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40-plus: the new watchword for toys

The world's toy industry is discovering older adults as a promising market, both for sophisticated games and for nostalgic amusements.

india Updated: Feb 01, 2007 18:48 IST
DPA

Following the example of console maker Nintendo, the world toy industry is discovering older adults as a promising market, both for sophisticated games and for nostalgic amusements.

Nintendo is to have a stand at the February 1-6 Nuremberg Toy Fair in Germany,its first attendance for four years, as it reaches out to the European toy retailers who use the expo to spot trends.

The company's German chief, Bernd Fakesch, says the Japan-based video gaming company has realised its best prospects for growth are among groups who have so far not played in significant numbers, for example older adults.

That assessment also reflects the ageing of western societies, particularly in Europe, where birth rates are low. One of the watchwords for the toy industry at this year's fair is "40 plus".

The way the industry sees it, older people do visit toy departments at stores, even if only to buy gifts, and often end up buying items for themselves. The challenge is to extend that appeal.

German women, for example, often remain interested in making decorative items for the home, so do-it-yourself kits to make gifts or candle-holders could appeal to both girls and the 40-plus woman.

Werner Lenzen, a market researcher, explains that more than half of Germany's population is over 40, but only eight percent of toy sales, mainly in the form of old-fashioned model trains, playing cards and the like, are to that age group.

While Germany is Europe's biggest toy market, it also has the continent's most sluggish growth rates for toy sales.

The Toy Fair, the world's biggest toy show, will boast more than 60,000 new products from round the world this week. The world's principal manufacturers of toys are based in China and Hong Kong.

The fair's chief organiser, Ernst Kick, says an additional trend is a resurgence of gender-oriented children's toys.

"The big manufacturers say, boys will be boys. Sales of construction toys for boys are rising sharply," said Kick. "Adventure games and rough stuff appeal to boys' newly awakened curiosity. I see boys wanting compasses and gadgets to measure distances."

Among girls, interest in princesses and fairies remains unshakeable.

At the trade fair, electronic features in young children's toys are no longer news: buyers do not ask if products are electronic, but how good the electronics are.

Figures released in Berlin also indicate that the appeal of video games to women is growing, led by the availability of games that can be downloaded to and played on mobile phones.

Bitkom, a trade body for the German electronics industry, said video-game sales in Germany rose 13 percent last year to a record 1.8 billion euros, including 54 million euros for mobile phone games.

More than one third of the people downloading the mobile games were women.