Toy Fair season continues.…it’s the Nuremblog!

Published on: 1st February 2016

The Nuremberg Toy Fair is still in full swing as I write this, so I can’t offer any definitive visitor numbers or statistics at this stage. Not that it matters; when you have circa 70,000 visitors – real people, not the ridiculous vanity metrics that are occasionally bandied around in the online arena – whether it’s a few percent up or down is frankly neither here or there. Whichever way you look at it Nuremberg is always a fantastically well attended event, and a pivotal one for the entire global toy community.

It was perhaps the mildest Nuremberg I have ever attended: my scarf and gloves never made it out of the suitcase, and I didn’t even need a coat until night time. I’ve often wondered how far I walk at the Spielwarenmesse, so thanks to someone who told me that I didn’t need to buy a Fitbit as my iphone has a built-in app, I can now confirm that I walked a grand total of 55,460 steps in my three days at the show – or 24 miles in old money. Comparing this with someone from the retail fraternity, he told me that he was averaging around 15,000 steps a day and when one of his buyers told him he had completed 22,000 steps the day before, he replied that he was either not having enough meetings or had planned his schedule badly….poor bloke, sounds like he couldn’t win!

The Nuremberg clientele remains truly global: one exhibitor told me that his Saturday appointment schedule consisted of visitors from Hungary, Belarus, Iceland, Mauritius, India and Madagascar. I didn’t even know they had any toy shops in Madagascar, so maybe I should make that one of my next buyer interviews. As ever, there was a strong UK presence at the show, unaffected by the date scenario. In case you missed last week’s Toy Fair Blog, just to confirm that Nuremberg has published its dates for the next four years and there is no clash with the UK Toy Fair, so we thankfully return to the previous configuration of dates, with a clear six-day gap between the two shows.

The big story of the week wasn’t that popular Nuremberg Irish bar Finnigans will be closing in December, but rather the launch of the new Barbie Fashionistas line, which fuelled massive media interest and coverage across the globe. I receive numerous calls and emails from UK TV, radio and national press asking for comment, including one call at 10.30 PM when I was in O’Sheas enjoying a few birthday drinks with what seemed like half of the UK toy and licensing community. Given that they wanted to interview me at midnight, I felt it best to politely decline.

So, for the record, I think the newly unveiled Barbie collection is a really nice looking range. You could say that the introduction of a range of body shapes is overdue, but there is no point in looking back at what hasn’t happened in the past. The range took two years to design, and the finished result reflects the care and attention that it has clearly had lavished on it. I particularly liked the detailing, such as different shoe sizes and the range of hairstyles. My wife Anita – a former buyer – noted straight away that it reminded her of the American Girl range in the variety of choices and personalisation options it offers; we’ve often wondered why they have never adapted that range for the UK market, so maybe this is an alternative way of harnessing some of that brands’ major USPs. The launch has certainly put Barbie in the media spotlight, which I am sure was very much part of the plan. But the acid test is whether the new dolls will sell; having seen them in the flesh (so to speak), I am inclined to suggest they will be a big success.

In terms of gossip, there was continuing debate about the likelihood of Sainsbury’s acquiring Argos, with many people now beginning to suspect there is a good chance it will happen. Fiona Murray-Young is also due to announce her new role today; it will be interesting to see if the rumours are true (a consensus was beginning to emerge by the end of the show, but I won’t say where until we receive official confirmation). I also hear that a very large licensor has had to change the name of one of its new female characters in certain European territories because she shared it with a famous adult movie star: with all those people in the operation, surely someone could have checked Google beforehand?

Finally, while checking someone’s stand number on the Hong Kong Pavilion in Nuremberg, I came across another of those great Chinese company names which somehow don’t quite translate in the way they intend. I wonder what the inspiration behind the name at the top of this list could possibly have been……