4 minute read


Moneeba Baloch Moneeba Baloch is consumer insights director at Kantar, a leading data, insights and consulting company which helps clients understand people and inspire growth. She also has previous experience working for The NPD Group in the UK.

Growing grandparents’ toy spend

With the cost of living on the rise and families starting to feel the pinch, Moneeba explores how grandparents are helping out when it comes to treating the kids.

Official data from the Office for National Statistics shows that inflation soared at its fastest rate for 30 years in February. As high street prices rise, almost 60% of households are now worried about spiraling costs and, as parents’ budgets are squeezed, they may spend less on toys. However, rather than families choosing to go without, we are seeing grandparents stepping in to help plug the gap. If retailers and manufacturers want to protect their share of wallet in the coming months, then understanding this key demographic and what drives its purchase choices is vital.

Put grandparents front and centre

First, a quick look at the numbers. Notwithstanding the current inflation landscape, our latest data shows that toy sales have been growing - total sales hit £5.8b over the year to 6th February 2022. Sales in physical stores have been boosted by 23% since this time last year to the tune of £2.9b in total, while online sales reached £2.3b and now account for 44% of total toy sales. We believe that the growth in physical stores is down to grandparents, who are driving much of the return to the tills.

Grandparents were responsible for over a third of physical toy sales, with a 37% market share which equates to over £1b worth of toy purchases, and their contribution to the market only looks set to grow. While their spend remains lower than it was pre-pandemic, down by 14% compared with two years ago, it is up by 19% compared to the same period in 2020/21. We’ve also seen over 400,000 more grandparents shopping for toys than this time last year when we were in lockdown. This suggests that, after months of restrictions, the older members of the family are getting back to the high street and are eager to make up for lost time. So how can retailers and manufacturers win them over?

Planning the in-store experience

For retailers, the first essential step is getting the instore offer right to attract older shoppers. While some have embraced online shopping, for many, the experience of shopping in-person with their grandchildren is important, especially as they make up for quality time lost during the pandemic.

It is also key to understand the emotion of toy buying for grandparents. Many of us remember the buzz of being taken into a shop by a relative to pick out a treat, but it’s important to remember that the enjoyment extends both ways – a toy store is the perfect place for grandparents to show their grandchildren just how special they are.

As ever, having the right product range and positioning on shelf will be key to grabbing attention. Special placement of toys that span the generations could encourage a nostalgic purchase. Similarly, placing interactive toys and games on the shop floor will make the experience fun at a time when families are trying to watch their pennies during days out.

In the data period to early February 2022, grandparents favoured vehicle, character and playset toys. Games, puzzles and construction toys were also popular to keep children engaged while schools were closed. These choices allowed grandparents and children to play and spend quality time together. Grandparents looking ahead to summer childcare duties will be looking for ways to keep children entertained and active too, so outdoor toys will play a key role over the coming months.

Catch the early birds

Typically, grandparents like to buy ahead of time for special occasions – sometimes by several months. Sales figures from 2021 show that October was the key period for grandparents doing their Christmas toy shopping, and this pattern extends to other holiday periods like Easter and Halloween too.

A helping hand

As high streets recover from a steep decline in spend during the worst days of the pandemic, they are now facing yet more challenges as inflation reaches unprecedented levels. Grandparents will help to support parents as they feel these financial pressures. High street retailers who shape their product strategies and shop floor with grandparents in mind will be best placed to get this vital demographic through their doors and feel the benefit at their tills.