Toy Fair 2016 was a well run, well attended and upbeat event. Marian Bossard and her Toy Fair team had a lot to manage this year with the addition of Play Fair to the mix but they once again produced an excellent experience for attendees and exhibitors.
I sensed a confidence in the hall that I had not been present for much too long a time. The most likely reason for the ebullience was, of course, the toy industry’s coming off its best year since the 1990’s.
We can't overlook, however, the excitement that comes from crowded aisles. Using a “Freakonomics” approach, I looked for how busy food and coat check lines were as well as traffic flow in the aisles. We’ll have to wait for the official attendance figures but I am betting attendance was up.
We can always improve, however, and here are a few thoughts on what the TIA may want to consider in 2017:
For some reason, unlike other trade shows I have attended, education seems to be a tough sell at Toy Fair. Perhaps we still treat it as an after thought. The Creative Factor, put on by a hard working Brett Klisch and his team is the industry’s most visible attempt and it was hampered by event schedules that differed by where you looked and by a location that even Daniel Boone would have found difficult to find.
Making it even more challenging was a lack of signage. There were no visible signs leading to the event space and no one I asked seemed to know exactly where it was. Finally, a very kind TIA executive (who was not totally sure but to whom I am eternally grateful) walked with me and sent me in the right direction.
It would be wonderful to see the Creative Factor located in a more centrally located area in 2017 and to make a greater marketing effort prior to and during the event. And yes, signs, we need signs that say: “This way to the Creative Factor."
The Future is Now
You can add all the music and costume characters you want but the real excitement of any trade show comes from the combined essence of all the exhibitors and their products. For a healthy show, that means a well-curated exhibition hall that features elements of the classic and the revolutionary.
As I wrote last year, the current system of rewarding space based upon years of exhibiting is certainly fair but ends up favoring the classic over the new and different. Why, because those who have been showing the longest get the most conspicuous upfront space and those who are most revolutionary, no matter how successful, are relegated to the fringes of the hall.As a result, those who enter the hall gets the false perception that the industry has not changed.
Robots, Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality among other advances are what excite the 21st media and the consuming public. Let’s figure out a way to balance honoring those companies that have been long time exhibitors while at the same time finding a way to celebrate the new and different.
I was unfortunately not able to make my way over to Play Fair, the TIA’s first consumer show. I was, however, struck by the long lines waiting to get in and the fun of seeing children and their parents feeling so excited. Would it be possible to have some closed circuit television to share the experience and the excitement throughout the exhibition hall?
The TOTY Awards are a wonderful event but the cost makes them unobtainable for much of the industry. Let's have closed circuit television streaming to designated off-site locations (restaurants, bars, etc.) where for a reasonable price, toy industry citizens can see the show for a lower cost. It would make for broader appeal and a more community wide celebration.