Millennials, Gen-Xers Now Bigger Toy Consumers Than Preschoolers In New Trend

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Remso Martinez Contributor
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For the first time, a new study shows that demand for toys from enthusiasts over the age of 18, specifically millennials and Gen-Xers, has surpassed that of preschoolers, generating $1.5 billion in sales from January to April, according to a new study.

Popular online toy influencer Dan Larson told The New York Post when asked about this trend that today’s kids are not connecting with physical toys as previous generations did, whereas adults, described in the study by Circana as “the most important age group for the toy industry,” are increasingly purchasing toys for themselves, with 43% having bought a toy for personal use in the past year. (RELATED: Fisher Price Offers Drag-Themed Kids Toys. People Are Calling For A Boycott)

Among the specific novelties and items Millennials and Gen-Xers are gravitating towards include trading cards, Lego sets, and sports toys, according to ABC 8 WFAA.

The toy industry has been struggling to recover from the boom during the pandemic when families stocked up on toys while being homebound. U.S. toy sales dropped 8% to $28 billion last year, following a modest 1% increase from the previous year according to the New York Post. This decline comes after significant growth in 2020 and 2021, when industry revenue shot up as high as 17%.

Numbers for 2024 are still looking minuscule however, with current toy sales having dropped 1% through April compared to the same time a year prior while total units sold were down 2% according to data from Circana. Toy manufacturers are now directing their advertising and attention to these adult consumers, as a result.

Adults as of now are increasingly being driven to buy collectible plush toys such as Squishmallows, similar to the Beanie Babies and Cabbage Patch Dolls that were popular in the 1980s and 1990s. These plush toys alone were the top-selling toy in the first quarter, largely due to adult collectors, according to Circana.

“Lego has someone on staff whose job is outreach to ‘AFOLs’ [adult fans of Lego], who are buying $200 sets,” said Toy Insider editor James Zahn, according to the New York Post.

However, the love of toys for those that grew up with them as play-things, according to Larson, relies more on nostalgia and sentimentality more than just sheer accumulation. In essence, the kids that grew up enjoying them became adults with more money to put towards them.

Larson set out to shed light on why so many adults today are still fascinated by toys, going as far as to create an entire video on his popular YouTube channel de-stigmatizing the stereotype that collecting action figures as an adult might may be embarrassing.

The ultimate verdict Larson came to was that it’s a little more complicated than a simple “yes” or “no” question, coming down at the end of the day to whether or not they bring joy to the individuals who collect them.

“If tiny plastic people brighten your world a little, then don’t let anyone take that away from you,” Larson said at the time.