I decided to break with tradition this week. Hence the blog arrives on a Monday, as opposed to its usual Friday slot. The simple truth is that I left Olympia on Thursday evening thoroughly exhausted, and although I was in the office on Friday, to say that I wasn’t firing on all cylinders would be putting it mildly. Deferring the blog seemed like the best option, although this worried at least one person, who texted me late on Friday afternoon to enquire if everything was ok. Fear not, dear reader, after an indecently lazy weekend, I am in fine fettle once more.
A good exhibition does tend to have this effect – and I thought Toy Fair was a very good show indeed. It’s an intense experience; over 50 scheduled meetings across the three days, along with numerous conversations in between, plus of course the post-show evening networking. The fact I ended up with a croak where a voice should be was hardly surprising. But, without a shadow of a doubt, it was all worth it.
Continuing on from Hong Kong, the mood remained buoyant. The official confirmation from NPD that the toy market ended up only 1% down in 2012 added to the air of positivity; indeed, at the risk of being controversial (moi?), if children’s tablets had been included in the figures, the market would actually have shown a very significant increase. Either way, the fact that many parents did not rein in spending on their children has to be an encouraging sign for the year ahead.
As to the show itself, I thought it was a triumph. Ultimately, what do you want from a good trade show? You need buyers to turn up and for them to be in a positive frame of mind. Everything else – consumer media hoopla and all – is just the sprinkles on the icing on the cake. On both of these important counts, the show was a success. The major accounts all seemed to be present, and if some people questioned how many indies had turned up, all I can say is that I saw the majority of what I perceive to be the go-ahead independent retailers. For those who say “we leave it until the Toymaster Show” – tremendous though that event undoubtedly is – it takes place half way through the year, which does seem to me to write off a rather large chunk of trading time.
The snow that fell early in the week thankfully didn’t prevent most visitors from attending, although you have to feel for Tomy’s Joanne Gray, who slipped and broke her wrist on set-up day. Undeterred, Joanne made it through the show, and rumours that Clive Wooster has offered to be her chauffeur for the next few months will no doubt have cheered her up.
There were the usual array of celebrity appearances – and non-appearances, mentioning no names: we even managed to persuade McFly to endorse Toy World (see below).
Let’s face it, anyone can get a costume character to pose with their magazine, but real-life pop stars are another matter entirely. Martin Grossman’s giant animatronic dinosaur got its fair share of media attention too, although I’m just disappointed that I missed seeing it out-of-control on set-up day. Our ad manager Mark was also delighted to have the opportunity to shake Clint Dempsey’s hand on the Jumbo stand, being a staunch Man City supporter.
The Toy awards came in for some low-level grumbling, but I think it’s important to keep a sense of perspective about the event. Yes, a few format tweaks are definitely needed next year, but let’s not over-react (perhaps I’m only saying that because I worked out very early on the optimum place to stand in order to waylay passing waiters). It was great to see some fresh names among the retail winners – including regular Toy World contributor Toy Barnhaus and Midco Toys. As for the toy awards, I suspect few would argue with the majority of the choices. If they showed a bias towards the larger toy companies, it was perhaps a reflection of last year’s trading patterns. And a couple of well-deserved special recognition awards – for IMC and John Adams – illustrated that it wasn’t just the big boys who had a monopoly on strong performance in 2012.
If I get asked one question by just about everyone I meet, it’s “what new lines have you seen that excite you?” The honest answer is lots – in truth, too many to mention here. I have a notebook in which I jot down new ranges I like the look of – and there were very few stand tours at the show that didn’t result in something being written. I don’t want to leave some people out, so I’ve decided to wait until our March Toy Fair review issue to detail my favourites in full.
So, it’s two down, two to go. The Toy World team is off to Nuremberg tomorrow; the forecast I’ve seen for the next seven days is actually pretty kind, contrary to some of the rumours circulating at Toy Fair. And unlike one person I spoke to last week, at least we’re not staying on a pig farm a long taxi ride away from Nuremberg, so it’s all good. We look forward to catching up with some of you over the next few days. That’s it from the ‘birthday blog’, Bavaria here we come.