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Hong Kong Blog: Day Five

Published on: January 10th, 2014

That’s it for another year. As Gordon Ramsey would say: “Hong Kong. Done.” (only he’d probably swear a bit, too).

It has been a hectic week, but a thoroughly productive one. I have walked for miles, talked for England, eaten erratically, slept (very) sporadically and I am now more than ready to go home. Thank you if you have been reading the blogs this week (even if it was only because it was 4am and you couldn’t sleep – insomniacs almost certainly form a significant chunk of this column’s readership, but I’m happy to take readers whatever their motivation).

I’ve seen some great new product, met some interesting new companies and I’m looking forward to sharing some of the developments I’ve come across in Toy World over the coming months. On that subject, I hope you’re enjoying our mammoth Toy Fair edition. I’m proud to say that it’s the biggest issue we’ve published yet, so I hope there is plenty in there to whet your appetite: with a comprehensive preview of Toy Fair, an extensive round-up of the children’s licensing arena and the only standalone Spring Fair Supplement published by a toy magazine this time round, it should certainly keep you occupied until the show itself opens.

For now, I’ll leave you with a singularly random and light-hearted series of observations and anecdotes from this week which – in true journalistic fashion – I have contrived to glue together under the auspices of the ‘alternative Hong Kong Blog Awards 2014’. I just thought perhaps there aren’t enough awards in the toy trade….

Jammiest flight upgrade: This award goes to Wilkinsons, who were apparently lucky enough to be upgraded to a First Class ‘apartment’ on Emirates Airways on their way out, which by all accounts was truly palatial. In fact, it sounds like you could quite comfortably set-up home in one of these compartments, so spacious and luxurious are the surroundings. Contrast this sumptuous experience with Green Board Games’ Gary Wyatt, who wasn’t quite so lucky: a broken entertainment system, cabin lights which wouldn’t switch off all night and “unhelpful staff” led him to take to Twitter to vent his frustration. I hope he has more luck on his return flight (unless the cabin crew read his tweet, in which case maybe he should be careful what he eats and drinks…).

Least patronising corporate entertainers: Step forward HTi, who took a major customer to a state-of-the art racing car simulation experience. Now there are some companies who would believe that on occasions such as these, it might be construed as diplomatic to let the customer win. Thankfully there was none of that grovelling nonsense for the ultra-competitive HTi team, who took first, second and third places on the podium themselves, and even watched one of their guests pick up a ‘booby’ prize for coming last. That’s the spirit chaps, brownie points for honesty and integrity.

Best fashion statement at the Fair: There were so many to choose from. The girls with ‘light dresses’ were back, along with other young ladies (promoting the Nursery section of the Fair) whose costumes appear to have been designed by a Japanese businessman with highly questionable fantasies. But the out-and-out winners for me were the young men and women wearing Pork Pie hats in the Small Order Zone. Whether they saw the documentary on Top of the Pops 1979 which aired just before my trip is unclear, but they were definitely channelling the spirit of 2-Tone and Ska. The whole effect could only have been improved if they’d done the ‘nutty boy’ dance every time they wrote an order (Note: if you are too young and these references confuse you, ask your mum/dad or alternatively watch that aforementioned documentary on the BBC i-player).

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Best sign seen in a coach: As far as the pinnacle of modern Chinese philosophy goes, look no further than our coach driver, who proudly displays this sign above his seat. Communism is clearly a distant memory around these parts. In fairness, it’s hard to disagree with the sentiment or the simplicity of the way it is expressed. I might even adopt this as the Toy World mantra for 2014….

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Hong Kong Blog: Day Five

Published on: January 11th, 2013

And now, as Frank Sinatra once sang, the end is near. It has been a hectic and productive week, but I’m ready to go home now. Like all good shows, I have finished exhausted, but with a fresh zest and enthusiasm for the months ahead. I have seen lots of new items and ranges that have impressed me; I don’t have the space to list every single one, but below is a small selection of some of my favourites:

  • The updated version of Kurio, with a sleek new look, increased memory capacity and a Quad processor, which makes it operate much faster. There’s another major development for the brand which is under wraps until Toy Fair (spoilsports!).
  • Worlds Apart’s brand new Horrible Histories range.
  • The Rockboard from Dyna-Z (especially if you can persuade Barry Harding to demonstrate it for you).
  • Sambro’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles range.
  • Dragon-i’s Toy-Fi Teddy.
  • Thinkway’s Despicable Me 2 range, which features probably the most sophisticated animatronics I’ve seen in a mass-produced master toy range to date.
  • Toy State’s Road Rippers range.
  • A new licensed ride-on from Famosa, which I’m not allowed to talk about in any detail yet, and also the Nenuco doll range, which will be coming to the UK very soon.
  • Nikko’s new Slammr r/c vehicle (no, that isn’t a typo, it really is spelt like that).
  • IMC’s VIP Pets and Max Steel ranges.
  • B Kids new Soft n Safe wooden toy range.
  • Character Options Dancing Baloo (it sings Bear Necessities while dancing just like he does in the film, which is one of my all-time favourite Disney moments).
  • Peterkin’s Dolls World range.

As ever, there are a number of things I’ve seen which I’ve been asked not to talk about in detail just yet, which can be frustrating, but I try to respect people’s wishes, even if I am itching to ‘reveal all’.

The general consensus appears to be that Christmas came late (one large retailer reportedly used the phrase “the last two days saved us”), but at least it did come, and post- Christmas trading has also reportedly been relatively healthy. Hence there appears to be little evidence of heavy stocks being held by retailers, which usually augurs well for early year business. We’re just about to enter the Chinese Year of the Snake, which I’m told is regarded as a year of prosperity and peace – let’s hope that does indeed prove to be the case.

I still love Hong Kong, for all its many foibles. People continue to walk straight at you in the street, a trait made even worse by the fact that half of them are now staring down at their phones as they go. I saw a sign in a doorway today that read “please do not urinate everywhere”. The fact that the sign was written in English rather than Cantonese suggests that it’s not just the local vagrants they’re worried about.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the blogs this week; they’re fun to write, and the feedback I receive suggests they manage to strike a chord with a few of you, both out here and at home. But now it’s time to sign off for this year and head out for my last night in Hong Kong for this trip.

I’m looking forward to getting home, although my wife Anita has just sent me a link to a news story headed ”the beast from the east set to return”. I thought this was a bit harsh until I realised it wasn’t referring to me, but the bout of sleet and snow which has been predicted to hit the UK this Sunday – just as I land back in the UK. Oh joy. The whole of the UK is apparently at risk of heavy snowfall, so wherever you’re heading over the next few days, safe travels one and all and see you at Toy Fair.

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