Three days of back-to-back appointments, in conjunction with the many enjoyable evening activities that Nuremberg has to offer, makes writing a Nuremblog during the show a major challenge. Even the hasty rewrites of my pre-prepared Blog – necessitated by the latest developments at Toys R Us – meant cancelling a dinner with the show organisers. But needs must; I can only imagine the comments I would have received if there was no mention of the unfolding TRU situation in last Friday’s Blog. It was inevitably the biggest talking point of the show, and no doubt I’ll be returning to the subject in future Blogs, as things do appear to be coming to a head rapidly, not just in the UK but the US too.
However, for now, this Blog gives me an opportunity to share my impressions of last week’s show. Most people I spoke to felt that footfall was down. The official figures bear that out, despite the misleading headline adopted by one UK toy magazine (“record numbers” indeed). The overall attendance was marginally down on last year (71,000 compared to 73,000), although the number of international visitors increased, continuing the trend that sees Nuremberg become more of a global show and less of a domestic German show with every passing year.
I suspect that the loss of the Monday had little if any impact on the visitor numbers; the first two days were extremely busy, but the show felt demonstrably quieter on Friday, so I can only imagine what it was like by Sunday. A couple of exhibitors suggested that they had seen fewer distributors and more retailers from international territories, which they felt was a positive development. Several large UK retailers were conspicuous by their absence, but maybe they felt that previews, Hong Kong and London Toy Fair gave them ample opportunities to view new launches. I guess we all need to draw the line somewhere.
That said, there are many compelling reasons to visit Nuremberg. The major global toy companies were out in force, and despite the challenges which some of them faced last year, their stands remain mightily impressive. Mattel’s stand reflected some of the key changes the company is making this year; the range is tighter, retail prices are keener, while margins have been improved. It feels like Mattel is more focused this year, and keen to present a stronger trading case to its retail partners. Jurassic World may be one of the few movies to escape the swing away from film-related merchandise that many retailers appear to be contemplating, while it’s nice to see the return of Polly Pocket – at its proper size too! Lego has integrated its successful Boost technology into several ranges such as City and Ninjago, and it also teased its deal with Bugatti Chiron, which will have petrol heads salivating. Hasbro’s games range looked very strong, while the Laser Ops Nerf introduction will be a very interesting addition to the brand. The fact that Bumblebee is going to be a more child-friendly movie will also help Transformers from a toy standpoint. I would love to tell you about some of MGA’s new introductions, but I received a friendly ‘request’ from Isaac Larian not to “tell everyone my secrets.” We will in good time, of course, but I don’t want to end up on LinkedIn with a cruel nickname, so I’d better hold my tongue for now.
It’s not just the major global players who go all out with their Nuremberg booths – German companies such as Schleich, Bruder and Simba Smoby all showcase their brands on massive stands. I had lunch with Simba Smoby’s COO on his stand on Friday (the company now has a dedicated restaurant area where the Smoby range used to be on show!), and I gather that there is a very significant development within the UK market coming in 2018, which we’ll be bringing you details of very soon. It’s an exciting move, and one which will give the company the opportunity to really step up a gear in the UK.
It was also good to see that Alpha’s Mark Hyndman was able to travel to Nuremberg after his recent health issues: I think that the company has a real winner on its hands with its new Screechers line, and with Super Wings establishing itself as a contender in the pre-school aisle and several other interesting new introductions, the UK operation has come a long way in its first year. I saw lots of other strong new introductions which we’ll be covering in Toy World over the coming months, including several international toy companies coming to the UK for the first time. Whatever we feel about last year’s trading, it seems that the global toy community still views the UK as a key market to crack.
Nuremberg’s many foibles will always be part of the whole experience; our hotel had a poster by the front door advertising rooms for 59E, yet we paid 159E for the privilege of staying there last week. And as for the flight options…the idea of flying half-way across Germany and catching a train doesn’t really appeal to me, so we elected to sample the delights of Ryan Air instead. In fairness, the flight itself is fine, although the one or two people on the plane who aren’t from the toy community must freak out when they realise that just about everyone on the flight knows everyone else. There were some great travel tales, ranging from the person who paid for a month’s parking rather than a few days, to the person who booked his flight home for 2nd of March rather than February (as someone remarked, “Not such a BrainBox, eh?”).
But I find that the positive spirit of the toy trade is never more evident than when we’re all gathered around a baggage carousel at midnight, having spent three packed days at the world’s biggest Toy Fair. Everyone is exhausted, talked out, networked out and running on empty – yet the camaraderie that characterises the toy community is still very much to the fore. I guess we really are all in this together.