Grandparents spend less on toys and pay attention to deals, study shows

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Grandparents favour well-known brands

Grandparents favour well-known brands

Toy purchases made by grandparents in 2011, and in the first half of 2012, are declining, latest research from The NPD Group reveals. 

According to The NPD Group’s data from January to June 2012, while the overall UK toy market was only down by 1%, toy purchases made by grandparents declined by 16% compared to the same time period last year; this follows an 8% drop in 2011. 

In the first six months of 2012, the UK toy market lost purchases from 300,000 grandparents, compared to the same time period in 2011. Based on the 7.9m grandparents who buy toys, this loss equals a 3% decrease, said researchers. And those grandparents that bought toys spent on average 13% less than for the same time period in 2011.

Frederique Tutt, global industry expert for toys at The NPD Group, said: “Grandparents play a key role in the UK toy market, but they have been spending progressively less on toys since the beginning of the squeeze on consumer spending. Last Christmas grandparents recorded a four-year low in terms of spending on toys. In 2011, grandparents spent £218m on toys for Christmas, compared to £251m in 2010. This downward trend could be reinforced again this year.”

Looking at overall toy purchases in Europe, those made by grandparents represent about a quarter of total toy sales at Christmas (24%). French grandparents are the most generous, representing 31% of total Christmas toy sales compared to a much lower 22% in the UK, said The NPD Group.

Tutt said: “It is surprising the UK, which is the largest toy market in Europe, is in the bottom two of our European Index for grandparent spend on toys at Christmas, behind France, Germany and Italy.”

Research also suggests grandparents are likely to buy their Christmas gifts later this year. In 2011, The NPD Group noticed a shift amongst grandparents from early buying in October to late buying in December. In 2010, less than half of their toy purchases were made in December (48%) against 60% in December 2011. A similar trend was reported for purchases by parents, although this was less marked. 

Tutt said: “Although UK toy sales are highly driven by promotions, we have seen consumers – and more particularly grandparents – paying more attention to deals and offers instead of immediately buying the items on their grandchildren’s wish list. In 2011, no less than 45% of their Christmas purchases were made on promotion as opposed to only 35% the previous year.”

At Christmas time, grandparents tend to prefer classic categories such as infant and pre-school toys, vehicles and building sets, said researchers. They are also slightly biased towards traditional and trans-generational brands, in other words, those they remember from their own childhood or that of their children. 

Brands such as Lego, Disney Princess and Barbie remain their favourites, regardless of emerging trends in toys. These brands are especially valued by the older generation as synonymous of quality and sustainability; values they cherish and see relevant for the new generation of kids, said The NPD Group.