how the big kids beat Blue Monday

From goods to good times – how the big kids beat Blue Monday

It’s cold and gloomy outside, the last of the chocolate coins have been well and truly polished off (and your New Year’s resolutions have suffered for it) – it could only be Monday 15 January, the mid-month milestone otherwise known as ‘Blue Monday’.

Named by psychologist and happiness coach Dr Cliff Arnall[1] 13 years ago, the term was originally conceived to shine a light on January’s darkest hour, symbolising a fresh start for the year ahead; things can only better, after all. Yet instead, Blue Monday now represents the things we dislike most about the first month of 2018: freezing temperatures, no holiday around the corner, and half a month left until pay day.

New kids on the block

While shoppers might be feeling more frugal than festive, Blue Monday isn’t entirely immune to the warm and fuzzy. Retailers are tapping into a new type of consumer with an emotional attachment to their shopping baskets… Enter the ‘kidults’. This relatively new audience of adult ‘playsumers’ aren’t just your regular zorbing, happy-go-lucky kind of bunch either. Now worth an estimated £300 million per year, the kidult movement is nostalgia-driven activity designed to nurture the child within, and it’s growing fast.

Barclaycard research revealed that 72% of consumers describe themselves as ‘big kids’, with seven in 10 buying children’s toys for themselves and their friends at such a rate that the market is growing three times faster than the mainstream toy sector.

Barclaycard and the Big Kids Aisle

For kidults across the nation, a toy shop in January is most definitely the place to be. To help banish the Blue Monday blues, Barclaycard has partnered with Smyths Toys to offer customers an experience they won’t forget. For a limited time only, the ‘Big Kids Aisle’ is taking consumers on a trip down memory lane, and offering the chance for them to relive their favourite pastimes with toys including Lego, Pony Cycles and Cozmo the robot.

By highlighting the popularity of kidulting (even during the glummest of months), Barclaycard and the toy retailer hope to blaze a trail for other businesses – helping them rekindle fond memories for their customers.

Retail therapy

Interestingly, the kidulting trend also complements the raised awareness around wellness. According to psychologists, channelling your younger self is encouraged as part of a mental health detox[2] (you’ll find colouring books among the bestsellers in Waterstones). This as a form of mindfulness can help relieve the stresses of everyday life, prevent loneliness, improve memory and combat depression – cuddly toys can even help ease anxiety[3].

But what are these kidults filling their baskets with? From retro board games and puzzles to building sets and comic book action figures – retailers continue to stock their shelves to satisfy this new segment of sentimental consumers; whether it’s Tamagotchi for the techie fans or Teddy Ruxpin for the classic bear collectors.

Mermaids vs. zombies

With colouring books, cuddly toys and board games ranking among the top three most popular choices for play-seekers, the fun doesn’t stop there. Together with physical items, kidults are ramping up their search for more immersive experiences to write home about – and this goes beyond your standard game of Jenga® Giant™. The latest kidulting trends now have something for everyone wishing to nurture their inner child. Here’s just few examples of how the nation’s playsumers intend to kick off 2018…

Mermaid classes – While you may have received a mermaid blanket for Christmas, you may not have heard of the swim schools dedicated to ‘professional’ mermaid training. With academies dotted across the nation, instructors promise a magical, mythical experience, whereby students are taught how to swim with a fin, hold their breath underwater (and of course practice mermaid safety).

Wine and paint nights – Increasingly popular, whether for birthdays, team building or those looking to unleash their inner artist, wine and paint nights offer visitors the dual benefit of a safe creative space, with a glass or two to enjoy post masterpiece. In fact, kidults are getting crafty all over the UK, with studios and cafes offering ceramic painting, jewellery making, tote bag printing and penguin piñata building (because why not?).

Zombie experiences – For the ‘bigger’ kidults among us (and not for the faint of heart), post-apocalyptic ‘zombie survival’ experiences are proving popular. Based within ‘abandoned’ locations including old factories and even a disused shopping centre, survivors are subject to an adrenaline-fuelled ordeal as they battle for survival at the hands of the undead (AKA a hoard of professional horror actors).

Sparking the experience economy

One thing that lives at the heart of the latest kidulting trends? The experience factor. Whether it’s The Crystal Maze LIVE or simply a trip to the local cinema – consumers are spending their hard-earned cash on more memorable, immersive activities. In 2017, this drove overall entertainment spend up 10.2% year-on-year[4]. But is ‘kidulting’ just a phase, or will its nostalgic undertones always make it futureproof? With its mental health benefits and 56% of adults admitting to missing their favourite toys and games – plus a third keen to attend more ‘big kid’ events – the state of play certainly looks bright.