Hong Kong Blog: Day Two

Published on: January 7th, 2014

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.

You can follow John on Twitter @Baulchtweet.

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Hong Kong Blog: Day Two

Published on: January 8th, 2013

Jetlag has well and truly kicked in this morning. The evidence for the prosecution; I forgot to take my business cards to the show. I may as well have forgotten my trousers, judging by the looks I got all day from people when I explained I’d come out without a card.

To exacerbate the situation, this morning was an early start for the traditional overseas journalists’ breakfast meeting at the Toys and Games show. Perhaps indicating a slight lack of faith in the media as a whole, our hosts had kindly organised wake-up calls for each of us. It certainly confused me when I got an alarm call I hadn’t arranged. And no, it definitely wasn’t the jet lag….

Resembling a business speed-dating event, the breakfast meeting throws together a selection of exhibitors and the visiting journalists, and we are encouraged – in the inimitable words of our host – to “mingle amongst yourselves.” So mingle we did. There were a couple of English companies present, including Ian and Lucy from Arklu, who I’m delighted to hear are beginning to build some decent momentum behind their new Lottie doll brand. Press coverage around the globe has certainly created good awareness, and with six new dolls and standalone outfits being launched next month, I hope they continue to build on their encouraging start.

We also met up with a representative from Blue Box, whose delightful Watch Over Me Dream Station might well be worth a try if I have one more night’s interrupted sleep. In addition, there was a Dutch games company – Identity Games – with a couple of interesting lines, one of which – Boom Boom Balloon – has apparently been picked up by Spinmaster for the UK. Another of their lines – Miffy Hide and Seek – is said to have performed very well in Holland last year and the company is currently looking for a UK partner. I also found out from a local company – People on Board – that board games, especially children’s games, have not traditionally been all that popular in Hong Kong, and they’ve tended to be sold by book retailers rather than toy shops. People on Board is attempting to change that with its new games range, and I wish them all the best.

I hear that David Bottomley has sold his share-holding in Trends to long-term business partner Lee Clowes, and will now be taking a short sabbatical. Best of luck to them both for the future.

I’ve also started to mix in a few after-hours showroom appointments (full round-up later in the week), necessitating hopping from my hotel on the Island to Kowloon and back. As a result, a couple of random observations to close: the MTR is great, but best avoided if you’re trying to get from the Island to TST at around 6:30 – the crowd resembles the end of a football match at Wembley, so even though a train literally comes along every minute, you are lucky if you get the 5th or 6th one along. Also, based on my trip back around 11pm last night, it’s bizarrely a good place to bump into lots of toy people.

I have also come to the conclusion that whatever you do, it is inevitable that you will feel terrible at 4pm, and great at midnight. It’s probably best not to let this renewed sense of vigour fool you. My guess is that you will feel even worse at 7am the next morning if you do.

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