ARE TOYS STILL RELEVANT FOR TODAY’S KIDS? ERM YES, RATHER!
Those outside the toy industry often seem to ask whether toys are still relevant to ‘Generation ipad’. Today’s children have so many more media to consumer and engage with than previous generations, that they don’t seem to spend as long with their toys.
Yet they tend to have many more than previous generations. Each item is played with for less time on average, but consumption/purchase/accumulation of toys has definitely increased over time. So how do we explain this? Kids are playing with toys less but we seem to be selling more toys to them – how is that?
Well, there are two compelling reasons for this:
TOY STOCKPILING – I’ve written previously that retail pricepoints for toys have often not changed since the ’80s. if you go back & look at old TV ads, you’ll often find that the same product selling 30 years ago is still selling at the same prciepoint today – despite 30 years of inflation. As a result, traditional toys i.e. action figures, fashion dolls, board games etc., have become (over time) more or less throwaway items. $20 is not nothing, but it certainly is not worth what it was 30 years ago. $10 is a lunch or a few coffees in Starbucks. So it has become easier to buy toys as throwaway gifts, therefore whether kids are using toys or not, toys are now an obvious gift for kids of a certain age. When going to another child’s party, a toy is a typical gift now, so if 10 or 20 kids attend, that’s 10 or 20 toys sold. Most of these may end up at the bottom of the toy chest, but the accessibility of toy pricepoints today makes purchase much easier/likely versus the past.
THE PURCHASE DYNAMIC – people buy stuff for all kinds of reasons. Their motivations are not always the same as our anticipated selling points. I’ve always felt that’s something to embrace as toy company, not to worry about – the point is to sell appealing saleable products & to achieve commercial success while delivering worthwhile products to people. If they buy them but don’t use them, for sure that’s kind of wasteful and not going to win many friends with environmentalists/anti-consumptionists, but the reality is we all do that! How many people reading this have bought clothes they never really wore, or DVDs they only watched once, or books they didn’t read etc? The clear answer is going to be ‘many’.
The toy purchase dynamic is usually about a parent (or grand parent) and the child. Aside from party gifting or other purchase dynamics, the biggest volume and $amount of toys are bought by parents for their own kids. Now being a modern parent is challenging in several ways, not least of which is trying to leverage/crowbar your child away from tablet devices! Kids will sit and play on/passively watch content on tablets for hours if left to their own devices, which we all know is unlikely to be very good for them. So toys today are hugely relevant and important to parents who want their kids to get off screens. Today parents use toys as much as a screen time antidote as they do to provide a primary play pattern. For sure you will get those kids who are obsessed with Lego, or the latest hot collectible toy brand, but we in the toy industry are selling more and more to parents due to the compulsion to get kids off screens.
There have always been some toy categories which were more parentally appealing – board games, construction, creative play etc., but today toys of all kinds are becoming increasingly popular with parents.
Children by the way don’t necessarily want toys any less – if you watch kids watching kids TV channels, you will still see that TV advertising for toys makes them really want the toys featured – just that they are more addicted to/find screen time more compelling (in general/overall), and therefore spend more time on screens if given the choice.
This is indirectly a good thing for the toy industry overall, as we are ever more the parents preferred activity, while still being desired by kids.
So toys are ever more relevant, even if overall kids play with them less.
by Steve Reece, CEO of Kids Brand Insight www.KidsBrandInsight.com, a leading toy expert consultancy to toy companies around the world, which helps people & companies to get ahead in the toy industry, find the right toy & game factories and to consumer research test their products with kids and parents. Steve is an acknowledged toy expert, and regularly advises investment firms on Hasbro, Mattel & other major toy companies via leading expert networks including Gerson Lehman & others.