'We're all just big kids': Why interior toy stores are seeing more adult gifts this Christmas | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'We're all just big kids': Why interior toy stores are seeing more adult gifts this Christmas

Speks, popular for all age.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK: Speks
November 29, 2020 - 7:00 AM

The demand from adults for popular toy store staples such as jigsaw puzzles and board games grew dramatically at the beginning of the pandemic and now with Christmas just four weeks away, there's a long list of other toys adults are snapping up for themselves.

Diamond Dotz and Speks to name just two.

Speks are magnetic ball bearings that can be used to build pretty much anything, while Diamond Dotz is essentially a modern-day version of painting by numbers.

Vernon Teach and Learn store owner Lynella Henke said the constant theme throughout 2020 has been toys that help with stress.

"We've never sold so many Rubik's cubes," Henke said. "(Anything) that people can do at home to take their mind off what's really going on."

The store has also seen a huge surge in sales of adult board games.

Speak to any toy store in the Interior and they'll all say they've sold at least double the number of jigsaw puzzles to adults since the pandemic began.

A huge Diamond Dotz fan herself, Henke said plenty of adults come into her store for them. While Speks was released last year, Henke said the huge upturn in sales came this year, with the magnet balls fitting into a popular trend of desk size stress and fidget toys.

Penticton's Sirius Science and Nature manager Jesse Doucette says there been a surge of what he calls "tactile" toys.

"Things that you feel or you touch or have some sort of feedback to them or have magnets in them," he said.

Doucette said customers regularly tell him they need something to distract themselves with and handy sized desk gadgets that are quick and easy to play with are popular with adults.

But adults are also buying more surprising toys.

"Putty is really popular this year, (and) Slime," he said. "It's pretty typical for eight to ten-year-old boys and girls to like Slime and putty but it's pretty atypical for adults to like it too."

He assumes adults are buying it for relaxation purposes but says he generally doesn't ask.

While slime and putty may not be thought of as for adults, toy company Hasbro has just introduced adult Play-Doh with varieties that smell like lattes, fresh-cut grass and smoked meats.

In Kamloops, Tumbleweed Toys owner Vanessa Gammel says she sells an aromatherapy line of putty, that comes in different fragrances for different moods.

Gammel said the trend that started at the beginning of the pandemic has remained throughout with painting by numbers, board games and jigsaws selling in much higher volumes than before. Diamond Dotz is also a top seller.

Gammel said it's hard to know what percentage of toys sold are for adults or for children, but many customers openly said the toys are for themselves. Her sentiment is echoed by the other toy stores and she scoffs at the suggestion there could be a stigma attached.

It's difficult to find pandemic era statistics but a 2016 study in the U.K. found that one in 11 of all toys sold in the country was bought by an adult for themselves. A follow-up study found in 2018 that almost half of British adults have bought children’s toys for themselves.

"We're all just big kids," Henke said. "It's always been acceptable to come in and buy a toy (for yourself)."

Vernon's Teeter Totter Toys owner Lynne Taylor said along with adults buying toys for themselves, a common practice is adults buying toys for their kids based on what they like. 

"Sometimes we have to talk them out of that," she said.

Her store has also been inundated with shoppers snapping up board games and jigsaw puzzles, but she did recently have an adult purchase something for themselves that she hadn't seen in nearly 25 years of owning the business: A six-foot-long white stuffed tiger. The adult customer said they would put it on their passenger seat.

Diplomatically, Taylor described the purchase as "unusual."

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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