Toy Fair 2013 and the new normal

It seems like, for several years now, there has been a great deal of concern in whether show attendance was up or down from the previous year
. I don’t remember these discussions back in the 90’s but now it seems like many see this as a type of temperature reading for how the industry is doing.

Yes, it looked to me like attendance was off sharply the first day (at least in part, weather related) and then came back as the week moved on.  I base this on available tables in food areas and the activity at the various coat check areas. 

No matter how good or bad attendance was, however, I think it’s time we accept that falling or steady attendance is the new normal and it’s not going to change any time soon.  We have simply lost too many smaller retailers and our larger merchants have steadily cut back on the number of buyers and staff they send. 

But what does the new normal tell us about the health of our industry?

For starters, I don’t think show attendance tells us much about how the industry is doing macro economically.  With over 50% of retail sales divvied up between Wal-Mart, Target and Toys R Us, and

with some toy companies either withdrawing from Toy Fair or cutting back it says little about how the industry’s revenue numbers are going to look at the end of the year.I think what is important is the spirit of those in attendance

How do we gauge spirit?  To do so, let’s take a look at what I call:  “Arnie Rubin’s First Rule of Exhibiting.” Arnie Rubin is the founder of Funrise and one of the smartest (and nicest) businesspeople in the toy industry.  His maxim states “I am not concerned with how many people come to a show as long as my company’s customers show up for their appointments and like what they see.”

The exhibitors I spoke with generally seemed pleased with the quantity and quality of thier appointments, so based upon “Arnie Rubin’s First Rule of Exhibiting” I believe the show was a success and a harbinger of an improved year for the industry.   

How did you read the numbers?  What did you think about this year’s Toy Fair?  Write us and let us know.


3 thoughts

  1. Agreed. We are a specialty supplier primarily, so the Gift Shows (NY, Atlanta, etc) are usually more important than Toy Fair for us anyway, but those shows are a new normal of quiet as well. Most vendors I talk to can tell you in advance of a show about how many orders they’ll write and what their total sales will be – predictable for each cycle. Fewer shops, higher travel costs for attendees and other factors will continue to keep attendance down. Unfortunately the fair organizers are not getting the message and continue to raise prices for booth space and services, making it more and more difficult to justify the expense of the shows for us. If they’re not careful they’ll find themselves without a demand for their product.

  2. As one who looks for exciting innovation, i.e. toys that will make the Aunt the hero gift giver, I was much more enthusiastic and optimistic for the toy industry at this year’s Toy Fair brand tours than 2012.
    It was the first Toy Fair I had been to since I started touring in 2008 where there were no apologies for higher price point toys nor a selection of so-called ‘recession proof’ offerings.
    I was also happy to see that toy manufacturers figured out a better way to incorporate tablets and smart phones into toys, so that toys worked with or without the added functionality. This year, the toy came first, then the tablet/app. Last year, it was the opposite. Tablets and smart phones are our grownup toys and we don’t really want to share them unless they add value to kids’ play. The innovations I saw this year (with more protection for our precious smart toys) add value.
    I also think there was more focus. It felt like the toy manufacturers focused efforts on developing a few great toy innovations with smart and well-designed detail instead of lots of SKUs with less flair.
    I saw more ways for children to participate creatively in toy play and more “make it my own” personalization which I like.
    To me, Toy Fair 2013 was a success because I left with the start of what will be my (holiday) 5th Annual Savvy Auntie Coolest Toy Awards Winners. I honestly did not have the start of that list this early in 2012, with the exception of Doc McStuffins. I also left wishing I could be a 6 year old girl all over again.
    Cheers to the Toy Industry! I believe 2013 will be the year many will say was the year the toy industry got back in business. And the year has only just begun…
    Melanie Notkin

  3. It seems inevitable that the internet will impact the physical toy show. So much business is now done business to business on the internet because web based research allows the manufacturers to find and contact distributors directly. Our new toy was too new to attend the show yet we were able to gain traction this month with distributors just by the use of internet research. A savings of thousands of dollars.

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