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Normal service is resumed…it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 8th February 2013

The blog returns to its traditional Friday slot, and all is well with the world. Well, kind of. I still have about a thousand emails to send or phone calls to make after spending the best part of four of the past six weeks at trade shows. But it’s nice to be able to take a short break from all the follow-up proposals to pen my final blog of Toy Fair season. Unfortunately you can’t merge the words ‘Spring Fair’ and ‘blog’ to make anything as amusing as ‘Nuremblog’, but I hope the absence of a pun-tastic title won’t detract in any way from what follows. Incidentally, if you missed the Nuremblog in all the madness this week, you can read it here.

This week has, of course, seen Spring Fair take over the NEC in Birmingham, with Hall 3 providing the focus for retailers and suppliers of toys and children’s gifts. So how was it? Assessing a section of a show is obviously trickier than summarising an exhibition in its entirety, both in terms of mood and attendance levels. ‘Steady’ and ‘solid’ were the sort of phrases most repeated, and if the ‘toy’ hall perhaps lacks the pizzazz of the Toy Fair or Nuremberg – probably because most of the ‘big guns’ aren’t present – the show demonstrated that it certainly has its place in the grand scheme of things. I saw a sprinkling of major buyers, a respectable number of mainstream toy independents and a great many faces I didn’t recognise – most likely those hybrid toy/children’s gift accounts which Spring Fair specialises in. And there, I guess, is the rub; many of the exhibitors I spoke to continue to question why they aren’t mixed in with general gift exhibitors in the ubiquitous Hall 5. I have heard – and can see – both sides of the argument, and I have little doubt that it is a subject which will continue to be debated going forward.

The other major talking point of the week was the impending departure of Greg Saint from show organiser i2i events. There is no doubt that Greg is well liked and respected by the toy community at the show, and several people seemed a little unsettled to hear that he would be moving on. It appears that i2i is in the process of reorganising its senior management structure, and we’ll no doubt bring you details of the reshuffle in due course.

One of the major plus points of Spring Fair is its relaxed air, which meant that I could spend more time on certain stands and with some licensing contacts than I perhaps could have managed at other shows. Rubies’ stand was as impressive as ever, and many others had a strong presence, including Great Gizmos, Sambro, Manhattan, Papo and Rainbow Designs to name but a handful.

Picture credit: Jules Annan / Concertphotography

Flying Toys’ David Rawlings had something of a mixed week. He was presented with a surprise cake by the organisers to celebrate his 35th year at the show, which is a tremendous achievement. But when I caught up with him on the Monday, he looked like he had gone five rounds with David Heye – or maybe even got into a really strong disagreement with a buyer over pricing. The truth was marginally less sensational; a mishap on set-up day saw him fall off a chair, resulting in a deep cut to his face which required eight stitches. I can’t wait to see his risk assessment form next year: Hazard – chair. Steps taken to avoid hazard– don’t stand on it and lean over.

Other than Greg Saint, there are a few other people who currently aren’t in the jobs which they occupied not that long ago (June in Jon Owen’s case): David Snow (Imagination Games), Jon Owen (Hit), Melanie Beer (Hallmark) and Alex Kovacevic (Goldfish and Bison) are all – as I understand it – heading for pastures new in the coming months, and we’ll keep you posted as to where and when they pop up.

To finish, my favourite quote of the week also doubles up as the ultimate put-down of a product: when you hear someone – no names, no pack drill – say the words “it even failed to job well,” you know it was a bad range.

Sadly I won’t be in New York for Toy Fair next week, but good luck to all those intrepid travellers who are making the trip – I hear they’re forecasting six inches of snow for the weekend!