Adults (and AFOLs) fuelling UK toy market

A study released today has found that adults are playing an increasing role in the UK toy market’s continued growth, thanks to brands such as LEGO and Star Wars.

Retail analyst The NPD Group reported back in January that UK spending on toys had risen by 6.3% in 2016, to a highest ever total of over £3.5bn.

Today they have released further findings, pointing out that ‘kidults’ – adults buying toys for themselves – are not just helping in such market growth, but leading it.

It is reported that one in every 11 toys sold in Britain during 2016 was bought by an adult, and that the kidult market is now worth £300m a year, having grown by 65% since 2012, and a remarkable 21% in 2016 alone. This is an increase that stands at three times faster than that of the toy sector overall.

The numbers are broken down further by age group, with ‘Millennials’ (18-34-year-olds) accounting for 50% of adults spending money on toys for themselves, followed by ‘Generation X-ers’ (35-54-year-olds) representing ‘around a third’ of the market, and ‘Boomers’ (55-years-old+) having an 18% share.

Men are statistically more likely to buy toys for themselves than women, whilst more than half of all purchases are made online – Amazon and Tesco are listed as preferred destinations.

The study also found that adults without children spend more money on toys for themselves than adults with children do, and that they are also more likely to make impulse purchases of toys.

“The trend for the not-so-young buying toys for themselves is a sign of our times,” Frederique Tutt, NPD’s Global Industry Analyst, Toys, tells the group’s website.

“It’s now normal in Britain to see adults playing games on their smartphones in public, and that’s true whether the adult is dressed in a hoodie or a suit. Recently, we’ve experienced a revival in the market for board games as families look to spend quality time together the old-fashioned way.

“The trend for people aged 18+ buying toys for themselves is possibly a reaction against the stresses of our fast-paced lives. Toys are fun – and when you are having fun any stress you might be feeling goes away. It makes perfect sense.”

Games & puzzles lead the kidult market share with 17% of sales, followed by 16% for building sets, 16% also for action figures and 11% on vehicles, with it seen that a rise in ‘collectible toys and popular characters’ is responsible for a lot of the growth.

Whilst building sets’ position as joint second in the kidult market may be surprising given the LEGO Group’s own position as the world’s leading toy brand, NPD do directly name LEGO and Star Wars as examples of reinvented brands ‘spanning several decades’ and able to ‘evoke a feeling of nostalgia among the more mature fanbase’.

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Rob Paton

As one half of Tiro Media Ltd, I mix a passion for print and digital media production with a deep love of LEGO and can often be found on these pages eulogising about LEGO Batman, digging deeper into the LEGO Group’s inner workings, or just complaining about the price of the latest LEGO Star Wars set. Make a great impression when you meet me in person by praising EXO-FORCE as the greatest LEGO theme of all time. Follow me on Twitter @RobPaton or drop me an email at [email protected]

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