China's toy market is at a "new normal" with demand growing for trendy and exclusive products, helping companies both at home and abroad offset global headwinds, experts said.
"It is a new normal that Chinese consumers are no longer satisfied with just toys of high quality. Instead, they have higher expectations for more chic and unique toys as well as joyful and immersive purchase experiences," said Lee Ching Yiu, chairman and CEO of Kidsland International Holdings, China's largest toy retailer in terms of market share.
"Significantly, the demand has been particularly robust from the young adult segment, helping dispel the notion that toys are for children only. In fact, young adults are now the new growth drivers of consumer spending in China," he said.
Lee's remarks came shortly after Kidsland brought Fao Schwarz, an iconic international brand with 157 years of history, and opened its first store in China, which covers 2,600 square meters in the China World Mall in Beijing, a shopping district with luxury brands including Louis Vuitton and Burberry.
To meet the fresh appetite of Chinese consumers, Lee said that the store offers many distinctive toys labeled "first time", "the only" and "limited edition".
For instance, the newly opened shop includes China's only Mercedes-Benz electric car model decorated with Swarovski crystals, Schleich's first virtual reality experience area and the first entry of global newborn and baby brand Bunnies By The Bay.
Lee said that 20 percent of its employees are dedicated for user experiences as he wants to build it into a toy kingdom where consumers would feel "flipped".
"Actors dressed as soldiers from Grimm's fairy tales will march in and out of the store welcoming customers, kids playing in the huge dance-on floor piano made famous in the Tom Hanks film Big… all of which make for quality experiences," he added.
Liang Mei, head of the China Toy and Juvenile Products Association, said: "Quality experiential retail has become a new trend for China's toy industry. Kidsland's in-time response is a positive example of how traditional toy retailers can renovate their businesses."
Kidsland, founded in 2001, is also China's largest toy distributor and is best known for its successful introduction of world-famous Lego toys in the Chinese market.
"The introduction of Fao Schwarz reflects our strong confidence in the nation's toy market. It is also a boost to our development strategy with international brands," said Zhong Mei, managing director of Kidsland's business in China.
Currently, a string of global toy retailers are facing downturns, epitomized by leading international brand Toys R Us filing for bankruptcy in the United States.
In contrast, China's toy market has continued to boom with domestic retail sales of toy products raking in 70.5 billion yuan ($10.1 billion) last year, according to a CTJPA report.
By 2018, the company has businesses in over 60 cities as a whole, with 257 independent stores in 44 cities, 931 distributors and more than 3,000 additional points-of-sale.
However, CTJPA also reported that the market is facing new headwinds with the advent of online shopping. Online sales accounted for 28.7 percent of the total toy revenue last year, it said.
In the wake of the online retail wave, Zhong added that Kidsland plans to expand its online sales to around 20 to 25 percent of the firm's total business.