How the toy market now serves ‘kidults’

Posted on by

Photo by Ravi Palwe

Something strange is happening in the toy market.

Rather than catering for children, increasing toy makers and retailers are instead focusing on adults – or “kidults”, as they are known in the industry.

Kidults are grown-ups that want to recapture some of their youth by buying products with warm and fuzzy childhood memories attached.

This is why Hamleys is making sure its Christmas line-up includes such delights as a £150 kit for a radio-controlled car originally sold in the 1980s and a huge range of anime collectibles.

According to some estimates this trend now accounts for a third of all purchases in the toy sector, which is worth some £3.6bn in annual sales in the UK.

The trend extends well beyond the toy aisle. Disney paid $4 billion for Lucasfilm, the home of the Star Wars franchise, in 2012. A few years later, in 2009, they paid another £4 billion for Marvel.

This seems to have woken the executives at Mattel to the potential of their own intellectual property, which led to the hugely successful Barbie movie.

And who was watching Barbie, the latest Star Wars instalments, and every recent superhero movie? Mostly adults, it turns out.

Mattel now has another 14 movies in the works, based on everything from Hot Wheels and Masters of the Universe to Uno and Barney.

And you can bet they are counting on millions of adults to flock to see them (and buy some merchandise afterwards).

What accounts for this trend?

Not one single thing, to be sure.

But it is not hard to understand why some people, especially adults in their twenties and early thirties, might crave the simple pleasures of childhood nostalgia, after the trauma of a pandemic, and amid a cost of living crisis that can make getting on the housing ladder feel all but impossible.

In the UK around 30% of 25 to 29-year-olds currently live with their parents, 700,000 more than just a decade ago.

It is a similar story in the States, where it is estimated one in five adults in the same age bracket now live with their parents.

“This growing sector was really boosted amid the pandemic when more adults turned to play to destress and combat isolation,” explains Jennifer Lynch, a toy trends specialist at the Toy Association. “Even as their budgets have tightened since then, they have continued to find comfort in these play habits and pastimes.”

This entry was posted in Brand Strategy, Brand Trends, eCommerce and tagged on by .

We'd love to work with you

Get in touch & let’s chat through your project

    Awards & accreditations

    • The Drum Recommended
    • Marketing Lancashire
    • The Bibas Winner
    • Lancashire Business Awards Nominee 2016
    • Boost Business Lancashire
    • Prolific North Marketing Awards
    • Awwwards Nominee 2016
    • Digital Lancashire Founding Member
    • Northern Digital Awards Winner 2023
    • Red Rose Winner