It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment that geekdom became mainstream. It was certainly a gradual process stemming largely from Marvel’s slate of comic book films becoming the highest grossing force in cinema, a fire which was fuelled by the infinitely collectable Funko Pop! vinyl figures that have taken retail by storm.
Meanwhile, nostalgia was becoming a growing force in the retail sector. As our lives become increasingly governed by technology and our entertainment and communications are delivered through LCD screens, adults everywhere are looking back fondly to the simpler days of their childhoods, and paying good money for the privilege.
This is where the ‘Kidult’ market comes in. Last week, national chain Smyths Toys announced that they were bringing a ‘Big Kids Aisle’ to their flagship London store, identifying a new niche that can be marketed towards.
However, the kidult market is nothing to new to nation’s indies, who have long provided for big kids, with nostalgic products and pop culture memorabilia.
"Whirligig often sells to what we describe as ‘big children’ – and being part of that category ourselves is a great start," commented Peter Allinson of Whirligig Toys.
"Our range of Timberkits wooden automata are a great example – designed for 9-90 year olds, and with different levels of ability, the Drummer is usually bought for a big child – and if not, usually so that the parents can play with it whilst they are ‘helping their child complete it’ – we always see through them!"
These wholesome and family-oriented products cross generations with their appeal, encouraging older customers to tap into their inner child.
"Nostalgia is always important as well," continues Allinson. "We stock many toys and games that were popular when we were children ourselves – even though the toys are old fashioned, the children are brand new and why not play a game that you loved when you were a child. Amazing Robot, Beetle and Catchem from House of Marbles are great examples."
Dr. Wendy Hamilton of Grasshopper Toys shares Allinson’s enthusiasm for the wider toy market, saying: "The kidult market is thriving for us. We cater via our science website www.curiousminds.co.uk, but they also buy a lot of the high end lego kits from us."
"It’s a fantastic development," continues Hamilton. "Play should be life-long and we’re learning right until our last breath, why not have toys for adults too?"
However, some see this lucrative niche as the domain of indies and were none too enthused at Smyths jumping on the bandwagon.
"The retail chains are now jumping onto this because they know it works – simple as that," says Mitch Brown, owner of pop culture hub, Darth’s Hutt.
"More and more of the general public are getting into ‘Pop Culture’ and collectables and unfortunately as I have found out the hard way the multinationals have the buying power and their shops are positioned in prime spots, so they will attract the footfall, not only looking for goodies for their children but knowing that they could get their own geeky goodies in one store."
Are you an indie retailer with an opinion on this or other pressing issues in the toy market? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.