Kidult: Giving Adults a License to PLAY, by Mark Foster

by Playmobil | 14 Apr 2022

Industry Commentary, Op-Ed

Kidult: Giving Adults a License to Play

by: Mark Foster, Managing Director for the UK and North America, Playmobil 


The toy space is no longer one bound by age as the so-called “kidult” trend continues its march into toy aisles everywhere.


PLAYMOBIL is one of several toy makers that has enjoyed substantial growth within this category over the last few years.  Starting with the launch of Ghostbusters in 2017, we followed with our award-winning Back to the Future DeLorean and a successful Scooby-Doo! line, complete with the Mystery Machine! 2021 saw the launch of the Volkswagen Beetle and the T1 Camping Bus (the latter gained us a TOTY for Vehicle of the Year, as did the DeLorean the previous year).  Last summer, there was an internet frenzy surrounding the Star Trek U.S.S.Enterprise, the A-Team Van and the James Bond Aston Martin DB5 - Goldfinger Edition vehicles. This year, we’re continuing with our just-announced release of the most iconic talking car in pop culture history --  K.I.T.T. from the 1980s Knight Rider and soon-to-be-announced additions to the Star Trek line.


(PLAYMOBIL Volkswagen T-1 Camper)


The NPD Group confirmed the growing appeal of the kidult market, noting in a report these buyers are now an audience responsible for more than a quarter of toy sales in the UK alone. In 2020, kidult sales were 14% higher than in 2019, set against an overall increase of 6%.This adult and teen category now represents 27% of total toy sales, up by 16% since 2016. 


Experts point to multiple reasons for the acceleration.  But mostly, it’s the pandemic. Kidult sales had been showing growth, but the pandemic certainly gave it a major push forward.  Thanks to stay-at-home orders, adults were seeking escapism. Many took to reliving childhood memories that provided “feel-good” experiences. Plus, with no new film releases or TV seasons during much of the pandemic, fans were going back and watching their old favorites.  .   . and then introducing them to others who missed it or were too young to appreciate them the first time around.


Also helping fuel the expansion of kidult products are millennials who are looking to toys and characters from their childhood as a form of escapism, as well as hardcore fandom communities continuing to seek unique form factors for their collections. 


Kidult definitely has staying power. The Toy Association once again included Catering to Kidults as a trend, pointing to the fact that toymakers are continuing to roll out products with cross-generational appeal to get the whole family playing together.  The TA even debuted a new Grown-Up Toy of the Year category for the Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards in 2022. 


Retailers, too, are ready for kidult product, as they actively set aside more dedicated shelf and online shopping space for grown-up toy lovers.  It has been interesting as we’ve watched the pop culture consumer products scene slowly, but surely, morph from a kind of ‘cult’ following to what is today emerging as a mainstream business.  


(PLAYMOBIL Star Trek – U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701TM & ©, 2022 CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved  )


It’s a perfect storm that gives us the chance to expand revenue streams beyond our traditional kid audiences. By creating what are essentially collectibles for an older demo, kidult-themed products give manufacturers a way to add to profit and build a relationship with an audience who are sharing their interests with their kids and thus creating a new generation of fans – and purchasers  --  in the process. 


So adults, take out your toys and (continue to) PLAY!

kidult Back to the Future DeLorean Volkswagen Beetle and the T1Camping Bus playmobil

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