The Spielwarenmesse is a truly remarkable show. From the quality of its exhibits to the quantity of its participants to its astounding logistics and operations it is truly an experience.
As I made my way through the 17 display floors, a number of them as big as the main floor at the Javits Center in New York, I began to think about how many unique toys were on display (over a million I am told and can easily believe) and how few of them American children ever see.
The majority of children (and parents for that matter) see the toy industry as consisting of the products they see displayed in our two largest mass market chains: Walmart and Target. Between the two chains, it is unlikely that they carry more than 50,000 unique items. That is 5% of the total number of toys exhibited at the just completed Spielwarenmesse.
Why don't we see a bigger variety at these chains? Its not that they don't care; it's that they simply do not have sufficient space. Its also because many of these toys are not available in the US due to the costs of entry and the necessity of doing additional testing.
What they do see is typically a brand or product that they have seen on television, the social networks and Youtube. There is, as a result, little in the way of a surprise on Christmas morning. As a result, I am concerned that we are perceived as a little boring.
It is highly doubtful that chains like Target and Walmart will ever dedicate the space needed to really offer what a great toy store should ultimately provide: Surprise and charm for the visitor. Perhaps this is why some of the toys that have done well in the last two years are toys that provide a surprise like blind packs, Hatchimals from Spin Master and LOL Surprise from MGA.
What I would like to see happen is for more foreign brands to enter the US market and for those who specialize in retailing toys expand their mix of products. Many of us can remember the delight of walking into FAO Schwarz as children and being overwhelmed with excitement. We need that again and we need that now.