Adults are flocking to the toy aisle even more than preschoolers

Jun 11, 2024, 1:18 PM | Updated: 6:50 pm

More adults are buying more Lego building sets for themselves.
Mandatory Credit:	Aaron Lavinsky/Sta...

More adults are buying more Lego building sets for themselves. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune/Getty Images via CNN Newsource

New York (CNN) — Adults bought more toys for themselves than for any other age group last quarter for the first time ever, surpassing toys for even the historically-dominant preschooler market.

Consumers 18 years of age and up spent $1.5 billion in toy-related purchases in the period from January through April, overtaking the three-to five-year-old demographic as the most important age group for the toy industry, according to a new report from market research firm Circana.

Looking back over a longer period, the report said as many as 43% of adults purchased a toy for themselves in the past year, with the top reasons being for personal fun, socialization and for collecting.

Trading cards, Squishmallows (which are a rage across age groups), Lego sets and sports toys were among the most sought-after toy products in the period, the report said.

As adults play with toys more and more, the trend bodes well to counter the decline in overall toy sales. Circana said toy industry dollar sales declined by 1% through April, versus the same period a year ago but are still up 38% compared to 2019.

“Tailwinds, like the growing adult toy market and spending power of higher income households and grandparents, drive positive trends,” Juli Lennett, vice president and toy industry advisor at Circana, said in the report. “However, headwinds like rising household debt, slowing GDP growth, and fluctuating consumer confidence indicate potential challenges. “

Key part of ‘adulting’ involves toys

While adults have always bought toys for themselves, fueled by the collector market for brands like Barbie and Hot Wheels, that niche market, industry experts said, has gone mainstream in the last five years.

The pandemic was an important catalyst for it.

“During the pandemic, when people were flush with cash and had time to spend at home whether with their families or alone, they wanted to reconnect with the toys that made them happy as kids,” said James Zahn, Editor in Chief of industry trade publication The Toy Book, in an interview with CNN.

But people who were already toy collectors by that point ramped up their interest. “We’re talking everything, dolls, action figures and diecast vehicles,” he said. “Outside of collectibles, boardgames, Lego building sets, trading cards, which are extraordinarily hot again, are also firing up adult interest.”

Some toymakers, he said, are now introducing new products straight for the adult population.

“January Through April, in the actions figure category, the top two new items that came out were both items that kids are not going to buy,” Zahn said. “The No. 1 item is the X-Men 97 Marvel Legends action figure collection from Hasbro, inspired by an animated series geared towards an adult audience.”

The second buzziest new item in the period is a Star Wars The Black Series Clone Caption Rex role play helmet from Hasbro. “It is a $130 collectible that essentially looks like a movie prop,” he said.

Meanwhile, old-fashioned modeling kits that were once popular with older shoppers have been replaced by Lego sets.

“That very therapeutic idea of sitting down to create something of your own as an adult has a new format from a traditional model kit to a building set,” Zahn set. “Lego gets a ton of that 18 and older market.”

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Adults are flocking to the toy aisle even more than preschoolers