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Playful profits: Fandom and nostalgia fuel growth of teens and adults’ €4.5bn toy market in Europe

Playful profits: Fandom and nostalgia fuel growth of teens and adults’ €4.5bn toy market in Europe

Teens and adults aged 12+ years (sometimes named ‘kidults’) are fuelling growth in the European toy market, while sales to children (<12 years) are in decline. This is according to the State of the toys consumer: Teens & Adults report – an analysis of 12+ consumers, collectors and fans in the five largest markets in Europe, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK (EU5) – published by Circana, the leading advisor on consumer complexity. 

Valued at €4.5 billion in 2023, the toy market for teens and adults aged 12+ years has grown by 2.5% since 2022 and now represents 28.5% of total toy sales. This growth is set to continue as European markets with an ageing 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).

Game on: Serious board gamers drive toy market uplift 

Whether driven by nostalgia for games played as kids, inspired by a favourite TV show or ‘nomad games’ that can be taken anyway anytime, Games & Puzzles are winning in terms of top toy categories boosted notably, but not only, by hard core 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 & Puzzles, thanks to market leader, The LEGO Group who 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. 

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 fuelling 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 aged 12+, Star Wars is unique in the industry with over half of its total sales among those aged 12+ years, while Pokémon grew its share by refreshing its trading card games and playing the nostalgia card around its 25th anniversary in 2021. 

In the US, Circana recently reported that adults aged 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 we are not yet seeing in Europe up to now, but possibly an opportunity.

Frédérique Tutt, Global Industry Advisor for Toys at Circana, comments: “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.

“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.”

The retail outlook

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

With Amazon dominating toy market sales, Frédérique Tutt believes that bricks 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.”

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 UK. The report is available now and is also available for the US market.

About The Author

Rebecca Ash

Rebecca is the Editorial Director at Total Licensing Ltd. She can be reached at

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