I’m not sure just how bad a reputation international journalists have, but we all received early morning alarm calls which had kindly been arranged by the show organiser before this morning’s breakfast meeting with selected exhibitors from the Toys and Games Fair. Needless to say I had already been awake for ages and was mid-way through answering a few emails from yesterday, but I gather one or two of the others were a bit perplexed, as they couldn’t remember requesting an early morning call last night.
The selection of exhibitors corralled for our benefit was an eclectic mix, and there were certainly a couple who had interesting ranges or individual products, including ‘App Duck’; a radio controlled submarine (also available in U Boat version) and a bead ‘gun’. On the subject of guns, the replica guns which disturbed me so much last year are regrettably in evidence at the show again this year, although thankfully we didn’t have to sit at the breakfast meeting and pretend not to be massively appalled with the whole concept as we did last year. Lord knows who actually sells the wretched things.
I was slightly taken aback when the girl in charge of the breakfast facility at my hotel recognised me from last year and welcomed me back (she must have a heck of a memory, given the number of guests who must pass through the breakfast room each year), but my history of visiting Hong Kong pales in comparison with my American peer Chris Byrne, who has been coming to the show for nearly 20 years. Chris has been working hard, hosting yesterday’s licensing seminar and also today’s ‘Future of Play’ seminar. The big ‘take’ from today’s event: toys have changed dramatically and continue to evolve, but play remains essentially the same through the generations. I thought that was a rather pertinent observation.
Further opinion about Christmas trading continues to filter through each day: Asda apparently enjoyed record footfall and also unsurprisingly posted its highest ever online sales, while I found Barclaycard’s comment – that consumer spending nearly ground to a halt in the weeks running up to Christmas, with shoppers only persuaded to splash out on discount days – particularly telling. Much as the industry appreciates the challenges posed by over-use of the promotional mechanic (especially deep discounting), it seems that consumers are becoming accustomed to planning much of their festive spending around it.
I hear whispers of the potential formation of an internet buying group on the grapevine. Details of quite how it will work and precisely who will be involved are sketchy at this stage, and whether it can move from concept to reality remains a matter of debate, but in theory it’s certainly an intriguing proposition.
I’m signing off now, as it’s time to head to Happy Valley for tonight’s Fence Club football match. I haven’t actually taken a penalty for around 40 years (not one that ‘matters’ at any rate), so I hope I can give a respectable account of myself in the shoot-off against the German toy trade tonight. Please refrain from gratuitous abuse and coin-throwing if I fail.
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