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A resounding success… it’s the Toy Fair Blog!

Published on: 29th January 2016

I can now add a Ryanair flight to Nuremberg to the list of places where I have written the Blog. There have been more glamorous writing locations, but few where I have been surrounded by quite so many friends and colleagues from the trade. Most looked surprisingly sprightly considering they’ve just completed three arduous days at Toy Fair and are about to embark on the same challenge all over again.

I’ll cover Nuremberg in a special bonus ‘Nuremblog’ on Monday, so this week’s column can focus on the events of the past few days in London. The simple soundbite is that Toy Fair was a success. Given the challenges which the show has had to face over the past 12 months, that it came out totally unscathed is testament to the unstinting efforts of the Toy Fair team and the BTHA.

Any concerns that the new date configuration would result in a decrease in retail attendance proved to be unfounded. Monday was absolutely heaving – one of the busiest days I can remember at Toy Fair for a long time – while both Sunday and Tuesday probably surpassed most people’s expectations (providing those expectations were reasonable in the first place). By 9.00 on Sunday I had seen buyers from Smyths, Tesco, TRU and Shop Direct: indeed, there only seemed to be one notable Sunday absentee from the majors (maybe they were still working on their “systems issues…”). There was also a good crop of independent retailers, perhaps because some found it easier to get cover for their store at a weekend.

As for Tuesday, the predicted mass exodus to Nuremberg wasn’t as dramatic as feared. Although some buyers and suppliers departed early, most stands were still reasonably busy until the last afternoon. While Monday was comfortably the busiest day, the important point for me is that retail attendance on both other days was solid; ultimately, that is what really matters, more so than aisles full of people who aren’t there to buy or select product. Don’t get me wrong, there are many other people who are part of the wider toy community for whom the show acts as a invaluable staging post, and they have a significant part to play in creating a positive atmosphere (as we saw on Monday), but in the end it is the retail attendance that essentially makes or breaks the show – after all, that is what the exhibitors are ultimately paying for.

Of course, it helps massively if those retailers are also in a positive frame of mind: given the fact that NPD announced that the UK overtook Germany in 2015 to become the largest European toy market, growing by 6% in the process, it was perhaps no surprise that retailers seem optimistic about the year ahead.

The Toy of the Year and Retailer of the Year awards remain the industry’s most prestigious and credible awards by some distance. Personally I thought that this year’s venue worked well; the awards met with pretty much universal approval; the winners and nominees I spoke to afterwards were genuinely thrilled to be recognised and Toymaster’s Paul Reader gave us the comedy moment of the show (best not tell Argos though). There were well deserved Golden Teddies for Tom Beach and Mike Frost, and presenters Phil Ratcliffe and Alan Simpson are even turning into a bit of a double act. Throw in the best networking hour of the show and a fantastic sum raised for the Toy Trust via the media auction and the whole event was a triumph.

As a nice bonus, the Toy Fair also received good coverage in the national press and even a smattering of TV airtime, so credit to the new Bastion team who I thought did a great job.

It was fantastic to see everyone as usual, both old friends and new.  My entire team thank you for your time at the show and we’re all delighted by the many positive comments we received about Toy World – we’re glad you like what we’re doing.

It’s back to normal next year (and, I am assured by the Nuremberg team, the dates have been published for the next four years and there are no clashes): the show will run from Tuesday 24th to Thursday 26th January, allowing six clear days before Nuremberg starts on 1st February, which will thankfully make the 2017 Toy Fair season just that little less challenging.

I need to finish writing now as we’re about to land in Nuremberg for the next leg of the journey: another busy three days lies ahead.