This rise in sales is largely led by the fact kidults spend more and make spur of the moment purchases. The toy market is responding and devoting more time to cater for their interests by coming up with more complex toys and intricate designs. A trend that is set to continue, higher price points, increased retailer profits – What is not to embrace about this new category.
The lack of new film releases during the pandemic means we have also been revisiting classic shows and films for that feel-good factor. This is very much reflected in the rise in the number of toys and games based on titles like Back to the Future, Ghostbusters and Jaws.
There has also been a noticeable increase in the number of LEGO sets with an 18+ age advisory on the box along with sets which create classic collectible pieces. These include artworks which you can create a pixelated design of the Fab Four whilst listening to a specially designed soundtrack. There is a classic Porsche 911, typewriter (remember those anyone?) and the whopping Colosseum set with over 9,000 pieces to put together – These are designed to become home furnishings, not playthings – so hands-off kids.
Marius Lang, Head of Marketing, LEGO UK and Ireland said “We know from our adult fans that the joy of LEGO building transcends age and that they enjoy building as a way to relax and get creative, offering moments of mindfulness in addition to be an activity that’s fun for the whole family. We have over 70 different products in our portfolio designed with adults in mind, whatever their passions and interests, from film, music, sport and cars through to art and design and travel, such as with our LEGO Art, LEGO Creator Expert and LEGO Technic ranges.”
Once the novelty of baking banana bread wore off these kidults needed new hobbies and the surge in sales started, building sets, action figures, jigsaws and board games all made double digit increases. It is also not now seen so much nerdy to be a toy collector but has become rather cool, sitting down with friends to do a puzzle is a socially acceptable exercise. Google Trends data reveals that searches for jigsaw puzzles by Brits hit a record all time high during the first week of lockdown. Gibsons, a leading UK supplier of Jigsaws saw record demand for their jigsaws over the past 12 months - sales growing a whopping 59%.
Just recently Hornby, the model railway maker, turned in a big jump in annual sales. The firm, who also owns Scalextric had sales of £48.5mn for the year to 31st March 2021, up 28% on the previous year.
Robert Hutchins, the Editor of Toy News says “Given all that we have faced the past year, adults - with more time on their hands and less to engage with socially - have fallen back on old comforts, brands, and pastimes that bring up waves of nostalgia; whether that’s building LEGO, sitting down to a board game, or getting back into an old hobby like skateboarding.
“Of course, it helps that celebrities like Henry Cavill or Orlando Bloom have outed themselves as kidults, engaging in Warhammer Miniatures or LEGO building, while companies like Hornby have witnessed increases in model hobbyists, turning to pastimes that offer some mindfulness and calm amid what has been a chaotic past 12 months.”
Reminiscing over school days, the desire to solve tricky cases or grasping a new skill has also had an impact on both, the exit games and the science kit and robotic set categories. Joanna Drage of Thames and Kosmos, a leading supplier said “The higher end science kits often tackle quite complex scientific topics, and those that additionally require some form of construction really do appeal to the kidult market. Any form of Robotics or products that can be programmed have a high kidult take-up too - it’s parents keeping up with the latest tech”.
A surge in classic toy sales has also been seen. They may well have been given a gentle tweak in some way but each one utterly retro-tastic. Slinky, Mr Frosty, Tamagotchi, Fisher Price record player or plasticine anyone? The mere thought of these brands invokes plenty of memories for me. Yes, I’ve one of each.
“Even pre-Covid the kidult market had grown by almost 20% over the past four years” Moneeba Baloch of NPD told us. “With restrictions easing and festivals, raves and City Breaks taking up time more leisure time again will the kidult trend continue?” she adds.
Well, let’s take heed from the literary legend Bernard Shaw who told us famously “We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing” – time to join the kidult movement.