ICYMI: Ten years and counting…it’s the 10th anniversary Friday Blog!

Published on: 6th September 2021

In case you were still on holiday or not working last Friday, here’s the latest Friday Blog to bring you right up to date with the latest from the toy trade.

As summer draws to a close, there have been several new developments on the trade show front this week. Sadly, the Dallas Toy Fair has been cancelled – due to take place this October, the show has become the latest casualty of the pandemic. With the Delta variant still spreading rapidly in many US states, the decision to prioritise the health and safety of the toy community was clearly the right one.

We also highlighted reports coming out of Hong Kong this week that the border between China and Hong Kong is likely to remain closed until after the Winter Olympics in February ’22. For the past few months, there have been strong rumours to this effect, but it now seems to be fairly common knowledge in Hong Kong political and business circles. Taken in conjunction with the story we ran last week about Hong Kong looking to open the border with China before relaxing restrictions for other international visitors, this makes the traditional FOB buying trip in January highly questionable – unless people are prepared to spend three weeks over Christmas and the New Year in a quarantine hotel, which I am reliably informed makes Feltham Young Offenders Institute look positively palatial. Not quite how I plan to spend the festive season.

There have been murmurings that the Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair could still go ahead in January, with a focus on HK-based exhibitors and sourcing offices – although I am not sure how commercially viable that would be in practice. There has also been a suggestion that the show could be postponed to March or April; this approach would potentially work for some elements of the toy community, but it would almost certainly be too late for the majority of major international FOB retail buyers.

We await further confirmation from Hong Kong, as well as all the other shows due to take place in January and February – I have received numerous calls from suppliers and retailers in recent weeks seeking clarity, and all I can say is that as soon as we know, we’ll let you know. I still believe that predominantly domestic shows have every chance of going ahead (although I appreciate that wasn’t the case for Dallas), while some countries will be in a stronger position to welcome international exhibitors and visitors than others. With months to go, though, the situation could still change – for better or worse.

Planning and preparation might also need to be a little different for next year’s events – especially for those who have yet to be vaccinated. Speaking to the organisers of the Nuremberg Toy Fair this week, it seems that there is no time limit for overseas exhibitors and visitors, as long as they are fully jabbed. However, unvaccinated people can only stay for five days, although apparently negotiations are ongoing to extend that limit. While that is unlikely to affect too many UK visitors, not every country around the world has reached our level of vaccination. It also means that if you were planning to book a celebrity appearance by Right Said Fred (I don’t know – you might be launching a range of ‘I’m Too Sexy’ dolls or something…), you’ll have to time their arrival and departure right. Or just book Pop Will Eat Itself instead.

In the meantime, all eyes are on the festive season, which is hurtling towards us at breakneck speed. The message about potential toy shortages and the advantages of buying early for Christmas is certainly being hammered home – not a day goes by without someone from the toy community popping up in the media to reinforce the clarion call, including our editor Rachael Simpson-Jones this week. Now we just have to hope that consumers react positively and start shopping early.

With Christmas just around the corner, the September issue of Toy World landed on desks this week, featuring a host of great new lines which will be hitting the market in the coming weeks. Whatever supply chain challenges toy suppliers have faced this year, the industry’s new product development teams have certainly not been slacking.

This was our 10th anniversary issue – so while our philosophy is very much about looking forward rather than back, we wanted to mark this auspicious occasion with a sprinkling of content reminiscing on the past decade, both from our personal perspective, and also that of the toy community. The September issue was also accompanied by our legendary annual Games & Puzzles supplement, not to be missed if you are looking to freshen up your games and puzzles offering for the peak Christmas sales period.

10 years is a fantastic milestone – in an era where some have questioned the future of print media, I believe we have proved beyond any doubt that a great print magazine, in conjunction with a ‘finger on the pulse’ website, has a crucial role to play in facilitating strong trade communication. A huge thanks to everyone in the toy community who has supported us over the past ten years – and here’s to the next milestone. I guess it also makes this the 10th anniversary Friday Blog – seems as good an excuse as any to raise a glass tonight.

Finally, Sue and Mike Barratt have asked me to extend their gratitude to the huge number of people in the toy community who have been in touch with messages of support after their daughter Izzy suffered a horrendous fall whilst riding her horse in a competition last month. Thankfully, Izzy has made a truly miraculous recovery and is now back at home, having spent 3 weeks in a Bristol hospital in a coma. She has apparently amazed every doctor, physio and therapist by walking and speaking again so soon after such an awful accident. Sue and Mike have been overwhelmed by all the messages from friends and colleagues in the industry but have understandably been unable to thank everyone personally for their good wishes, so I am more than happy to pass on their appreciation.

Have a wonderful weekend and if you are heading to the Autumn Fair on Monday, I look forward to seeing you there – a real, live trade fair where we can see people and products in the flesh…it’s been a while, but great to see shows returning. Hopefully it’s the first of many…