Prof Plum in the ballroom? Murder mystery board games make a Christmas killing | Retail industry

One would think the full return of big family gatherings for Christmas without the shadow of the Omicron variant would mean lovemaking all around.

However, it seems nothing could be further from the truth as guests, egged on by TV shows like new BBC hit The Traitors, threaten to become obsessed with identifying killers and scammers.

While enthusiasm for lockdown activities like baking waned as life returned to normal, Britons are still addicted to board games.

Cluedo murder weapons
Always the lead piping. Always! Photo: Daisy Images/Alamy

Toy experts say new Escape Room in a Box titles – where players work together to solve clues and puzzles – have given new twists to classics like Cluedo, while titles linked to popular TV shows and movies like Squid Game and Jaws are linked, also excite people’s imagination.

Sales of crime and escape room games are up a quarter at John Lewis, saying total game sales in December were up 8% year-on-year. Sounds Fishy, ​​a party game that requires expert bluffing, is a top seller alongside Escape Room Game, Mars Edition, the department store said.

Colonel Mustard Cluedo card
Was it Colonel Mustard in the ballroom with the lead pipe? It’s always the lead line. Photo: Panacea Pictures/Alamy

The Mars Edition gives players one hour to secure a seat on the last shuttle to leave Earth as an asteroid races toward the planet. However, one reviewer is deducting a star because you don’t need your thinking cap and need “no wine in hand” to succeed, which is a big request on Christmas Day.

Kerry Nicholls, a gift shopper from John Lewis, said the strong sales picture after three years of lockdown showed his customers were “looking forward to a traditional Christmas”, adding: “Getting together a board game with family and friends is part our customers clearly appreciate it at Christmas time.”

Sounds fishy board game
The Sounds Fishy game is a big seller at John Lewis. Photo: Sounds lazy

In 2019, Brits were spending £340m a year on board games, but sales have skyrocketed during the pandemic. Frédérique Tutt, an analyst at market researchers NPD, said Covid has created a “bubble” but current sales suggested that board games, even if they couldn’t keep up with the lockdown highs, had emerged in stronger form. “We’re still buying more games today than we were before Covid,” she said.

Despite all the new board games on retailers’ shelves, the sales data from the consumer analysts NPD demonstrate the staying power of the old favourites: Uno is this year’s top seller, followed by Dobble, Monopoly, Rubik’s Cube and Jenga.

A quarter of annual toy sales are recorded in December, but the industry is not immune to cost-of-living pressures, with comparable toy inflation at almost 7%.

Analysts say parents are buying fewer cheap toys this Christmas and investing the money in more expensive toys that last longer.