Click here to learn more about and / or register for the Guangzhou International Toy & Education Fair, which takes place April 8-10.
I was speaking with a toy industry veteran during Toy Fair in New York and he said: "I cannot believe that American and European brands are not aggressively entering the Chinese consumer toy market. At least for the next few years, that, and not the west, is where the growth is going to be." I can't believe it either.
After all, China is the home to 1.4 billion people and 207 million children between the ages of 0-12. The U.S. has a population of 322 million people and 57 million children between the ages of 0-12. There are therefore, approximately 4 times as many children in China as there are in the US and there are more babies on the way. Far more than we are going to see in western countries. China, this year, became the world's largest consumer market and by 2022, according to Euromonitor, they will be the world's largest consumer of play.
So, what's the hold up? Why aren't more western toy companies taking advantage of the rapidly growing Chinese consumer market? I think there are at least five things at work:
1. Habit – Westerners still see China as a producing rather than a consuming country.
2. A lack of cultural understanding – Most westerners lack an understanding of Chinese cultural norms. They know some of what they don't know but are most afraid of what they don't know they don't know.
3. Concerns about intellectual property protection – Many western companies are unsure as to how to go about getting intellectual property protection and, if it is violated, how to protect themselves.
4. Lack of knowledge about how the system works – Between government rules and regulations, the heavy dependency on distributors, and uncertainty about the aforesaid IP protection, many western companies simply don't know where to start.
5. Overwhelmed by the size– China is huge. There are 650 cities in China with populations over 1 million people. On the other hand, Russia has 11, The United States has 10, Germany has 4 and the United Kingdom has 2 (Wikipedia). Western companies are understandably overwhelmed by the sheer size and variety of markets.
That is why I think it is very important that western companies which are not selling in China attend the Guangzhou International Toy & Education Fair. It is a place where Chinese retail buyers come to buy. It is also a place where you can learn how the system works, what sells and does not sell, what are the right price points, which are the best distributors and, in general, get comfortable with a part of the world that is going to be a major source of global toy and play consumption.
I am going to be there as well. I am working with the Messe Frankfurt and the Guangzhou International Toy & Education Fair to produce the second Toy Talks Forum, which will take place April 8. This year's speakers will include:
- Jo Hall, Chief Commercial Officer, Toy “R”Us Asia
- Selina She, Chief Editor, Kid Channel, Tencent
- Maura Regan, President of The International Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Association (LIMA)
- Christopher Byrne, Independent Analyst, Author, Consultant, Media Personality
- Richard Gottlieb – Founder & CEO Global Toy Experts, Publisher Global Toy News
We are finalizing with a couple more speakers so stay tuned.
Fisher-Price, Mattel, Hasbro,Marvel, Sesame Street, TY, HearthSong, The Walt Disney Company, Transformers, Barbie, Hello Kitty, Thomas & Friends, SpongeBob, Peppa Pig, Garfield, and Mercedes-Benz will be among the companies and brands on display.
I suggest that you join them and take a trip to China. It will be a good investment. To learn more about the Fair and the Forum and / or to register: click here.