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Half-time report… it’s the Hong Kong Blog!

Published on: 11th January 2016

Some of you may be familiar with Danny Wallace’s book ‘Yes Man’. If you’ve not come across it, the basic premise is that the author spent a year saying yes to any offers that came his way, and then documented the results. I think it would have been interesting if he had set a sequel in Hong Kong: my guess is he would have ended up with a suitcase full of copy watches and suits within a very short space of time, not to mention being massaged to within an inch of his life by the end of chapter one.

I saw a report in the local press that said that a large number of local young people are suffering from spinal and neck issues due to the amount of time they spend looking down at their phones. Having spent a few days here now, I can certainly see that being the case: Hong Kong is a hard enough city to navigate at the best of times, without everyone going about their business not looking where they are going.

I was also sent a link to an article suggesting that Mind Candy is in crisis talks with banks and financial institutions to raise money to stay in business. A mass exodus of the licensing team has already started, with Darran Garnham now at Universal Licensing, Sam Ferguson joining Jazwares and Dave Tovey popping up at DHX Media. Regardless of the company’s financial situation, I’m not sure precisely what is left to salvage at this point. Potentially a sad end to an amazing few years.

Having spent my first few days in the showrooms in TST, I thought I would outline a few new ranges which have impressed me so far:

Jakks Pacific’s range of giant action figures always makes an impression, chiefly because they’re almost the same size as me. There are a number of interesting new introductions in both the boys and girls ranges, with Gift’ems – a range of collectible gift boxes which unfold to reveal a small doll dressed in a variety of costumes from around the world – and a Disney Princess make-up collection catching my eye. I also really like what Jakks has done with the WWE role play range.

Mondo’s Hot Wheels radio control range looks stronger every time I see it, and the company has also enjoyed success with its range of drones, which start at £30, making them perhaps a bit more toyetic than some others. The new car drone looks a particularly interesting addition to the range.

I’m genuinely not sure where to start with Sambro’s range, other than to say you would be hard pushed to find a more extensive selection of character merchandise anywhere. Some of the innovation – in the bag range for example – is great, but it’s the sheer breadth of choice that makes a lasting impression.

Another company offering a comprehensive selection is Small World Toys, whose range of art and craft and creative play items is truly exhaustive, and always at the cutting edge of the category.

Funrise’s Tonka brand looks set for a great year – the big steel lines that first made the brand’s name are still impressive, but new SKUs such as the British-themed emergency vehicle range and Climb-Overs give the brand a whole new lease of life.

Jazware’s Danger Mouse range is looking great, and I also think it’s worth keeping an eye out for Animal Jam, which is being suggested in some quarters as a possible successor to Moshi Monsters. With nearly 3 million users of the multimedia game already registered in the UK, it certainly has the fan-base.

KD Toys will be expanding its Kurio brand with the introduction of a smart watch, which is said to have amazing functionality for £80, and the company is also expanding its ELA range with new Paw Patrol and Noddy products the stand-out items.

Bladez is making big inroads into the pre-school market: its radio control inflatables range has been boosted by the addition of Thomas, Teletubbies, Olaf, Thunderbird 2 and both Nemo and Dory. I also really liked the Peppa Pig Muddy Puddle Playmat, and the new inflatable night lights and sleep trainers take them in yet another new direction.

MV is another company launching a host of new licensed items, with Finding Dory, Shopkins, Paw Patrol, Bob the Builder, Teletubbies, Batman, Noddy, Trolls and Angry Birds covering just about every base. I declined the opportunity to test Phil Ratcliffe’s theory that he could teach anyone to ride the company’s Hoverboard, principally because I feared for his showroom (not to mention my limbs).

IMC is set for another strong year, and I really like what they’ve done with the Mickey and Minnie range, for which the company is now the master toy partner.

Ty also has a couple of new introductions which I can see being real winners; the Peek-a-Boos range of plush smartphone holders and Teeny Tys, the company’s take on stacking plush which is well-priced and extremely cute.

Finally, Spin Master has a number of big new lines that it has high hopes for: the Zoomer range continues to grow and the whole Paw Patrol range looks fantastic, with another huge year surely guaranteed. There are also some really good introductions to both the Air Hogs and Meccano ranges, as well as the art and craft line. Throw in some strong licensed ranges – Angry Birds, Secret Life of Pets, Noddy and Star Wars – and I think Spin Master undoubtedly has its best range for some while.

Sorry that space precludes me from mentioning everyone I’ve seen. The Blog will be back on Friday, with my reflections on the second half of my Hong Kong trip, as my focus switches to the official Hong Kong Toys and Games Fair, which opened today. Oh and thank you all for asking – I have finally reacquainted myself with the sleeping process, thank heavens. I now resemble a human being again rather than a zombie, which is a huge relief all round.