I didn’t even manage to make it through customs before I had to swerve (with heavy case in tow) to avoid a collision with gentleman walking with purpose straight at me – welcome to Hong Kong. At least I’ve been here enough times now to know the drill – don’t naturally assume your personal space will be fully respected at all times and you’ll be fine. On the plus side, I am at least avoiding the storms which have been battering the UK, arriving into a temperate, spring-like climate. After the obligatory first night ritual of laying awake from 3am onwards (something else I’ve grown accustomed to over the years), the first day of my trip has been spent at the Toys and Games Fair, which is celebrating its 40th ‘birthday’ this year.
It’s a markedly different show to the event I first visited a decade ago. Now combined with a Licensing Show and a Nursery Show, there is a distinct cross-category air to proceedings (not to mention well over 2,500 exhibitors across the three shows). The Brand Gallery continues to grow, giving brand-owning toy companies a viable reason to attend the show rather than just relying on their Kowloon Showroom. That said, a number of the companies I saw today admitted that their most interesting new developments were either being kept under ‘lock and key’ in secret rooms, or in most cases confined to the TST showrooms. Some habits take longer to change than others.
It’s also become something of a multi-faceted event: one American exhibitor told me that he has four separate aims while he’s here – selling to FOB customers; finding distributors in territories in which he currently isn’t represented; sourcing potential new lines to add to his range and also discussing terms with his local factories.
The first morning gave me the opportunity to catch up with journalists from around the globe, many of whom – like me – are here as invited guests of the show organiser HKTDC. Straight after the pleasantries, everyone swaps stories of how the year’s business ended up in their territory. Most seem to be taking the neutral “it was ok: not great, but alright” stance, but the American delegate was more forthright – “dismal” was his pithy summary of Christmas trading Stateside.
It also transpires that Wal-Mart has decided to schedule its Hong Kong trip for next week rather than this week, which has inevitably resulted in a number of American suppliers also delaying their trip. So if there are a few less of our American cousins around this week, that will probably be the reason.
I’m looking forward to tomorrow night’s legendary Fence Club Football event. I’m reliably informed that it’s a complete sell-out, and unfortunately as it has reached capacity, there will be no tickets on sale on the door (and as far as I’m aware, local touts haven’t managed to get their hands on any either), so I’m afraid there’s no point in turning up unless you’ve already booked your place. While we’re on the subject of warnings, I think I should point out that you might want to avoid the Asia World Expo on Thursday, as James Blunt is playing there as part of his World Tour (sorry if I’ve offended any ‘Blunters’ fans…actually that’s a lie, I’m not really).
Gossip-wise, it’s fairly thin on the ground thus far (although to be fair I have been here less than a day, so give me time…), but I have heard that Mark Ashurst starts as Head of Retail at Hornby today, so good luck to him in his new role. Conversely, I hear that following last year’s acquisition of Meccano by Spin Master, Sue Barratt has now moved on, and with her many years of toy trade experience, I hope there is an exciting new challenge awaiting Sue somewhere in the industry in the not too distant future.
You can follow John on Twitter @Baulchtweet.