I’m coming towards the end of my showroom visits, so now it’s time to switch my focus to the Hong Kong Toys and Games Fair, which opened today.
The majority of people I’ve spoken to remain upbeat about prospects for the year ahead. I’ve seen a huge amount of new product over the past four days, with a number of real winners standing out. Space constraints mean I can’t list everything (sorry, I’m sounding a bit like a buyer there), but here are a few of my personal favourites:
Flair – The Frozen version of the Spider Man web blaster, which shoots ‘ice’ rather than web. Role play toy of the year?
Jakks – A jewellery box which plays Frozen’s ‘Do you want to build a snowman?’ and also the updated Snow Glow Elsa – indeed, expect another huge year for the company’s girls portfolio as a whole.
HTi – The new Peppa Pig kitchen, great design and very competitively priced.
MV – The new Disney wheeled selection, back in the MV range and looking strong all round.
Chicco – The new Disney Infant and Pre-School range will open up new opportunities in the toy sector, and the building blocks which feature augmented reality are a clever idea.
Thinkway – The Minions range is excellent across the board – Tumblin’ Stuart might be the star turn.
Grossman – The Minions are well represented here too, and with a big dinosaur year in prospect, the company’s dinosaur range will undoubtedly be popular.
Interplay – The new Fab Lab range looks great: nine new lines of experimental, creative fun.
KD Toys – The Peppa Pig Smart Watch is a good addition to the range.
Jumbo – Frozen again, this time in the form of the Magical Ice Palace game.
Sambro – There’s a lot of great new licensed product, with Minions, Frozen (including an Olaf Slush maker) and Paw Patrol all highlights. Plus Kaboinx, effectively a Tamagotchi encased in a bouncy ball (which is quite a technological achievement).
Funrise – The market-leading Gazillion bubble range is going back on TV this spring, and it really is the ‘king of bubbles.’
Jazwares – Tube Heroes is an intriguing concept: a range of figures based not on TV or movie stars, but on popular YouTube personalities. Very zeitgeist, and in keeping with the company’s fresh approach.
I mentioned that people are feeling positive, but inevitably there are still some challenges to be met. Some suppliers have mentioned that they find themselves under increasing pressure from retailers to supply products which can be sold for half price, whilst at the same time saying they are scaling back their FOB programmes and, in some cases, demanding low minimum orders rather than ordering full containers. It’s going to be nigh-on impossible to get near those margin requirements supplying domestically, so clearly there will be some keen negotiations going on over the coming weeks.
Unfortunately I missed Friday night’s football match, but I gather the 5-2 score line didn’t tell the whole story: by all accounts it was the toy team’s best performance in some time. However, it wasn’t enough to save the manager from getting the sack, so Terry Crew will now be able to concentrate on his day job as the team searches for a new manager in time for next year’s ‘proper’ Fence Club fund-raising match, which I believe will take place on Thursday 7th January.
Congratulations to Andrew Moulsher, who has been promoted to sales director at Peterkin, while rumour has it that a number of senior Mega Brands personnel – including David Martin and Mary Price – will be moving on as the company begins its integration into the Mattel operation.
Finally, a few things I’ve observed this week: don’t try to cross from the Island to Kowloon on the MTR at 7 o’clock on a Friday evening – 8 trains came and went before I could finally fight my way on board, there was so much pushing and shoving it was worse than the Stoke penalty area when a corner is coming in. I’m also intrigued by the number of people who seem to make a living by pushing an empty trolley around the teeming streets of Hong Kong – or maybe my hotel is situated near a trolley terminal. Finally, thank the Lord for herbal sleeping tablets (and no, that’s not a euphemism).