Attending Toy Fair is a kaleidoscopic experience. Those who come are visually inundated with colors, shapes and sounds while they are emotionally bombarded by the constant meeting and greeting of new and old friends and business acquaintances. Exhibitors experience the roller coaster ride of highs and lows as potential buyers express love, hate or most often indifference for what they see. Attendees feel the arches in their feet slowly going flat as they hope to find that one special item that causes fireworks to go off in their brains and makes their trip feel worthwhile.
I still have this experience but, like everyone else, have to keep focused on why we are here: Helping my clients, learning whatever I can and trying to make some sense of it all. Having said that, it appears to me that attendee traffic was up from last year on the first day and about even on the second. I base this observation on lines for coffee and how crowed the restaurants are. I find this more effective way to measure than by trying to gage the floor population as it tends to ebb and flow depending upon the aisle and time of day.
Though the mood is generally good, I am not sensing quite the same level of animal spirits (what the economist John Maynard Keynes defined as “a spontaneous urge to action rather than inaction” which results from a sense of optimism) that I did in Nuremberg and Hong Kong. We all know that there is never a lot of order writing at Toy Fair but this year it seems to me from my conversations that there is less than last year. It just feels a little flat.
My guess of the cause is, at least in part, that many smaller U.S. toy retailers (unlike their counterparts in Europe) did not have a good year last year. They probably have inventory carry over as well as less available cash to spend on new products. As a result, it is showing up in a more cautious approach to buying.
If anyone has a different view, please let us know. We want to hear what you think.