The vast majority of those who work in the toy industry has never known a time when China was not the primary source of toys.
Why do we go to Hong Kong? Why do we get on a plane and suffer the confines of limited legroom, stale air, and rancid bathrooms, all so we can do business in a location on the other side of the world? It's a fair question. In light of recent developments its also a timely one.
Here is why I think we have gone, do go, and will continue to go.
We go because we have always gone. In 1972, Hong Kong became the manufacturing center for the world's toys. If you were a 25-year-old person at that time, you would be 72 years old today. As a result, the vast majority of those who work in the toy industry has never known a time when China was not the primary source of toys, if not the very heart, of the global toy ecosystem.
Tradition is a cousin of habit. It is a powerful force. Its what sends us "home" for Thanksgiving or to the same beach house each summer.
Those who visit Hong Kong each year have, in most cases, created long-standing relationships with our compatriots in Hong Kong and China. These are the friendships that occur when people work closely together and, over time, learn to trust one and other. Hong Kong is an occasion for more than business as we sit together at dinner, drink, eat, reminisce and plan for the future.
Global Toy Ecosystem
The toy industry is like an enormous plant whose roots are in Hong Kong and China and whose vines spread to and through every continent in the world. With 86% of the world's production taking place in China, Hong Kong commands the source of the river of toys that flows through toy companies and retailers, and ultimately into homes all over the world.
Access to factories
For toy companies, a visit to Hong Kong in January also means visits to factories in Guangdong Province, roughly an hour or two away. The proximity, therefore, makes a China trip an efficient use of time and money.
Hong Kong is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to price. By having a buyer, seller, and manufacturer in one place at one time, all the parties are present to work out a deal and create "the big opportunity."
If you are an entrepreneur or retailer who wishes to create the next big toy sensation, Hong Kong is the place to make that happen. Within an hour, local designers can construct new mockups while toy companies and retailers make decisions on anything from the color of the fabric to the type of packaging.
Many smaller and foreign toy companies never make it to New York or Nuremberg. They benefit from the influx of toy buyers that come in for the larger companies. Retailers also benefit because they get to see products from these companies, that they would otherwise miss.
Location, location, location
Hong Kong isn't just where east meets west, its where the international toy community gathers to make serious deals, develop new products and even in these modern times, write big orders. Hong Kong is where serious toy people go to do business.
I am betting on Hong Kong. Let's hope I am right.