Wot, no snow? – It’s the 2013 Nuremblog!

Published on: 4th February 2013

All these pesky trade shows play havoc with my blog writing schedule. So when I said last week that the Monday blog was for one week only, clearly I lied. So here, to kick start your week wherever you may be, is this year’s Nuremblog….

First things first – and as we’re British, that means some comment on the Bavarian weather. It was probably the mildest Nuremberg climate I’ve ever encountered, which was a pleasant surprise. It’s a shame my hotel didn’t recognise this, as the heating was set at levels that would have befitted a sauna. The fact that my two colleagues slept with their windows open on the first night says it all.

Team Toy World took the direct flight out of City Airport, a brand new service whose inaugural flight the day before attracted TV cameras, a German oompah band and a ‘water cannon guard of honour’. A good call, and preferable to the connecting flight/train options which many others chose; one person I know even managed three separate flights to get there, which is surely some sort of record. I have been asked by all those on the flight to say it was terrible and no-one should consider using it next year, in order that it doesn’t get booked up, so if we could keep this as a secret between readers of the blog, that would be appreciated….

It was Tom and Mark’s first trip to Nuremberg, and it was great to see the look of awe and wonder on their faces when the sheer scale of the showground and what lay ahead dawned on them. It really is an impressive sight, 17 separate halls stuffed to bursting with toys. It’s physically impossible to get round it all in the time allocated, but we saw as much as we could.

Just a sprinkling of the new lines that caught our eye included:

  • The Mega Brands Barbie line, which will surely give other girls construction lines more than ‘friendly’ competition
  • Wooky’s Car Designer Sketchbooks, an art/craft line for boys that really works
  • Jazwares’ 1 Direction electronic range
  • Zapf’s Baby Born Potty, complete with ‘realistic’ sound effects – I’m told this is Andrew Laughton’s favourite line, and in fairness, I can see why
  • Little Tikes Giddy Up Pony, a really different type of ride-on
  • Bratz Dread Headz; hair play made edgy
  • Revell’s new Revellutions r/c range
  • Step 2’s Easy Turn Coupe, with a front caster wheel which makes it fully steerable, and also the new Busy Bake kitchen, perfect for the upsurge in interest in baking as a result of the Great British Bake-Off
  • IMC’s Max Steel and VIP Pets ranges
  • Hy-Pro’s Barbie Wheeled range
  • Ravensburger’s Kakerlakak, an interesting new game which features a Hexbug
  • As for Mattel, where do you start? It’s impossible to single out one range: Max Steel is looking really strong, as is this year’s Disney portfolio; Barbie’s Digital Vanity line is really clever, and the introduction of apptivity technology into the Fisher Price range is a bold move. Oh, and they’re re-introducing a Thomas wood range, which will be music to the independents ears, and it’s Matchbox’s 60th anniversary.

The British Stand once again ran like a well-oiled machine, expertly marshalled by Stuart Whitehill and his team from the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce. Any British toy companies wishing to be part of next year’s expedition should get in touch with them soon, as I’m sure the majority of this year’s participants will want to be involved again.

As ever, there was plenty of evening entertainment on offer: I attended a Disney Media+ event, at which we were treated to a traditional Bavarian entertainment troupe who did that thigh-slapping thing and shouted a lot. The look on Paul Weston’s face – as he was sat the closest to the action and was clearly dreading being asked to join in – was absolutely priceless. As he said afterwards, “When I was mouthing the word ‘help’, I wasn’t joking!” The fact that they also played Edelweiss on cowbells was a stroke of genius. The following evening Learning Resources surpassed themselves with their Circus- themed event, including stilt-walkers and jugglers, but no thigh slapping (not that I saw anyway).

Some things perplex me about Nuremberg:

  • Why do the hotels put a pack of Gummi Bears on the pillows? I’m not 10.
  • What have the Germans got against vegetables? I don’t count Sauerkraut as a vegetable either. The meat part of the meal can – on occasion – be superb, but by the end I was almost pining for salad and vegetables.
  • Does the new Mattel stand have its own postcode?
  • Given the entertainment provided in the male urinals (see below), do they provide anything for the ladies? If someone could elucidate, it would be welcome. Favourite sign in the Gents: “use of these toilets is free.” With this, Mr Nuremberg organiser, you are spoiling us….
  • Did this year’s Toy Fair coincide with an international wheely-case convention? And why do the people that have them seem to be the least capable of wielding them without being a nuisance?

But despite all its foibles, Nuremberg really is an amazing experience. We saw a lot of great new products and heard a lot of interesting tales: I particularly love it when someone uses the phrase “I shouldn’t be telling you this, but…” – and let’s just say I heard that a good few times last week.

As one successful independent toy retailer said to Tom during the trip, “I’m surprised that more UK independents don’t visit.” Maybe next year….

One-nil to the En-ger-land