Southeast Asia (SEA) is expected to be the fastest growing region for traditional toys and games with a 5.4 percent retail value CAGR over the forecast period. One of the trends that emerged from the pandemic was the rise of kidults purchasing toys and games. Despite having to navigate the pandemic and inflation in recent years, the toy industry in the region continues to develop and can look forward to the future because of the participation of ‘kidults’.
Who are kidults?
‘Kidults’ are adult consumers who buy products that were originally intended for children, for their own use. The rise of kidults is especially prominent in toys and games as many of these products are originally designed for and marketed at children, rather than adults. While kidults include all adult consumers, there are some distinct groups that drive most of the sales. Millennial single-person households which tend to focus on career and leisure time and have not started a family like to indulge in gadgets, trips, and hobbies, which include collecting toys. Couples with no children are also growing in number and they enjoy higher disposable incomes which enable them to spend more on leisure activities such as building a construction set.
Rise of kidults in the region
Southeast Asia has never been a strong kidults market in the past, as only a small group of adult collectors would purchase high value action figures or construction sets. This has changed recently, as some toy categories gained in popularity during the pandemic. Construction toys, mainly driven by Lego, recorded the strongest value sales growth in 2021 and 2022, as working professionals sought new hobbies whilst spending prolonged time at home or as a digital detox from extended screen time. Meanwhile, games and puzzles found new momentum in 2021 as families and friends looked for fun activities to do together when outdoor activities came to a halt. Millennials and Generation X consumers also started collecting action figures from their childhood to rekindle their love for these characters. This is expected to continue as an increasing number of people gain awareness of the kidult trend and reconsider their previous concepts of toys.
Digitalisation plays a major role
Engaging kidults means understanding their interests. The majority of kidults are millennials who grew up with technology and cannot live without it. According to Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Lifestyles Survey, fielded January to February 2022, 84 percent of millennials in Southeast Asia use technology to improve their daily lives. While many believe that digitalisation only benefits the video games industry, which recorded double-digit growth during the pandemic, traditional toys have also been able to leverage the trend, especially through social media and online content.
The release of Disney+ in Southeast Asia in 2021, has helped boost sales of licensed products and support the growth of categories such as action figures. Interestingly, popular television series such as Star Wars are mainly watched by kidults, fans of the franchise since they were younger. Overall, traditional toys have the potential in the future to tap into digitalisation or even the fast-paced growth of video games through licensing and the crossover between physical toys and digital content.
Southeast Asia expected to record fastest growth
Southeast Asia is expected to be the fastest growing region for traditional toys with a 5.4 percent retail value CAGR over the forecast period. This will mainly be driven by urbanisation and growing disposable incomes, resulting in a consumer shift from counterfeit and unbranded products to toys of higher quality. Kidults will be the main growth driver over the forecast period as some countries in the region see a slowing down in the birth rate. SEA also has a huge number of households without children and thus have higher budgets to spend on themselves. In 2022, single and two-person households contributed close to 30 percent of Southeast Asia’s households, with approximately 55 percent for Thailand.
Critically, kidults in SEA are not relinquishing their favourite action heroes, despite inflationary pressures clouding the global economy. This is mainly driven by mid- to high-income consumers who are not overly concerned by an unstable economy and will continue to invest in their hobbies. Major toy manufacturers such as Hasbro reported double-digit growth for the third quarter results of 2022 in APAC, with kidults one of the main drivers behind its performance.
Engaging new kidults will be a challenge
While the road ahead appears positive in further supporting the kidults trend, the fight for their wallets is likely to intensify, as there are now more ways to spend on “experience”. Electronics companies such as Samsung and Apple are entering the entertainment space, while the travel industry is doubling its efforts to recoup pandemic losses. Moving forward, following the latest trends and interests as reported by the media will be crucial to engaging kidults, while also continuing to build awareness through product packaging and marketing to ensure a wider positioning beyond children.