Planes, Trains and Automobiles part 2 … it’s the Friday Nuremblog!

Published on: 2nd February 2024

Another early Friday start for me, in an attempt to summarise what we’ve seen over the past few days in Nuremberg. My ability to craft a carefully honed piece of prose in the early light of dawn has not been aided by a bizarre journey home last night, which saw 300+ passengers (surely every single one from the toy community?) on the British Airways flight to Heathrow stuck on the plane for 45 minutes before being allowed to disembark – or to put it another way, half the time it took us to actually fly from Germany. A series of unfortunate (and frankly laughable) events saw BA’s reputation for efficiency in the mud, and I fully expected the line of BA employees standing on the tarmac to direct us the ten or so metres to the terminal (apparently we couldn’t be trusted not to wander into the path of a passing 747 by ourselves …) to be wearing full clown costumes, complete with wigs and red noses. Sadly not. Mind you, at least we didn’t get to Frankfurt last night only to discover there were no planes taking off due to a security staff strike, as some people did. The week started with a train drivers’ strike in Germany and ended with travel chaos whichever way you turned – but hey, at least the bit in the middle was great.

Following hot on the heels of London Toy Fair, Nuremberg gives the toy community another chance to meet up, review line plans and finalise selections for the year ahead – only this time it was the global toy community rather than mainly UK participants, and the distances between meetings saw everyone’s step counts explode. My Tuesday schedule was particularly brutal: I seemed to go from one end of the showground to the other, then back to where I started (12 to 4A, rinse and repeat), as if I was on a giant bungee chord. I don’t know which idiot sorted out my schedule, but when I find the person responsible, I will be having strong words. Oh wait, that was me…

We saw a wealth of compelling new products, although I signed multiple NDAs, so can’t yet share some of the great things we were shown. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we can talk about them. There was the usual moaning from retailers about the lack of an emerging craze, but unfortunately they can’t be magicked out of thin air – they come when they come. In the meantime, there were lots of strong new launches to appraise. As predicted in our Hot Properties article in the January issue, Stitch was everywhere (literally), while if you didn’t know what an Axolotl was before, you certainly will now.

It’s difficult to say anything about footfall and attendance numbers, as the show is still going on today and tomorrow. People were muttering about it being quieter, with a variety of yardsticks given to justify the observation (“it was easier to park”, “there were shorter queues at the food outlets”, “the cleaners told me…” etc), but we’ll see what the official figures say when they are released. There was a strong UK contingent, with only the grocers conspicuous by their absence (no, the multiple toy retailer of the year and a finalist in the online excellence category didn’t go to the world’s largest Toy Fair, but I am sure they have a note from their parents with a good reason…). There was also a strong US retail contingent, including the likes of Walmart and Target, so it will be interesting to see if that continues when the New York Toy Fair returns next year – personally, I have a sneaking suspicion that they will still come.

On the subject of New York Toy Fair, the dates have now been confirmed for ’26 and ’27 – February 14th-17th and February 20th-23rd respectively – allaying fears that the return to New York would see the show impinge on the dates of Nuremberg or London. These two shows peacefully co-exist and complement each other nicely, so it’s a relief to hear that the US won’t be throwing any curveballs into the mix.

As usual, a large percentage of the UK toy contingent present in Nuremberg congregated in the evening, put aside any commercial rivalries and enjoyed the delights of a variety of traditional German nightspots with an Irish flavour (it’s what we do). I am not sure if delegations from other countries do this, but they should – I find it’s an invaluable networking opportunity which adds an extra dimension to the trip.

Overall, the mood in the toy community continues to be one of cautious optimism for the year ahead. We’re collectively a little bit battered and bruised after last year, but ready to go again. Once again, there are challenges ahead, including elections in the UK and US, with the latter in particular set to have a seismic impact on the global geo-political landscape if the unthinkable actually happens (and it looks like it just might…), plus several global conflicts and the ongoing situation in the Red Sea, with the Houthi rebels seemingly undeterred by the recent actions of the US and UK air forces. All completely beyond our control of course, but capable of throwing some sizeable spanners in the works.

Let’s also not turn a blind eye to the rise of Chinese online purveyors of cr*p like Temu and Shein, which make Amazon look like saints. Toy Industries of Europe director general Catherine van Reeth told me in Nuremberg that they bought 20 toys off Temu to test how rigorously they were adhering to standards. Every single one failed even the most basic safety protocols; 18 had no address, one had an address of a bloke in Germany who had no connection to toys in any way and one actually stated that its address was “LaLa Land, California.” Yet EU safety regulations for toys are being tightened significantly, leaving legitimate toy companies facing more draconian – and costly – rules – while elements of the Chinese factory system are quite literally having a laugh. Very much a battle we need to come together to fight…

Despite the challenges, it was another successful and productive week. I had my traditional random encounter with a bloke on a train, who asked “are you John?” who said he reads us every day (a senior French kids’ TV executive) and I still can’t understand why German hotels put single duvets on double beds. I suspect there will be quite a few tired feet and numerous ‘out of office’ messages going on pretty early today – the follow up can begin next week.

Thank you to everyone who made time in their busy schedules to see the Toy World team in both London and Nuremberg. We know you’re there to see retailers, but we appreciate the opportunity to catch up and see all the great new lines we are going to be writing about in the coming months.

Have a great weekend, and for those who are still in Nuremberg, enjoy the last couple of days of the show.