Canada-based Spin Master—which launched a rare toy maker IPO in 2015—has a hit on its hands with Paw Patrol, one of two TV shows it has launched globally. It, along with the company's other show, Little Charmers, generates big revenue from Spin Master-made toys and licensed products. Both properties air on Nickelodeon networks, employing a popular strategy among toy makers: Make a hit TV show and sell as many toys off of the property as you can. The Paw Patroller is priced at $59.99, though retailers have been charging less.

3. FurReal Friends Starlily – Hasbro

Hasbro's second item on the list is an interactive toy unicorn called Starlily, which features over 100 sound and motion combinations. Starlily's "tech" innovation involves sensors around the toy's face and horn that can be activated to allow the unicorn to interact with kids. The unicorn is under the Hasbro FurReal line, which also features ponies, cats, and other animals. Cute animals are popular toys—not exactly hard to imagine why that strategy still works in 2015. Starlily is retailing for $119.99.

2. Shopkins 12 Pack – Moose Enterprise

The Shopkins 12-pack, made by Moose Enterprise, is the most affordable toy on this list, retailing for $10.99. While readers without young children may not be familiar with the Shopkins brand, it is by far one of the most popular in the toy aisle right now. Shopkins are essentially the latest "collectible crazy" (think troll dolls, Pokemon, Beanie Babies), having sold an impressive 207 million-plus figures worldwide. A one-of-a-kind character, Gemma Stone, was recently auctioned on eBay for $21,500. Social media also plays a big part in the marketing of Shopkins, and videos on YouTube help keep the brand relevant.

Barbie Dream House - Mattel

Photographer Jeff O'Brien Stylist Jennifer Hoon

While there has been a lot of media attention about the dwindling popularity of Barbie in recent years, the iconic doll remains the queen of the toy aisle in 2015. Her dream house is the most popular toy this holiday season, according to NPD data, highlighting yet again the brand strength of Mattel's most iconic toy. This isn't exactly a surprise to toy insiders, as there have been indications that Barbie is yet again the most popular doll in the U.S., after briefly losing her "crown" to Disney's Frozen characters last year.

Read More

CryptocurrencyLeadershipInvestingClimate ChangeMost Powerful Women