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U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray Publishes Toy & Video Game Industry Primer

MINNEAPOLIS, Nov. 17 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- The $21 billion U.S. toy industry is the largest toy market in the world. It is a mature industry at a crossroads, looking for ways to grow. Since 2002, the industry has been experiencing sales declines. Given these facts, what will this holiday season bring for the toy industry? What will be the key areas of growth? Will the video game sector continue to gain popularity? U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray Senior Leisure and Entertainment Analyst Tony Gikas answers these questions and much more in a recently published in-depth report titled, Toy & Video Game Industry Primer. The report is divided into four chapters: Traditional Toy Overview, Toy Industry Trends, Investing in Toy Stocks and The Video Game Industry.

Traditional Toy Overview:

The United States toy market constitutes approximately 37 percent of worldwide retail toy sales, based on the most recent data from the NPD Group Worldwide. Gikas reports that the $21 billion domestic toy industry stands at a crossroads as overall growth continues to slow. According to the NPD Group, retail toy sales actually declined two percent in 2002 to $20.2 billion. The industry has essentially matured, product quality is below average and economic conditions have softened. Sales of traditional toys have decreased four percent year-to-date through the month of September.

"Overall we anticipate toy sales in 2003 will increase approximately two percent to $20.8 billion," said Gikas. "Our estimate assumes an increase in consumer confidence and spending, a strong product lineup, improving retail backdrop and a stable geopolitical outlook."

Toy Industry Trends:

A big trend in the industry is the large mass merchant retailers capturing market volume through aggressive advertising and competitive pricing, taking share from small and specialty retailers. Currently, Wal-Mart (WMT, $55, #=), Toys "R" Us (TOY, $12.74, #=) and Target (TGT, $38.64, #>=) account for 50 percent of domestic retail toy sales. "As more and more toy dollars are spent in mass merchant stores, these retailers continue to garner additional power with vendors, increasing the importance of key retail relationships," said Gikas.

A key factor impacting toy sales is the size of the addressable market. According to Gikas, demographic trends have stabilized and turned upward. According to the 2000 census, the United States has approximately 59 million children under the age of 15 years. The overall population trends for U.S. children have stabilized since the mid-1990s following five-plus years of rapid growth in the birth rate. Children aged 12-13 years old today, born in the early 1990s mini baby boom, have largely grown beyond their peak traditional toy playing years and are now more interested in sports and other forms of entertainment, including video games. On the other hand, a positive factor influencing toy sales is the large and affluent baby boomer population, which is entering grandparenthood and as a result beginning to drive additional demand as it purchases toys for its grandchildren.

Investing in Toy Stocks:

Gikas believes toy stock fundamentals are better than they have been in many years as improved balance sheets, streamlined product portfolios and reduced costs have left the companies lean and in a position to be aggressive after years of acquisitions and redundant infrastructure. "The prospect of an improving economy, coupled with improving fundamentals, makes toy stocks more attractive in the current period than they have been during the last five years. Generally speaking, we suggest investors increase their toy exposure late in the calendar year (November-December) and reduce exposure moving into the second half of the year."

In the report, Gikas talks about the challenging retail environment that exists, including challenges from competition, age compression and less favorable demographics that continue to weigh on the overall category. "Considering the leading toy product lines look much improved, we estimate domestic toy sales will grow near 1-2 percent during 2003," said Gikas. "In general, we expect that the larger toy manufacturers like Hasbro (HAS, $22.19, #>), Mattel (MAT, $19.38, #=) and LeapFrog (LF, $34.35, #>) will take share at the expense of small manufacturers in unfavorable categories."

Overall, Gikas points out that historically, toy stocks exhibit a significant amount of seasonality and are most attractive at the end of the calendar year as anxious investors reduce exposure prior to earnings releases. "The seasonality of toy stocks reflects out-performance during the first half of the calendar year and underperformance during the second half of the calendar year relative to the overall market," said Gikas.

The Video Game Industry:

Extensive debate exists as to which stage of the video game cycle the market is currently experiencing. "We believe spring 2003 marked the midpoint of the current video game cycle, in terms of the product life cycle of current generation video game hardware," said Gikas. "We anticipate the next generation of video game hardware will be introduced in autumn 2006, depending upon the competitive positioning of the video game console manufacturers and existing demand for current generation products."

"In addition, we expect 2003 will be the peak year for unit sales of current generation hardware sales. We are forecasting that 22.3 million hardware units will be sold in North America in 2003, a modest increase from 21.1 million units in 2002 and will subsequently decline in 2004 to sales of 20.3 million units as the installed base of video game hardware becomes saturated."

To receive a copy of Toy & Video Game Industry Primer, clients and members of the media should contact Susan Beatty at susan.beatty@pjc.com or 612-303-5680.

U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, a subsidiary of the consolidated group of U.S. Bancorp, is a focused securities firm comprised of two revenue-generating segments -- Capital Markets and Private Client Services. Clients of both segments are supported by Investment Research, an independent group reporting to the CEO. The firm provides a full range of investment products and services to individuals, institutions and businesses. The firm has over 124 offices in 25 states across the country. U.S. Bancorp offers a comprehensive range of financial solutions through U.S. Bank, U.S. Bancorp Asset Management, U.S. Bancorp Investments and U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray. For more information on U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, visit www.piperjaffray.com .

Rating Definitions

Investment Opinion: Investment opinions are based on each stock's return potential relative to the overall market*, not on an absolute return.

Strong Buy: Expected to outperform the relevant broader market index over the next 6 to 12 months. An identifiable catalyst is present to drive appreciation.

Outperform: Expected to outperform the relevant broader market index over the next 12 to 18 months.

Market Perform: Expected to perform in line with the relevant broader market index over the next 6 to 12 months.

Underperform: Expected to underperform the relevant broader market index over the next 6 to 12 months. * Broader market indices = Russell 2000 and S&P 500

Volatility Rating: Our focus on growth companies implies that the stocks we recommend are typically more volatile than the overall stock market. We are not recommending the "suitability" of a particular stock for an individual investor. Rather, it identifies the volatility of a particular stock.

Low: The stock price has moved up or down by more than 10% in a month in fewer than 8 of the past 24 months.

Medium: The stock price has moved up or down by more than 20% in a month in fewer than 8 of the past 24 months.

High: The stock price has moved up or down by more than 20% in a month in at least 8 of the past 24 months. All IPO stocks automatically get this volatility rating for the first 12 months of trading.

The following disclosures apply to stocks mentioned in this report if and as indicated: (#) U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray (USBPJ) was making a market in the Company's securities at the time this research report was published. USBPJ may buy and sell the Company's securities on a principal basis. (^) A USBPJ analyst who follows this Company or a member of the analyst's household has a financial interest (a long equity position) in the Company's securities. (@) Within the past 12 months, USBPJ was a managing underwriter of an offering of, or dealer manager of a tender offer for, the Company's securities or the securities of an affiliate. (>) USBPJ has either received compensation for investment banking services from the Company within the past 12 months or expects to receive or intends to seek compensation within the next three months for investment banking services. (~) A USBPJ analyst who follows this Company, a member of the analyst's household, a USBPJ officer, director, or other USBPJ employee is a director and/or officer of the Company. (+) USBPJ and its affiliates, in aggregate, beneficially own 1% or more of a class of common equity securities of the subject Company. (=) One or more affiliates of U.S. Bancorp, the ultimate parent company of USBPJ, provided commercial banking services (including, without limitation, loans) to the Company at the time this research report was published.

Nondeposit investment products are not insured by the FDIC, are not deposits or other obligations of or guaranteed by U.S. Bank National Association or its affiliates, and involve investment risks, including possible loss of the principal amount invested.

USBPJ research analysts receive compensation that is, in part, based on revenues of USBPJ Equities and Investment Banking, which include overall investment banking revenues. USBPJ research analysts who follow this Company report to the Head of Investment Research who, in turn, reports directly to the Chief Executive Officer of U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray.

This material is based on data obtained from sources we deem to be reliable; it is not guaranteed as to accuracy and does not purport to be complete. This information is not intended to be used as the primary basis of investment decisions. Because of individual client requirements, it should not be construed as advice designed to meet the particular investment needs of any investor. It is not a representation by us or an offer or the solicitation of an offer to sell or buy any security. Further, a security described in this release may not be eligible for solicitation in the states in which the client resides. Officers or employees of affiliates of U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, or members of their families, may have a beneficial interest in the Company's securities and may purchase or sell such positions in the open market or otherwise.

Notice to customers in the United Kingdom: This report is a communication made in the United Kingdom by U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray to market counterparties or intermediate customers and is exclusively directed at such persons; it is not directed at private customers and any investment or services to which the communication may relate will not be available to private customers. In the United Kingdom, no persons other than a market counterparty or an intermediate customer should read or rely on any of the information in this communication.

Securities products and services offered through U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, member SIPC and NYSE, Inc., a subsidiary of U.S. Bancorp.

Additional information is available upon request.

SOURCE U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray

"Safe Harbor" Statement under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995: Statements in this press release regarding U.S. Bancorp's business which are not historical facts are "forward-looking statements" that involve risks and uncertainties. For a discussion of such risks and uncertainties, which could cause actual results to differ from those contained in the forward-looking statements, see "Risk Factors" in the Company's Annual Report or Form 10-K for the most recently ended fiscal year.



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