Retro toy revival lets parents take their kids back to the future

Eighties and '90s kids are rejoicing as toy retailers cater to nostalgia by bringing back classic toys like Rubik's Cubes and Slinkys

09 December 2018 - 00:00 By NIVASHNI NAIR
Zoe Grove learns to solve a Rubik's Cube with her father Leon Grove.
Zoe Grove learns to solve a Rubik's Cube with her father Leon Grove.
Image: Jackie Clausen

Living out the plot of a Christmas movie, Durban mother Rozann Naicker has been on the hunt for one of this year's highly sought-after toys: the Tamagotchi.

No, you didn't read that wrong - and this story is not a re-print from the mid-1990s. The Tamagotchi is back, along with a host of other retro toys.

During her search for the '90s pocket pet for her nine-year-old daughter, Naicker, 33, bought herself an old-school handheld game because it took her back to her arcade-game-playing days at the local tuck shop.

Eighties and '90s kids are rejoicing as toy retailers are catering to nostalgia by going back in time to bring this year's must-haves - the Tamagotchi, classic TV games, the Rubik's Cube, Slinkys and even a remake of PlayStation 1.

The Tamagotchi.
The Tamagotchi.
Image: Supplied

Globally, retro toys have been described as this year's biggest Christmas joy as parents relive their childhood through their children.

Naicker wants her daughter, Cyannah, to experience the same excitement and responsibility she had when she owned a Tamagotchi.

"I grew up in the era when Tamagotchis were an instant hit. I loved it and I want my daughter to share the same joy of owning one," she said.

Game's marketing manager, Elisabeth Ric Hansen, told the Sunday Times that retro toys appealed to parents because they engendered a nostalgic feeling in an age in which technology was dominant.

"These products are hybrid in nature and can be considered a toy with technological features, which appeals to kids today, as well as to their parents. These products come in at an affordable price point - so consumers get bang for their bucks."

While other children will receive the latest game consoles and new tech toys, 13-year-old Elijah Maharaj is set to find a Walkman under the Christmas tree.

"He actually came across his dad's collection of old cassettes and was fascinated by it, so we explained how it works. He immediately asked if he could get a cassette player," said his mother, Sudhira Maharaj.

Maharaj recently bought Elijah a mini arcade machine.

"The minute I saw the mini arcade machine, memories of my childhood came flooding back. Some of the favourites were Road Fighter, Circus Circus and Mario Brothers. My husband's all-time favourite still is Snow Bros."

Online retailer Takealot.com has recorded a huge demand for retro gaming this festive season.

"The Nintendo Classic Mini Console boasting retro games like Super Mario Bros and Donkey Kong, was released earlier this year and has flown off our virtual shelves. PlayStation is also releasing a remake of the PlayStation 1 just in time for Christmas and gamers can't get enough, with pre-orders streaming in," Takealot.com chief marketing officer Julie-Anne Walsh said.

Takealot.com does not believe that retro toys ever went away.

"Every year our bestselling toys are the more traditional, long-established brands like Lego and Barbie, which have been firm favourites for generations. The products might differ year on year but the brand remains the same.

"We also see year-round demand for old-school superhero products like Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," Walsh said.

Other old favourites include swingball, and board games such as Monopoly and Cluedo.

"Parents are buying toys for their children that have sentimental value for them too. These toys are also just really good, clean fun. It's a win-win," Walsh said.

Natasha Govender of Puzzle Unlimited, a toy stall that has been operating in Durban's Stables Lifestyle Market for 27 years, said many of her customers want to relive their childhood memories with their own kids.

She has sold more than 100 pocket pets in the last two months. "The majority were sold to adults."

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