An Inventor’s Strategy for Success at the New York Toy Fair

Each year before the New York Toy Fair my team and I meet to to arrive at a strategy for the show. Should I go alone, or should we all show up in force? Should we make new product presentations while we're there, or not?

Toyfairhalllg We review the past year's strategy and results. Who did we meet with and what were the results? Did we sell anything? Did we come up with any new ideas, or find new companies to work with?

For many years we did not show new product at Toy Fair. We were above schlepping suitcases and shipping boxes of prototypes around town. We saw that others who were not so proud sold every chance they got. They saw every meeting as an oppor


Not surprisingly, when we didn’t show new products at Toy Fair, we didn’t sell anything, either. Duh. We were there to see and be seen, to witness our new product introductions, to scope out everyone's new product lines, and to be inspired to create great new products. But in all the years we did so, I don’t think it ever resulted in a new idea that we sold.

Toyfair2 A while back we put our pride aside and started shipping our samples to New York and schlepping around with the best of them. We got a big suite at the Gramercy Park Hotel (It was more like a run-down apartment, really.) with a great view overlooking New York's only remaining private park.

We met with our clients and sold, and met some more and sold some more. And, by golly, we sold some products at these meetings and established, maintained, and strengthened relationships that might otherwise have grown stale. Now, many years later, we have sold and continue to sell significant products to many of these clients.

Likewise, for many years I attended the Toy Shows in the UK, Germany, Hong Kong, and China. Then I quit. I couldn’t see sufficient results to justify the time and money spent. I felt that my time in the office, hands-on with product development and in close collaboration with my team was better spent.

Now I see that the seeds I planted during those travels years ago – the relationships initiated – are bearing significant fruit. Maintaining those relationships through our Toy Fair meetings year in and year out has allowed the seeds to grow and blossom into productive fruit trees from which we now feast.

Toy Fair is not a time to just see new lines, but to sell, sell, sell new products, develop new relationships, and  maintain the precious relationships with those whom we hope to work with for decades to come.

3 thoughts

  1. I want to sell my products, unique dolls and story books to a company to manufacture. Is this the right place for me? What about finding a rep to license the products?
    I have copyrights and trademark, but working on website.

  2. Thank you Larry. I remember you and the legendary California R&D well. And sell you did. It was, and still is a very exciting business event. And of course, a very exciting city to be in anytime of the year.
    I think I will make a trip uptown to Trader Vics. That would be a nice evening.

  3. Great blog Bruce. I ran California R&D Center in LA for 35 years and went through the same strategy sessions you mention. However, these were the days before cell phones and it was 200 5th and 1107 Bldgs and communications were critical as schedules were short. We would meet at Trader Vics in the basement of the Plaza for an hour to debrief. Toy Show was always the time to stir up the pot … and to sell! You are spot on. Take care,

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