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Comment: 'Kidults' are increasingly dominant consumers says Andi Grant of Global Display

There is a new syndrome. Some call it the Peter Pan syndrome, or Re-Juvenescence, or simply Kidulthood - and it's an epidemic. We are living longer, surviving once incurable diseases and redefining our middle age. Yet it seems we have no desire to grow old gracefully.

This is not about looking youthful however. In today's social media and selfie driven world that is almost a given. It is a much more attitudinal trend, in the way we act. We all it seems are behaving more like kids: #KIDULTS #YOLO.

As we seek to escape our realities, full of economic, environmental and terrorist fears we ask ourselves 'Why can't we just have fun?'

There appears to be a generation (although it's a cross generational phenomenon - age is just a number) that is trying to balance the onslaught of unimaginable levels of technology with the threat of climate change and social unrest. In trying to escape these 21st Century troubles we are retreating to the safety of childhood, questioning authority and expectations, and rediscovering the very art of discovery itself.

The reasons are varied. They include issues such as rising house prices, which mean kids are living with parents for longer as they are unable to afford a home of their own, and where the natural order of parenting gives little reasons for these kidults to grow up and take responsibility.

This is combined with some key events of the past decade where we have seen an increased risk of three potentially disastrous catastrophes. Environmental issues and climate change are constant buzzwords in daily life. Social unrest combines with civil wars and terrorism (which thanks to 24 hour media access is impossible to escape) and finally the Western world is still feeling the effects of the economic troubles which continue nearly 8 years after the recession of 2008. Is it any wonder we all just want to get back under the safety of our duvets?

Brands and retailers are responding to this retreat to childhood. In the UK alone there have been 10m adult colouring books sold in the last two years whilst Playzone (a kids adventure centre) hosts ‘Adult only’ evenings. Ladybird has released a range of satirical books, styled like their childrens books but with adult themes such as 'the hipster' and 'the mid-life crisis'.

In fashion the trend has been to dress children in ever more mature ‘mini-me’ styles. In contrast adults are casting off serious clothing in favour of Disney emblazoned jumpers. The catwalks for 2016 featured clashing colours and oversized clothing, along with products inspired by toys such as the Lego Clutch bag.

For retailers and brands looking to capitalise on this new found thirst for childhood please do not be afraid, it does not mean stores have to turn into giant playgrounds. This is much more about attitude than appearance. Seeking out memorable experiences and being entertained can still be achieved with both style and maturity.

Architecturally, it invites exploration into spaces which offer surprise or unexpected details, requiring investigation and interaction both physically and intellectually. Be warned though: interaction through digital screens alone is not enough - when everyone has a touch screen in their pocket where is the fun in using these in-store?

Hidden details, elements that are not immediately obvious, can be very appealing. Examples could be drawers that when opened reveal a secret message inside, perhaps one that offers a discount at the till point or graphical illusions that can only be revealed from certain angles.

Alternatively there could be a hidden room within a store, something you have to seek out. It could even be a slide to take you down to the next floor.

Interaction which is physical (not digital) gets kidults excited. Walls or displays that customers can change and tweak, a constantly evolving interior space that they are a part of, involves participation and not just viewing.

Mannequins are set to become much more dramatic and feature movement and personality, in contrast to today’s trends for stark, upright soldier-like displays (who wants to be reminded about war?).

Stores and brands that embrace this trend will ensure they provide meaningful and desirable environments for their customers, creating experiences which cannot be replicated in the digital world. Somewhere you have to be to believe it, or in the words of a certain M. Mouse 'Where Dreams come True".

Global Display will be exhibiting on stand E40 at Retail Design Expo 2016