Hong Kong Blog: Day Four

Published on: 10th January 2013

The Toys and Games Fair has now drawn to a close. The final day of an exhibition can sometimes be somewhat anti-climactic, but I’m pleased to report that it still seemed very busy around the show this afternoon, and Green Board Games told me they took a very healthy order from a brand new Hungarian customer today, which they admitted came as a pleasant surprise on the last day. I’d like to thank my hosts the HKTDC for their hospitality this week; as ever, they have looked after the visiting journalists superbly.

Now that the show is over, my attention turns fully to the showrooms in Kowloon; I’ve managed to squeeze a few visits in so far, with more to come tomorrow, so I’ll bring you a round-up in tomorrow’s closing blog. In the meantime, a couple of snippets I’ve picked up on my rounds; Famosa has just signed the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles licence for ride-ons, while Thinkway has recently finalised a deal with Disney which will result in a selection of the company’s brand new ‘Planes’ lines being made available in the European market.

One of the most frequently used words of the week has been ‘realistic’. There appears to be a healthy sense of perspective about the year ahead, with expectations modest rather than optimistic. That said, it certainly isn’t by any means gloomy; I’ve even had a couple of overseas companies enquire if I know of any potential acquisition targets in the UK/European market, so the current climate must be producing plenty of winners as well as the odd loser (of course, any interested parties can always drop me an email and rely on my complete discretion…).

The ‘winners and losers’ situation is just as true on the retail front as the supply side. The news that is to close its direct retail business in March, with the loss of over 200 staff in its offices in Jersey and England, was sad, as was today’s announcement that Jessops has entered administration (I know they’re not a toy account, but it’s yet more bad news for the retail market, and the High Street in particular). Conversely, I hear that B+M Bargains is looking to expand into Europe, having enjoyed a hugely successful 2012. I also understand that two of the large multi-channel retail players appear to be putting plans in place to combat the inexorable rise of Amazon, although how easy they will find it to catch up remains to be seen. And then, of course, there is Toys R Us. In an interview which UK MD Roger Mclaughlan gave to Retail Week just before Christmas, he rather boldly stated that he wanted TRU to become the largest toy retailer in the UK. Admirable ambition for sure, and who knows, it might even result in a few orders actually being confirmed over the coming weeks (come on, I’m only saying what most of you are thinking…).

Valuable things I have learnt today: if I want cold water in a showroom, I should ask for Bing-Soi (thanks Chalky). Amazon USA has a buyer whose responsibilities specifically include the purchase of fart-related merchandise. And I’ve travelled on the MTR so frequently this week, I can almost say “please hold the handrail” in Cantonese.

I can also confirm that the main Hong Kong Football match will be making a welcome return next year, and will be held on Tuesday 7th January. I arrived too late to see this year’s comparatively low-key ‘practice game’, in which I am told the UK team was narrowly edged out 6-1 by its Hong Kong opposition. But obviously it’s the proper match next year which really counts….