2022 – bring it on…it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 4th February 2022

A week has passed since the London Toy Fair drew to a close. I got up at the crack of dawn last Friday to pen a Blog that I hoped would be a personal, honest and accurate reflection of the show, before settling down to enjoy the rest of my birthday with my family. Sometimes when you have very little time to pull a review together, you can look back and wonder if you got it right. Thankfully, within minutes of the Blog appearing I received a host of messages, all saying that I had got it spot on and agreeing wholeheartedly with my observations about how successful, positive and uplifting the show had been.

Over the past week, my LinkedIn feed has been filled with posts from exhibitors and visitors, all echoing the same sentiments: they had clearly missed not being able to attend a trade show, and it was lovely to see so many enthusiastic comments about the event. Talking to many attendees this week, it was interesting to find out how many people share my reservations about influencers and their kids taking over the show in recent years. If I’m being honest, their absence this time round made it feel far more like the Toy Fairs of years gone by, and it will be interesting to see what happens next year. I understand the thinking behind why they were encouraged to come in previous years, but in truth it felt far more professional without them. There are plenty of dedicated media events to cater for bloggers and influencers; ultimately, the Toy Fair is a retail-focused show, and last week it felt like the focus had returned.

A few visitors grumbled about the closed stands in the National Hall, but I am afraid you are always going to get that with some of the larger companies. And when one exhibitor told me about an image of an embargoed product being leaked online after someone had sneakily taken a picture through the front window of the stand, you can see why they feel the need to have some protection and security. A decent retailer wouldn’t behave like that, nor would any self-respecting B2B journalist who has a relationship with the company (why would we risk the loss of tens of thousands of pounds of ad revenue and reputational damage to leak a picture to get a handful of nerds excited?), so it can only have been someone attending from outside the mainstream professional toy community.

It was also interesting to see some major announcements which would traditionally have been held back to coincide with either the Nuremberg or New York Toy Fair being unveiled in London Toy Fair week: notably, Mattel confirming that it had won back the Disney Princess and Frozen licensing rights. The deal doesn’t take effect until ’23, but Mattel is clearly delighted that these brands are – in Sanjay Luthra’s words – “coming home.”

I was sorry to hear that a couple of well-known and loved UK toy community stalwarts passed away recently: games sales specialist Bernard Smith and Roger Matthews, whose career took in management stints at Merit, Superjouet and Monneret. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of both men.

This week, of course, should have seen Nuremberg Toy Fair taking place. A digital event is running in place of the physical show, and I wish everyone participating all the best. But surely the saddest picture of the week was the one taken outside the entrance to the Messe, without a single person in shot. I felt for the Spielwarenmesse team, and hope we are all back in Bavaria next year. Whatever a few people might have suggested on LinkedIn, Nuremberg remains an excellent location for the show, with history, heritage ands excellent facilities on its side. If you want ‘great weather’, book a holiday – we’re inside exhibition halls all day anyway, so the temperature isn’t really a major issue. Sure, they could do with sorting the hotel prices out, but hopefully that’s an ongoing conversation.

Although there was no physical show, we’ve seen more major industry announcements this week; NPD unveiled the winners of its global and Europe Toy Industry Performance Awards, highlighting the top gaining companies and ranges of 2021, while Spin Master was the first of the major global corporates out of the blocks with its Q4 and full year ’21 results – I suspect its impressive numbers will be replicated by other companies over the coming days. Last year turned out to be a decent year for the toy market across the globe; despite the many challenges, there were also plenty of opportunities. Same again this year please…

It’s certainly going to be another fascinating and eventful 12 months. We have Argos ‘planning for better’ and Toys R Us due to launch its UK website in May and currently recruiting buyers, with rumours of a buying team that could run into double figures. Meanwhile, the retailers that had a great year last year will undoubtedly be looking to replicate and build on that success – and that is just here in the UK. In every territory across the globe, the dial has just been turned back to zero: retailers and suppliers are all looking at how best to make ’22 a successful year. And Toy World will be here to catalogue every twist and turn and share all the latest news and views from across the toy community as they unfold– it’s what we do.

The February issue of Toy World landed on desks and appeared online this week. Until 2020, we didn’t publish a standalone February issue. This year, our February issue contained more ads than the January Toy Fair preview editions of both TnP and Toy News combined! The gap between the three UK toy magazines is becoming a chasm: but then again, we have the best, most experienced team in the toy media world – by a country mile. When it comes to trade media, experience matters….and it’s the people who have the experience and industry knowledge, not the ‘brand’. We’re the toy specialists and proud to be focused solely working with the toy and kids’ licensing communities. 2022…bring it on.