For decades, we in the toy industry have headed to Dallas in the Fall for the annual toy preview. What started as a Toys R Us event in the 90s morphed over time into a formal toy show. Going forward, however, we will spend October in New York at Toy Fair’s newly scheduled time. To quote Porky Pig, “Th-th-th-that’s all, folks!” Dallas is over.
So, how was the show? It was solid show despite, or even because of, the reduced number of exhibitors and attendees. Those established vendors with whom I spoke told me they had excellent meetings with high-quality buyers. They told me that the buyers were relaxed and spent time reviewing lines. There was little in the way of missed or rushed appointments.
I unfortunately did not get a chance to speak with any of the new vendors who were depending upon walk-by opportunities rather than appointments. The reduced buyer head count may have resulted in fewer opportunities for newbies; at least, it looked that way to me.
As to Covid, it appears that for the toy industry, the pandemic is over. I only saw four people wearing masks during the event.
The TOTY Awards announced this year’s winners during the annual Dallas cocktail party. There were no “thank you” speeches, simply an announcement of the winners in each category. Those I spoke with liked the more hurried format. I doubt this approach will work in New York. The New York TOTYs go for several hundred dollars a ticket and are a chance for the industry to get dressed up and celebrate. Therefore, I anticipate our returning to a more formal awards ceremony.
I spoke with many vendors about the future of the U.S. toy industry’s trade shows. There was a consensus that the move of Toy Fair from the Winter to Fall is causing other shows to try to fill the cold weather vacuum. As a result, the words I kept hearing were “too many shows.”
February will feature Toy Fest in Las Vegas, NY Now, and ASTRA. These three shows will follow September toy reviews in Los Angeles, Toy Fair in October, and ChiTag in November. That does not include other domestic shows (Atlanta Gift Show and GAMA to name two) or international events like the Spielwarenmesse in Nuremberg, Germany or the Hong Kong Toys & Game Show (there was a consensus among those with whom I spoke that the annual Hong Kong meetings will not resume).
The result will be companies expending a lot of money and creating a lot of stress shipping samples and people around the country and the world. Vendors and retailers will have to choose where and when to invest.
The toy highway, as I like to call it, used to run straight from Dallas, through Hong Kong and Nuremberg, and ending in New York. Now it’s a much more crooked path with many stops along the way. The market will dictate the new normal, but it will take at least a year for us to begin to see what it looks like.