‘Kidults’ are driving toy purchases this holiday season

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Grownups buying for themselves are a significant market, report finds

Ricky Tzroskvich has been steeped in the collectibles culture for more than 20 years, seeing the rise of fandom and what was once considered niche or “nerd” culture become mainstream.

Still, buying toys brings him joy.

“It makes me feel a little bit like a kid again,” Tzroskvich said.

He’s not alone. More adults and teenagers shopping for toys online or in stores this holiday season and throughout the year are embracing their inner kid and shopping for themselves, according to a report from the NPD Group, a market research firm. The group dubs these consumers “kidults” and reports they are the primary drivers of increased toy sales over the past two years.

Tzroskvich, who works for local toy conventions Joelanta and Toylanta, said the pandemic was a catalyst for people to pick up a hobby while at home, and many took the nostalgic route back to their childhoods. For some, he said, government stimulus checks went to rekindling those interests.

Kyle Puttkammer, owner of Galactic Quest in Lawrenceville, opened the comic shop more than 30 years ago and said most customers buying toys now are adults. The items they buy are often designed more for display than for play, he said.

That applies to vintage toys, too. Puttkammer gleefully showed a full collection of “Star Wars” figures in plastic packaging. Decades ago, thousands of kids used their figures to act out scenes from the movies.

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

As superheroes became all the rage in pop culture over the past decade, Puttkammer decided to swing high-end, stocking his store with figures and statues that he also sees as art — both because of the quality of work and because they attract attention in a room. His customers are often decorating man caves or spaces in their homes dedicated to their collections.

As he perused the merchandise at Galactic Quest, Charles Hewitt said he loves to display figures he bought from the store, including a hefty depiction of Juggernaut from the X-Men comics. He’s been collecting comics and paraphernalia since he was a teenager and his dad bought him an original issue of X-Men.

Anna Philp, a former employee who frequents the store, said when they reopened in 2020 after shutting down because of the pandemic, model robots from the Gundam anime series flew off the shelves.

“People were craving activity,” she said. Everything in the store eventually became more popular — board games, comics, Dungeons & Dragons (thanks to “Stranger Things,” Philp said) and figurines.

“I think people wanted to see something in their homes that bring a little bit of joy,” she said.

The trend toward older consumers is reflected in the most iconic toy brands. Mattel is producing a “Barbie” movie set for release in 2023 with a trailer referencing “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Marvel comic book movies and merchandise appeal to fans of all ages. “The Lego Movie” doubles as a 101-minute commercial that contributed to who knows how many toy sales on top of $468 million from the box office.

Trendy modern items are apparently stuffing some adults’ stockings this year, too. The William Root House gift shop near the Marietta Square has a cuddly display of Holiday Squishmallows this season and many of the plush toys appear to be going home with grownups.

“We definitely see adults buying items we probably intended to be purchased for children,” said Trevor Beemon, executive director of Cobb Landmarks and Historical Society, which operates the Root House Museum and shop. “I think it’s comfort, or nostalgia, that drives the purchase.”

Credit: Trevor Beemon

Credit: Trevor Beemon

Chris Cott, CEO and founder of Lego retailer Atlanta Brick Company in Newnan, said Lego now specifically markets to adults with sets based on city skylines, famous buildings, house plants and popular TV shows like “Friends” and “Queer Eye.” Even “Star Wars” sets with thousands of pieces in sleek black boxes are recommended for builders 18 and older.

The hot selling sets this holiday season, Cott said, are Optimus Prime from “Transformers,” Bowser from “Super Mario” and an Atari game system.

A few years ago, adult customers would claim they were shopping for a kid while buying a rare minifigure or vintage set worth hundreds of dollars. He had his doubts. Now, adult customers proudly shop for themselves in his Newnan store.

“It’s cool that you don’t have any of that negative connotation issues for being into comic books or toys,” Tzroskvich said. At Galactic Quest, some regulars said they were glad to see the shop busy with customers of all ages and welcomed anyone reconnecting to their childhood interests. That’s not them though — they joked that they just never grew up.

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez