Nuremberg is without doubt the most physically challenging of all the toy fairs. The show stretches across 18 separate halls, and we work with companies in just about every hall. Unfortunately, arranging a schedule by hall order – or even close proximity – never really works. Working in the trade press, you quickly realise that you don’t get first pick of the appointment slots: you fit in where people’s gaps are, which often means a 10-15 minute walk between appointments. Next year, I have decided that I am going to wear a pedometer during my trip to Nuremberg, as I’m genuinely curious to see exactly how far I walk during the trip – although for now, let’s settle for “a bloody long way”.
Like the Hong Kong and London Toy Fairs before it, the show felt vibrant and buzzing from the off. Of course, there are ‘hotspots’ and quieter areas of the show, which is inevitable given its size. The new ‘permanent showroom corridor’ which constitutes hall 12.2 seems permanently busy, which – given it houses many of the main global players such as Mattel, MGA, VTech, Lego, Tomy etc – is no great surprise. Downstairs, hall 12 houses the British delegation, admirably marshalled by Stuart Whitehill and his team from the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce. As ever, there was a tremendous spirit of camaraderie within the British pavilion, and its prime location and relaxed atmosphere (helped no doubt by the ‘Toymakers Arms’ initiative) make it a great option for new and established British companies alike.
As the show is still going on, there are no official visitor numbers yet, but I’m not sure that matters: the success of any show is all about seeing the right people, not how many European packaging reps are milling about. Interestingly, I did notice an awful lot of licensing folk around this year. The night we arrived, I suspect licensing people outnumbered toy people in the Irish bar. I guess it illustrates just how pivotal the toy market is to the success of children’s licensing.
In addition to the frenetic days, there are numerous evening functions in Nuremberg ; I sadly missed the Bavarian hip-hop dance troupe who performed at the show’s opening ceremony, as I had been invited to a Dreamworks/Super RTL presentation. I had to sign the inevitable NDA on arrival, but as the whole presentation was in German, there really was no need. They could have revealed absolutely anything and I would have been none the wiser, my German being limited largely to “drei bier, bitte”. Strangely though, the phrase ‘360-degree consumer touch points’ was written in English, so I guess they haven’t found a suitable German translation as yet. But the clips from forthcoming movies alone were worth attending for, especially ‘How to Train your Dragon 2’, which looks spectacular (hopefully that doesn’t break the terms of the NDA).
The following night was spent in the company of Disney Media+ and a host of Disney licensees, where we were splendidly entertained by Alex the camp German magician (although I doubt that’s his full stage name) and tried to guess which Disney character each of us had chosen as our all-time favourite (a psychoanalyst would have had a field day…). The final evening saw team Toy World attend the Learning Resources party, to join them in celebrating the company’s 20th anniversary – hence the ‘roaring 20s’ theme, which gave us dancing girls straight from the ‘Gatsby’ era and an excuse to wear some magnificent headgear.
For those who follow the blog on a regular basis, I can confirm that the Ryan Air flight was fine (it took off and landed on time…what more do you want in a 90-minute flight?) and our hotel really did have a giant picture of a sausage in reception – I thought it might have been photoshopped, but oh no, it really does exist, and it is a thing of kitsch magnificence.
The licensing community continues to provide a rich source of of gossip: this time Disney was the focus, with Andrew Alsop resigning from his position as Hardlines commercial director to join the Dreamworks revolution, where he will head up the European operation. I understand that Claire Peacock will be taking over the role at Disney when she returns from maternity leave. Elsewhere, Argos came in for plenty of low- level grumbling from suppliers after announcing an extra 2% levy on orders placed after March, along with additional payment/contribution requests. Several senior sales and managing directors insisted they would be politely declining these requests, although I suspect some will feel they have little choice but to give in.
I’m off to Spring Fair today, for the last leg of this year’s Toy Fair journey as far as Toy World is concerned. Let’s hope it follows the pattern set by the other shows. The blog will be back in its traditional Friday slot later this week.
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