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The calm before the storm ….

Published on: 20th January 2012

With just a few days to go the Toy Fair tension is mounting

The week before Toy Fair is the very epitome of the phrase’ the calm before the storm’. The ‘twittersphere’ has been buzzing all week with news of exhibitors getting ready for the show, and the excitement is palpable.

So Hong Kong is behind us, whilst Olympia, Nuremberg and Birmingham lie ahead….and in the meantime, it’s all about preparation. My Toy Fair diary has gone from sparse to practically full in the past three days. The carefully crafted schedule will, of course, fall apart by the middle of the first morning, when a major buyer turns up unannounced on a stand I’m visiting, or someone takes a little longer than planned showing me all their great new lines (you can’t exactly tap your watch, say “Sorry, time’s up” and march off mid presentation).

I love to to read the articles and press releases highlighting the new lines which will be unveiled over the coming weeks, but nothing can beat seeing the product first-hand, and I am sure everyone else is just as excited as me. Hong Kong has kicked the year off in fine style, and despite the impending messages of economic ‘doom and gloom’ which George Osborne has so kindly prepared us for (‘managing expectations’ indeed…), the mood in the toy trade so far appears to be relatively upbeat.

This week has also given me the chance to evaluate all the Toy Fair Preview editions, and ‘compare and contrast’ the performance of each publication from a variety of different perspectives. I find the results fascinating, although I’m sure most of you won’t be quite so enthralled! (But then again it is my business, so it’s just as important to me as the impending release of the final 2 weeks of December NPD data is to most of you!). I’ll have the full breakdown at Toy Fair if anyone would care to know how it all panned out, but suffice to say we’re delighted  that Toy World has come out of it rather well. More advertisers, more ad pages, more exclusive advertisers….whichever way you cut the ‘commercial’ data, we win! But just as importantly, we continue to receive great feedback from readers about our fresh approach to content, both in print and online. So if you’re reading this blog and haven’t yet signed up to receive a free print edition of Toy World each month, come to our modest little home at Toy Fair (GH 16) and put your name down.

The furore over Lego’s new ‘girly’ range Friends shows no sign of abating. Nearly 50,000 consumers have now signed the #LiberateLEGOS petition against the new range, which is an awful lot of customers to annoy in one go. One mother told me she thought the range was “crass and thoughtless,” whilst another industry commentator said to me “the mistake Lego made was in believing it needed to target girls specifically – they don’t. Products like houses and shops have always been in the range. Sadly, the unsubtle approach (minifigures with breasts, really?) has resulted in all the negative publicity.” Perhaps the bottom line is that there already was a Lego range for girls – it is called Lego. Not a good start to the year for Lego at all – let’s hope the old ‘not allowing retailers onto the Toy Fair stand’ chestnut doesn’t rear its ugly head again next week. I’m sure if it does, plenty of ‘indies’ will pop round to our stand to tell us….

Finally, I was saddened to hear that ex Casdon Sales Director Mike Coburn passed away last weekend. Always a character, I’m sure he’ll be missed by many of his friends and colleagues in the trade. The funeral is next Friday, with a reception to follow at Cleveleys Working Men’s Club. I’m sure those of us who won’t be there will raise a glass in our absence (if we haven’t foresworn alcohol by that stage).

As for me, my own ‘milestone’ birthday creeps ever closer, but for once it doesn’t fall during Toy Fair. I think on reflection that may be no bad thing. See you all next week.