Retro Toys – Return of the past

  • More retro remakes and updates on shelves than ever before
  • Traditional board games are being given tech makeovers
  • Generation Z and Millennials embracing analogue
  • Kidult toy market accounts for 14% of total toy sales in the UK


There have been plenty of new toys announced for 2019 yet many are facing competition from playthings of the past. Nostalgia for the 80’s and 90’s is pushing millennial parents toward toys they remember from their own childhood.

Frederique Tutt, Global Industry Analyst for the NPD Group adds “Manufacturers bring back brands from the past hoping to capitalise on previous generations and recruit new kids using brand awareness. Polly Pocket sales for example are up +150% so far this year compared to last and Rubik, whilst a more modest +6%, up isn’t bad for a brand that’s been around for 45 years”.

Amongst other retro brands populating the shelves of the UK’s largest toy retailer include Tamagotchi, Retro mini-arcade machines, Tree Tots, My Little Pony, Spirograph, Crayola, StickleBricks and Stretch Armstrong.

Even this year’s TV adverts are cashing in on the nostalgia trend, Mattel has one featuring the legend John Goodman remembering his childhood and the Argos ad with a dad and his daughter banging their drum kits and centres around the retailers push of their “Book of Dreams” – that’s the catalogue which nearly disappeared a few years back but is now being celebrated due to popular demand.

“These retro toy lines have largely stayed true to their original format and parents are keen to introduce kids to a more analogue way to play. Says Juliet Ward, Head of Toy Trading at Argos adding “The memories these toys can invoke and the conversations they can start across generations are also a driver behind their resurgence in popularity”.

“There’s a real revival of all things retro right now and we’re seeing classic toys gaining popularity alongside more modern offerings” Says Peter Jenkinson, Toy Expert.

These re-releases are turning toy chests into a nostalgia fest this year. Their ride in popularity embraced by Novotel hotels across the UK this year who installed a number of retro toys in their family spaces across the UK.

“For us it was all about getting families to connect, get talking and playing together. A more analogue approach in our dedicated play spaces has resulted in guests feeling inspired to take time together, they feel prompted by the visibility of the toys and the  historic knowledge of the retro toys tapping into their happy childhood memories. The result is that we are seeing more families making time to play together and the feedback from guests of all ages has been really positive.” said Stephanie Rowe, Head of Marketing.

Jason Bradbury, UK Tech face and retro gaming aficionado tells us “The new-retro in toys and games is vindication that our rose-tinted childhoods of the 70s 80s and 90s hold up! From recreations of iconic 8-bit console and arcade machines to toys we remember so fondly from under the tree, there’s plenty of stuff from yesteryear on offer right now.”

The definitive retro Xmas toy list as chosen by the Toyologist and his group of over 100 junior “Toyminator” toy testers:

  1. Furby
  2. My Little Pony
  3. Polly Pockets
  4. Rubik
  5. Spirograph
  6. Sticklebricks
  7. Crayola
  8. Retro Mini Arcades
  9. Stretch Armstrong
  10. Tree Tots
  11. Tamagotchi
  12. Slinky

About Peter Jenkinson

Toyologist Pete Jenkinson regularly writes about toys in national newspapers like The Sun and The Mail. This super-dad has an unmatched passion and dedication for trying and testing the latest, coolest and most interesting offerings from the world of toys.

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