Today has been the final day of the Hong Kong Toys and Games Fair, and from the selection of exhibitors and visitors I’ve spoken to over the past few days, it seems to have lived up to expectations. Speaking to an ex-pat who has been coming to the show far longer than I, he agreed that it has a very different look and feel to the fair he first visited back in the eighties and nineties. Admittedly, there are still large sections of the fair populated by open-market Chinese factories and vendors, but according to the aforementioned ex-pat , innovation can be found even there if you look hard enough. In fact, he confessed to trawling the vendor aisles in search of ‘inspiration’. When I suggested that could be construed as rather ironic, and arguably a case of him turning the tables and ‘copying the copiers’, he just smiled.
As ever, many British retail buyers seem to spend most of their time over in the showrooms in Kowloon rather than at the show itself, although I did spot a team of buyers from one of the UK and Ireland’s largest and most successful toy retail chains at the fair yesterday, which is encouraging. I’ve started to work in some visits to showrooms myself in the past couple of days, and I’ve certainly seen a number of very interesting new developments. App technology and augmented reality are being incorporated into an increasing number of ranges (arguably more successfully this time round), along with other ways of enhancing toys and consumer electronic devices (think Skylanders/Disney Infinity/Wii-style developments). I’ve seen some cutting edge innovation within radio control ranges which might give some of the established RC suppliers some genuine competition. At the other end of the spectrum, I’ve seen a Dennis the Menace-branded farting football (yes really) which has got ‘winner’ written all over it.
That said, having sat in on a couple of presentations with buyers present, it seems that pricing remains of paramount importance in the equation. Of course they all want exciting, innovative new product, but they want it at the absolute best possible price, and then a bit cheaper still. That’s certainly a massively challenging balancing act for suppliers. On the positive side, I think that the Chinese factories are acutely aware of the importance of exceptionally keen pricing, and I haven’t heard too many people grumbling about manufacturing price hikes so far this trip.
On my travels around TST I’ve learnt that Julian Hare has left Worlds Apart to join Jakks Pacific, while I gather that Argos’ Martyn Walker has ‘crossed the fence’ to join licensed bedding company Character World. And if you – or anyone you know – is looking for a new challenge out in the Far East, Dave Cave is looking to recruit a sales-based CEO to work in Hong Kong at the rapidly growing Dragon-i Toys.
I’ll be back tomorrow with the final instalment of the Hong Kong blog, which – in true ‘end of term’ style – will feature this year’s alternative Hong Kong Blog awards, which include a number of off-the-wall categories such as ‘Jammiest flight upgrade’, ‘Least tactful corporate entertainers’, ‘Best fashion statement at the Fair’ and ‘Best sign seen in a coach’.