The Savvy Auntie Speaks on How Toy Companies Can Grow with “Auntventures”

Melanie Notkin is the founder of SAVVY AUNTIE: A Celebration of Modern Aunthood. Melanie is a foremost expert on the emerging demographic of childless, often single, women. Her data and insights on the PANK (Professional Aunts No Kids) have been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, CNN and more.

Melanie is the national bestselling author of Savvy Auntie: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers, and All Women Who Love Kids (Morrow/2011), and her reported memoir, Otherhood: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness (Seal Press/Penguin Canada 2014) received a Booklist Starred Review. Melanie invites Savvy Aunties to join the “Auntourage” at @SavvyAuntie on most social platforms.


Sunday, May 9th will be a historic Mother’s Day — and not just because it’s the first since COVID vaccines allow for family gatherings and plenty of hugs and kisses for moms and grandmothers. This year, we will celebrate the oldest first-time moms — and the fewest new moms — on record.

In March, the CDC released its final 2019 fertility data, reporting a 1% drop in births from 2018 — or just 1.70 babies per 1,000 women. These data are part of a five-year trend in record-low birth rates, with an additional 300,000 fewer births expected in 2021 due to the COVID-related “baby bust.”

Women are not only having fewer children, but they are also having their first child later than ever. In 2019, births for younger women declined, while deliveries for women ages 35-44 increased. Today the mean age for a woman’s first birth is 27, two years older than just twenty years ago in 2000.

Declining birth rates means fewer baby showers, fewer first birthday gifts, and fewer holiday gifts. Moreover, beginning to shop for those gifts happens later than ever in a parent’s life. I call this market lag time the “Parent Consumer Gap” — and where the great market opportunity lies for the toy industry.

Toymakers don’t have to wait for a woman to reach her 30s or even her 40s before having children. Instead, it’s time to discover the untapped market of millions of college-educated, affluent female consumers. Consumers who are waiting for your call to spoil the children in their lives. They are PANKs®, or “Professional Aunts No Kids”, a term I coined in 2008 for the rising cohort of childless aunts.

PANKs have more nieces and nephews, by choice and by relation, than moms have children. Our 2018 national study: “GENERATION PANK: A Report on the Social & Economic Influence of Professional Aunts,” found that 86 percent of PANKs have at least two children ages 0-18 who play an active role in their lives. 13 percent of PANKs have 10 or more nieces and nephews by relation and by choice. A conservative estimate leaves PANKs with an average of 2.5 nieces and nephews, each.

And PANKs are a sizeable consumer base. There are 18.4 million childless aunts by relation and aunts by choice ages 20-50 in the U.S. – more than a quarter (28%) of all women in that age group. Together, they spend an astonishing $61 billion on the babies, children, and teens they love, each year — including $241 on toys and games per child. And 8-in-10 PANKs feel a duty to give their newborn nieces and nephews meaningful gifts, spending an average of $232 on each. And this spend is without being marketed to directly by the baby gear and toy industry.

PANKs may be secondary caregivers, but they are primary gift-givers.

It’s been my mission since I uncovered the PANK demographic and founded Savvy Auntie® to help toymakers and retailers discover, understand, communicate, and engage with this new consumer to help buoy sales and develop brand loyalty for years to come. After all, most PANKs are “pre-moms” who will remember the brands that recognized them.

PANKs want to be the hero at the holidays, birthdays, and all their little loves’ special days in between by gifting them the coolest toys, games, and “Auntventures” they crave. And this is why PANKs can be the hero for the toy industry. The “baby bust” doesn’t have to mean fewer consumers for your toys; it means more generous aunts ready to fill the Parent Consumer Gap.

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