I’m still here! The past two days have been spent at the Toys and Games Fair, which has actually been very productive. I know there are those who believe the only interesting new lines in HK are to be found in the showrooms in TST, but I have certainly found unearthed a few nuggets whilst doing my rounds at the show. Indeed, I bumped into one significant independent retailer who told me that he felt he was more likely to find ranges that could offer them a point of difference at the show, rather than just spending all his time with the ‘usual suspects’ in Kowloon.
It’s been good to catch up with some of the British companies exhibiting at the Fair. Big Jigs is here for the first time hoping to pick up some new distributors, whilst Brainstorm is returning for a second year. Both companies reported early interest, whilst Green Board Games was so busy I had to wait until the journalists’ breakfast meeting to catch up with Gary Wyatt. Among interesting product developments, Ingo Devices has moved beyond its traditional ‘tech’ niche by introducing a range of pre-school Hello Kitty product, and Tech Group has a great new line called Launch ‘n’ Attack which they’ll be TV advertising later in the year.
One of the big talking points amongst the Brits is the potential fate of the Hawkin’s Bazaar / Tobar / Letterbox group. I have certainly heard some very interesting theories, but I perhaps have to be careful what I commit to print at this stage.
Each year, during the aforementioned breakfast meeting (useful tip; always have breakfast before coming, it’s impossible to work and eat!), the organisers select 20 or so companies to ‘meet the press ’, and I’m increasingly finding some gems amongst those present. There was a lovely little Hello Kitty magic range from HK Magic which I think would work very well in the UK; a very interesting science/construction- based eco-friendly range from the Amazing Toy Company which is well worth a look, and a Bluetooth-controlled robot which pairs 1-to-1 with a range of smart devices, which from the demonstration I witnessed quite comfortably outperforms infra-red controlled competitors. Other companies represented included Viking Toys (which incidentally is looking for a new UK distributor), a Canadian company showing a range of Bruce Lee merchandise (including Dragon Fists, like ‘Hulk Hands’ for kung-fu obsessed kids!), and a speaker which plugs into a smart phone and reads out someone’s twitter feed.
The show itself is slowly changing its character. The ‘brand gallery’, which started life a few years ago as a very small group of companies exhibiting brands and licensed merchandise – which rather stood out from the endless aisles of open-market generic product – has grown into a significant section with some good lines on view. Perhaps the days of people not putting anything on public show for fear of being copied are gradually dying out.
If you do go to the show, try to avoid the screen showing a Miffy video. If you fail, at least cover your ears, as it features perhaps the most irritating – yet insanely catchy – ‘jingle’ I think I’ve ever heard (and believe me, I have found myself exhibiting opposite stands in the past and wanting to take a sledgehammer to their TV set after the first couple of hours of the show!).
Tomorrow I may well take the opportunity to feature some of the ‘lighter moments’ that have occurred over the past day or two, including the Chinese journalist who had a massive coughing fit at the wrong moment and the UK buyer who has decided to adopt the Chinese name ‘Yum Yum’.