Kidult Fandom, Nostalgia Fuel Growth of €4.5 Billion Toy Market in Europe

Market has grown by 2.5% since 2022 and now represents 28.5% of total toy sales.

License Global

June 18, 2024

4 Min Read
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Kidults (teens and adults aged 12 years and over) are fueling growth in the European toy market, while sales to children (aged under 12) are in decline. This is according to the “State of the Toys Consumer: Teens & Adults report” – an analysis of consumers, collectors and fans in the five largest markets in Europe: France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the U.K. (EU5) – published by Circana.

The report reemphasizes key trends impacting the brand licensing market for 2025, presented by License Global at Licensing Expo last month and data gathered from License Global’s Top Brand Licensing Agents 2024 report. Kidult was also a core theme License Global reported when visiting London Toy Fair, Licensing for Retail Day, New York Toy Fair and Spielwarenmesse over the last few months.

Valued at €4.5 billion in 2023, the toy market for teens and adults ages 12 and up has grown by 2.5% since 2022 and now represents 28.5% of total toy sales. According to the report, this growth is set to continue as European markets with an aging population are also seeing a decline in the number of children under 12 (-3% in 10 years), forcing toy brands and retailers to adapt and diversify to meet new challenges and develop new opportunities.

Adults (18+ years) have been the fastest-growing age group in the toy market over the last two years with a 5.5% increase in sales, while adolescents (12-17 years) grew by 3.3%. In sharp contrast, sales for children have fallen significantly since 2021 with spend-per-child also declining. Children under 12 are still the biggest purchasers of toys, however, spending €295/head compared to adolescents (€89/head) and adults (€10/head).

Related:License Global Spotlights Gaming, Fashion and Food Among 2025 Growth Categories

Game on: Serious Board Gamers Drive Toy Market Uplift

Whether driven by nostalgia for games played as kids, inspired by a favorite TV show or “nomad games” that can be played anytime, games and puzzles are winning in terms of top toy categories boosted notably, but not only, by hardcore gamers – members of a club or games café – driving sales value and willing to pay up to €100 for a top-quality game.

Building sets are gaining ground on games and puzzles, thanks to market leader, The LEGO Group, which dominates the category and is the most popular manufacturer among 12+ consumers and collectors. Continuing to delight its huge fan base, including the so-called AFOL – Adult Fans of LEGO – the brand is also able to attract new customers through innovation, with the likes of its Botanical Collection that led to a triple-digit sales uplift from 2019-2023 among 12+ females.

Related:State of Play: Toy Trends from Nuremberg 2024

The Power of Fandom

Licensed toys reached another record high in 2023, according to the report, representing more than 27.8% of total toy sales in EU5. Big franchises like Star Wars, Marvel, DC and Pokémon are all fueling the fandom phenomenon by distributing more content at the cinema and on streaming platforms, while also developing direct-to-consumer channels and social media to engage with keen collectors and fans.

As the largest toy property for those ages 12 and up, Star Wars is unique in the industry with over half of its total sales among that segment, while Pokémon grew its share by refreshing its trading card games and playing the nostalgia card around its 25th anniversary in 2021.

In the U.S., Circana recently reported adults 18 and older have become the most important age group for the industry in the first quarter of this year. Sports fans and collectors were behind much of that growth, a trend not seen in Europe up to now, but possibly an opportunity.

“With a passion for board games, puzzles and collections, a heavy dose of fandom and a touch of nostalgia, it seems that older kids and adults are redefining the toys market,” says Frédérique Tutt, global industry advisor, Toys, Circana. “Despite the increased cost of living, fans of toys and games know what they like and are prepared to spend money on it. To some extent, this is down to consumer groups with deeper pockets who can afford to indulge their passions, but we’re now also seeing a rise in serious toy collectors, fans of pop culture and those who take gaming, puzzling and playing to another level.”

Related:Licensing for Retail Day Unveils Exclusive Retail Insights

The Retail OIutlook

According to Circana’s report, almost half (47%) of all toy sales made to teens and adults ages 12 and over are online. Country-by-country analysis shows in Germany and the U.K., the online share is larger than in-store, while in-store remains strong in the French market.

With Amazon dominating toy market sales, Tutt believes brick-and-mortar retailers are under-trading with this sector of the market and could be doing more to attract their share of wallet.

“For brands, license owners and retailers, there are real opportunities to grow the adults and teens market as a whole, and also increase their share within it, through diversification and by developing in-store shelf space and online ranges targeted at older consumers,” says Tutt.

“The State of the Toys Consumer: Teens & Adults – Europe 5” report is derived from Circana’s European Consumer Panel Toys Consumer 360 (TC360) looking at toy purchases from individuals in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the U.K. The report is available now and also available for the U.S. market.

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License Global

License Global is the leading news source for the brand licensing industry, delivering award-winning editorial content including news, trends, analysis, and special reports about the global consumer product and retail marketplace.

Through its print edition, website, daily e-newsletter and event publications, License Global reaches more than 150,000 executives and professionals in all major markets. The magazine also serves as the official publication for the sector’s trade events, which include Licensing Expo, Brand Licensing Europe, Licensing Expo Japan, Licensing Expo Shanghai and the Licensing Leadership Summit.

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