The sharp rise in sales of puzzles, games and building sets ( widely publicized and extremely logical in these “shelter in place” times) has seen the continued emergence of “kidults” — grownups filled with nostalgia and perhaps seeking out new activities – as a driving force in those categories that was underway even before the pandemic struck.
The crisis has only added fuel to the fire. “In my opinion, some of this growth [in games, puzzles and construction sets] is coming from adult sales,” says Julie Lennett, NPD Group’s leading toy authority. “We’re seeing strong growth in adult puzzles, expensive and more complex LEGO sets, and ‘adult’ games like Cards Against Humanity and Settlers of Catan. Even adults are looking for a way to escape the chaos in their lives and toys can be a great distraction.”
For example, in the UK and Australia, Lego’s Technic Bugatti Chiron and Land Rover Defender construction kits – both of which have more than 2,000 pieces and are priced around the equivalent of US$280 — were among the Top 10 selling products in the games/puzzles/building sets category in the weeks ended March 21 and 29, respectively, according to NPD. And the UK’s John Lewis department store chain said sales of puzzles in the week ended March 29 were higher than during the Christmas holidays and that more than half its stock – including all 1,000-piece versions, which are mostly aimed well beyond younger age groups — was sold.
“Kidults is something that applies to puzzles, because it is something that reminds you of your childhood. In the current situation, it is definitely helping to drive sales,” says Melissa Dragonas, a Product Manager at Ravensburger USA. Indeed, the company’s sales of puzzles rose 370% during the past few weeks, and while children’s products led the category — Disney Collector’s Edition, Villainous, Frozen 2 and Toy Story 4 puzzles were top sellers — adult puzzles “weren’t far behind,” says Dragonas.
The rise in games, puzzles, and building set sales wasn’t limited to one global market. While sales of games and puzzles were up 228% in the U.S. in the week ended March 21, they also skyrocketed in the UK (240%), France (122% for puzzles; 83% for games), and Australia (417%), according to NPD. In the UK, games and puzzles also more than doubled to 21% its share of toys sales in the week ended March 21. In the case of building sets, sales soared in the U.S. (76%), UK (59%) and Australia (155%).
The increase in sales hasn’t been limited to mass merchants and toy stores. Etsy’s sales of puzzles and games were “more stable” in March along with those of bath and beauty and self-care, CEO Josh Silverman told investors. Those sales offset a sharp decline more typical top sellers in March such as jewelry and wedding-related items, the purchases of which were delayed as weddings were postponed, Silverman said.
“We have some games that are moving up in the ranks like Monopoly and Uno for obvious reasons, because these are like comfort food,” says NPD’s Lennett. But whether that trend continues after the coronavirus outbreak abates, “remains to be seen. There is the potential that families rediscover (or discover) the joy that playing family games has on the family. I hope that happens, but we’re in unusual times and I don’t think anyone can predict what families will be doing in a month or six months.”