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‘Kidults’ drive revival of traditional toys

Adults are driving a surge in toy sales, with the 19-29 age group dominating

Toys have been in the hearts and homes of kids for centuries, but are now increasingly in the hearts and homes of adults too.  The toy market is massive, and the audience now dubbed “Kidults” has seen significant growth over the last two years.

According to Toy World Magazine, in the past year, roughly a quarter of all toy sales have gone to young adults aged 19 to 29. Toys have always been big business, with global sales hitting nearly $104-billion in 2021 – up by 8.5% over 2020.

“This year is set to be another bumper year for the industry as the traditional toy market bounces back,” says Catherine Jacoby, marketing manager of Toys R Us South Africa. “The traditional toy market is coming back, with ‘vintage’ trends at the forefront.” 

She says, by way of example, that half of all Lego sold is bought by adults. 

“Strong brands like Lego, Barbie, Hotwheels, Pokémon and Rubik’s Cube, that has continued over the years, are now going from strength to strength,”

According to NPD’s Global Toy Market report, the kidult sector rose by 19% in the past four years, with games and puzzles as one of the highest growth categories in 2021.

“We’re all kids at heart,” says Jacoby. “Toys are for everyone and we’re seeing consumers return to brands they loved in their childhood.

“During the pandemic, with many consumers enjoying more time than they would usually have, sales of games, puzzles and construction kits boomed, with a significant number of those purchases made by kidults. During the second and even third lockdown, people appeared to need the distraction of a new hobby, as the novelty of staying at home all but vanished.

“The pandemic was a rough time. You can find comfort in childhood memories while reigniting passion.”

Jacoby says that recent data suggests there is plenty of desire to buy in the kidult marketplace. 

“With this comes plenty of opportunities for us as a toy retailer to expand our existing ranges offering more exploration in the category.”

“We’re inviting kidults to come to take a journey with us as we remember the life-changing toys of the sixties to nineties. Feel the power of nostalgia as we remember the brands that brought so much enjoyment to our lives.

“We all have fond memories of playing with toys when we were young. Whether it’s trading Pokémon cards or snuggling a favourite stuffed animal, it’s hard not to have at least one happy childhood toy story.”

But it’s more than just nostalgia. There is a growing body of evidence that nostalgia is good for helping cope with stress and anxiety. Social media, too, is making it easier for adults to find toys, with the result that the stigma associated with adults buying toys is fading.

Jacoby says that millennial consumers are changing the toy industry for good. “No longer is it an embarrassment for an adult to buy ‘kid toys’ for themselves. The market is continuing to explode in popularity and there’s no reason to think it will slow down any time soon,” she adds.

The toy collector’s market also makes a significant contribution.

Jacoby says that the vintage eras of the sixties and seventies, with wind-up function, have changed the way we interacted with toys, see brands like Stretch Armstrong, Hotwheels, Pez candy and Star Wars enjoying renewed popularity.

“Toys from the eighties, when technology was introduced to toys – motorised movement, light and sound action technology as well as Nintendo revolutionising the TV games industry- are seeing a comeback.

“We’re seeing the resurgence of GI Joe, Turtles, Rubik’s Cube, Thundercats and Nintendo, as action figures linked to TV shows and movies are exploding. The nineties had a shift in focus on high-tech toys and action figures, which is reigniting brands like Tamagotchi, Pokémon, Polly Pocket, Barbie, Hotwheels and Power Rangers.

“Movie franchises and TV shows create south-after memorabilia merchandise and collectables and are on the rise with a number of franchises being released this year, Blockbusters always contribute to the popularity of collectables, and we can expect to see many of these during 2022 and 2023.”

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