I’ve just returned from my annual pilgrimage to the world’s largest Toy Fair, so here are a few random observations from my trip.
SNOW: For once, there was more snow back in the UK than there was in Nuremberg. Dodged a bullet there.
ATTENDANCE: I have absolutely no idea how the attendance compares to previous years: it’s hard enough to judge at most shows, yet alone one with 18 separate halls and numerous walkways and entrance halls. Anyway, as I’ve said previously, I’m not big on vanity metrics; if forced to hazard a guess, I’d suggest the post-show release will reveal that numbers were “in line with previous years.” Just a hunch…
CURRENCY: One of the three main talking points of the Fair. It’s a complex situation, with both the rise of the dollar and the fall of the Euro creating both challenges and opportunities: depending on your position – whether buying or selling, and whether the Far East or Europe is your main port of call – the currency conundrum is definitely going to affect many parts of the toy market this year. More on this in future blogs and issues without a doubt….
MATTEL: The second major talking point, on the basis that people like to talk about someone seemingly having more problems than them. The news that CEO Bryan Stockton had ‘resigned’ (ahem) broke just before the show, garnering huge media coverage, much of it a little wide of the mark. As I told the researcher from the BBC World Service who interviewed me from the show, Mattel had huge headwinds against it last year: the seventh consecutive year of falling birth rate in the USA couldn’t have helped Fisher Price, while the Frozen juggernaut affected just about every other girls’ brand as well as Barbie. Admittedly, a change at the top may well help freshen things up, but talk of the demise of both the company and its flagship brands is – in my humble opinion – exaggerated. They’re having a tough time (I heard a figure for the amount of clearance on offer from the USA which is eye-watering), but there are already positive signs in the 2015 product range that the new team is already beginning to address the situation. All the big toy companies are aware that performance can be cyclical – Mattel is at the bottom of the curve right now, but I certainly wouldn’t bet against it coming back over the next few years.
MY BIRTHDAY: For the past three decades I have spent many of my birthdays at Toy Fair. This year, it fell during Nuremberg. Thanks to everyone who sent me messages on Linked-In and Facebook that I was too busy to reply individually too. Thanks also to the Nuremberg organising team, who arranged a little cake and a card which were waiting for me in the press office. What a lovely touch at such a busy time for them. I was expecting my birthday to revert to Toy Fair next year, however that may not now prove to be the case. Which leads me on to the second main talking point of the week….
NEXT YEARS’S DATE CLASH: Yes, it is a nuisance, but it is what it is. The BTHA is working hard to mitigate the crossover, and I hope to have news on the plan shortly. I heard some interesting suggestions from exhibitors and visitors (and also some maverick ones) but hopefully a temporary solution – at least let’s hope it is temporary – can be found.
MOST REPEATED PHRASE OF THE WEEK: “Sorry, I’m not allowed to show you the Star Wars line.” Clearly people don’t want to end up in Disney prison – and neither do I – so despite my reservations that the measure is a little over-the-top, it’s no big deal. Based on feedback from several retailers who have seen the lines, Lego’s range is being widely praised, while if Hasbro has indeed ‘kept it tight’ (as I’m lead to believe), I believe that’s a shrewd move.
PHRASE THAT NEEDS TO END: As usual, I flew over and back on a plane largely consisting of toy folk. In these situations, there is literally always someone who says “If this plane goes down, what will happen to the industry?” When I first heard it around 25 years ago it was mildly amusing (if a little disconcerting): now I believe the first person to say it on each flight should make a generous donation to the Toy Trust (the same goes for the licensing flight to Vegas in June).
MOST INAPPROPRIATE STAND OUTFIT OF THE WEEK: A clear winner here – step forward Amav, who seemed to believe they were exhibiting at a car show in the 1970’s, or perhaps auditioning for a new Benny Hill series. I felt so sorry for the two girls in ridiculously small bikinis and stilettos: there really is no place at a toy show for this kind of thing (it’s nearly as bad as the replica guns at the Hong Kong show).
So that’s Nuremberg done for another year. Thanks to Learning Resources, who put on a most enjoyable British-themed party for customers and friends on Thursday, where both The Queen and Mr Bean made an appearance (at least it looked like them after a couple of the welcome cocktails). Thanks also to the Nuremberg organisers for their customary generosity, neatly summed up by this sign: with this Mr Organiser, you are spoiling us.