“Kidults” are keeping the toy industry afloat right now, according to a report from NPD Group. This cohort, defined by NPD as people aged 12 and older, is responsible for one-quarter of all toy sales annually—around $9 billion worth—and is the biggest driver of growth for the industry. Spending by this demographic has been on the rise for years but sped up even more once the pandemic started.
CNBC reports that kidults tend to spend more money on toys and gravitate to cartoons, superheroes, and collectibles that remind them of their childhood. As a result, they’re buying products, such as action figures, Lego sets, and dolls that might typically be considered “for kids.” However, in recent years, toy makers like Legos, Funko, and Mattel have created product lines just for kidults to meet the increased demand.
CNBC explains that the toy industry embraced creating more products based on entertainment franchises in the ’70s and ’80s, fueled partly by the release of the first Star Wars movie in 1977. At that time, those products were designed for children. But those kids are now in their 30s and 40s, and the pattern of buying licensed merchandise is ingrained.
But, James Zahn, editor in chief of The Toy Book and senior editor of The Toy Insider, told CNBC, the “kidulting trend started to rise in prominence around a decade ago, as superhero movies and comic book culture exploded into the mainstream. It became more consequential to the bottom lines of toy companies in the last five years.”
According to NPD Checkout data, from October 2021-September 2022, the kidult group represented 60% of the dollar growth in the industry, despite accounting for only a quarter of sales. “So, it’s been a huge windfall,” says Juli Lennett, vice president and industry advisor for NPD’s U.S. toys practice.
In fact, over the holiday, my 27-year-old nephew requested a Lego car (not the Ferrari). And when I showed a 20-year-old college student a picture of my 18-month-old great-nephew hugging a Squishmallow, she told me she wanted one and that many girls in her dorm had Squishmallows.
Photo Courtesy: Funko