1. Gender labelling and stereotyping – one of the biggest changes with the toy consumer is the changing attitudes to gender labelling and stereotyping. Ten years ago it was normal to refer to toys as being for ‘Boys’ or ‘Girls’, but consumers (or at least the media who claim to represent consumers) demanded the removal of these labels so that children could choose for themselves what toys they wanted to play with. The reality is still that the archetypal ‘boy targeted’ toy is still bought overwhelmingly for boys, and the archetypal ‘girl targeted’ toy still bought primarily for girls. E.g. if any media or social media activist tried to claim that Barbie is not bought predominantly for girls they would be misguided at best. But what has undoubtedly changed is the limitations on what girls and boys might want or can do, and perhaps Barbie’s move towards more diversity and wider career choices is the most potent symbol of that change. We have to also acknowledge that while things have undoubtedly changed, the majority of parents today were children themselves in different times and to a greater or lesser degree bring the prevailing attitudes of their own childhoods to gender and play with them into the future, so we are always tend to be a generation behind to some extent in fully adapting to new social and cultural norms.
2. Consumer renewal – those of us who have been in the toy business for some time will tend to quickly spot trends and toy themes coming back again. There are several reasons for this, not least of being that kids haven’t changed that fundamentally over time. The world around them may be quite different and is certainly more tech heavy versus previous generations, but what is fun has not changed that fundamentally. But the biggest reason for successful trends and themes coming back around is that a deeply embedded factor in the toy industry is that we get a new consumer group every three years or so. So, if we reach saturation or boredom point with a toy range or trend, three years later that consumer has moved on and a new consumer enters the market for toys. Therefore, in a sense, the toy consumer is always and eternally changing on an ongoing basis!
3. Globally there is a major trend towards the gig economy and home working – whereas in previous generations, the predominant family circumstance was a parent (or maybe both) who worked away all day for 5 days per week, and one staying at home either full time or part time. This has evolved over time in conjunction with opportunities opened up by the internet. It is as easy to find remote work from around the world as in your own country these days, and even major corporate companies seem to have ever more flexible working circumstances on offer to staff. On a recent project with a global company, one client was working at the head office in Europe, one was working from home in Asia and another was doing a bit of both! Clearly this has implications for toy purchase and usage, as parents who are at home more will inevitably end up blurring the edges between work and home life to a greater degree than those who are stuck in an office until official work finish time which we should see as an opportunity for more toy usage.