Toy Stockpiling: The Reality Of Kids & Toys In The Current Age…
Going back in time, toys were like gold to children – each individual toy was to be savored, treasured and protected from the grabbing hands of siblings and friends. Because in those days the majority of children were lucky to get more than a handful of toys given to them at Christmas, birthdays and throughout the year.
One of the major shifts I’ve seen in my time in the toy industry (based on conducting research with kids in the late 1990s through to today) is the huge proliferation of children owning dozens, or often literally hundreds of toys. This isn’t by the way subjective or just my opinion – during the course of dozens of research projects, we’ve visited parents and kids in their homes, and had the parents tour us through the toy chests and bedrooms of their children. Typically, by the time a child reaches the point of transition from child to ‘tween’, they have accumulated at least a dozen or more ‘major’ toys as presents from birthdays and Christmas, plus a staggering amount of smaller toy products.
For instance, to give you a couple of examples, one consumer home we visited had a number of major feature Toys inc. car racing sets, train sets, electronic devices, vast construction toy displays, plus an entire wardrobe stacked from top to bottom with toys – there must literally have been hundreds of individual toys in that wardrobe – and that isn’t untypical of what we see.
One of the major observations our company points out to those outsiders who try to understand the toy industry is that price points for each distinct spec/category of toys have not increased dramatically in a couple of decades. I have written here before about seeing an advert from the 1980′s for a popular board game which had more or less the same retail price as the current day version does, despite nearly 30 years of inflation!
The reality is our industry has become extremely efficient at bashing out great products at a really sharp price, and as such over time we have moved the consumer paradigm from being primarily about toys to be cherished and valued to products at an impulse cost which encourages gifting, collecting and increasingly stretched focus for play time on each individual toy.
This clearly doesn’t apply to the higher priced products such as kids tablets, interactive toys such as Furby, and high end construction/hobby sets, which still have hero level status…but the reality outside of those heroes is that to spend $€£ 5-10 on a gift these days is nothing – regardless of recessions and austerity – thus the phenomena of toy stockpiling has gathered pace.
The obvious implication of this is that inevitably the amount of time that kids are actually playing with each secondary (non hero) toy has to be significantly less). In fact many are played with at the point of receiving, and then forgotten. Ask any parent what happens when they re-organise/move round their child’s bedroom – normally parents tell us that their kids suddenly find toys they’d forgotten they owned, which then become the focus of a brief intensive play period before the toy in question falls back into obscurity.
The ultimate and over riding implication of this though is hugely positive for the toy industry – it’s very unlikely that we can actually saturate our market from a macro perspective. Children will continue to receive toys throughout their childhoods, with their level of ownership based more on occasion driven gifting than on the capacity of their toy storage!
Even better, because children comparatively quickly move through toy category preferences as they age, they will often clear out their younger or ‘baby-ish’ toys to make room for the new stuff which is more appealing at their current age.
Moreover, while we may see continuing competitive pressure over time from hot electronic gadgets and gimmicks from outside the toy industry, this really only impacts the hero level toy products, not those products at $£€20 or less!
So while toy stockpiling may not be leading to increased playing with our products, it is nevertheless a trend which leads to ongoing sales opportunity if we get the right products, brands, marketing and retail listings in place!
P.S. Final caveat – this article refers to ‘stocking fillers’, birthday party gifts and supplementary products only – we’re actually seeing increasing signs of focused play time with hero presents at much higher price points i.e. kids tablets etc., more on this in future articles…