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Brief Published: 25 Mar 2020

Quarantined Consumers Discover Puzzles


“Zen enablers for all ages” is one of the trends discussed in our Toy Fair New York 2020 report. Building on the adult colouring-book craze, at last month’s expo we noted that analogue toy-aisle products ranging from jigsaw puzzles to Lego and play dough are extending into the self-care category. So it’s not surprising that homebound consumers are now scooping up puzzles, which work not only as a non-screen family bonding activity but also as a mindful solo pastime.

The Puzzle Warehouse, a large specialist retailer in St. Louis, has reported “beyond Christmas volume”, and is now selling as many as 10,000 jigsaw puzzles a day, versus 1,000 normally. US puzzle start-up Jiggy reports sales in the first half of March jumped 150% compared with the first half of February. For the week ending on March 14, the majority of increases in US toy sales stemmed from the games and puzzles category (NPD Group).

Puzzles and other calming games or toys have particular appeal for Tech Tamers (a cohort discussed in Beyond Burnout: Managing Millennial Stress), or overtaxed millennials looking to digitally detox. Puzzle players find the activity lowers the stress hormone cortisol and increases endorphins, according to Dr Vaile Wright, director of clinical research and quality at the American Psychological Association.

The Puzzle Warehouse told The Washington Post that millennials seeking to unplug have become more frequent customers over the past year or two. In response to this younger fan base, new brands like Jiggy and NYC-based Piecework are crafting millennial-aesthetic puzzles, positioning them as “a means to slow down, connect and live in the present,” as Piecework’s website says. 

Quarantines will fuel this new appreciation for slow-going, surprisingly satisfying analogue activities – still a space with plenty of untapped potential for brands.