While many adults have for years collected hard-to-find action figures or kept some beloved childhood friends they could not bear to part with, the toy industry is currently in the midst of something very different.
More and more, people long past their childhood years are purchasing new toys for themselves — and companies that produce them are rushing to reach the new consumer.
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Known in the industry as the “kidults,” shoppers aged 12 and over have been one of the largest sources of toy industry growth over the last year. According to recent numbers from the NPD Group, adults shopping for themselves rather than kids represented a quarter of total toy sales and over $9 billion while also accounting for 60% of dollar growth between 2021 and 2022. Research firm Circana also found that “kidults” made up around 25% of U.S. toy sales last year.
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“This growing sector was really boosted amid the pandemic when more adults turned to play to destress and combat isolation,” Jennifer Lynch, a toy trends specialist at the Toy Association trade group, told TheStreet. “Even as their budgets have tightened since then, they have continued to find comfort in these play habits and pastimes.”
Given those numbers, major toy companies are rushing to meet this growing demographic with toys tailored specifically to grown owners.
Over the last year, major toy makers such as Hasbro (HAS) – Get Free Report and Mattel (MAT) – Get Free Report have increasingly amped up production of “nostalgic” toys inspired by what was popular in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s — Baby Yoda and other Star Wars toys from Hasbro and Mattel’s Spiderman figurines or Barbie products meant to tie in with the upcoming Hollywood film.
In 2022, American Girl stores started selling cocktails at its stores to tailor to women on an outing to look at dolls that they used to play with in their childhood.
According to statistics provided by Lynch, the most popular items that adults purchase for themselves rather than children include board games, collectibles, puzzles and plush toys — a respective 52%, 48%, 47% and 37% of those shopping for toys reported buying them.
Build-A-Bear Workshop (BBW) – Get Free Report Sharon Price John also said that up to 40% of its sales now come from teens and adults. To appeal to them, the company has partnered with brands like Deadpool and Harry Potter.
“Many of our sales right now are not because the person who came to Build-A-Bear as a child is now bringing their children back but because they are collecting Build-A-Bear themselves,” Price John told TheStreet in an exclusive interview in October 2022.
As the “kidult” category continues to grow, it could fundamentally alter how toy companies both make and market their toys — the trend, according to Lynch, is pushing not just a resurgence of retro items but also a rise in self-care toys that some buy to help “ease anxieties or decompress from the everyday grind.”
“The kidult category will continue to grow, especially as the stigma we once saw around playing with toys and games past a certain age continues to fade,” Lynch said. “In fact, we are even expecting to see an increase in toys catering to more ‘elder’ kidults (55+)and tweens and teens as well because of this trend.”
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