Toy Fair 2020; The Mr. Burns Factor and More


Walking the aisle of the main floor sometimes felt like passing by walled estates. All that was missing were the hounds and Mr. Burns from the Simpsons.


It was such a pleasure seeing so many familiar faces at Toy Fair and getting to know new ones. We work in a beautiful industry full of creative, engaging, even fascinating people with big ideas, hopes, and dreams. It was wonderful getting to talk to so many of you, although in many cases all too briefly. And thank you to those who let me know how much you enjoy Global Toy News and The Playground Podcast with my friend, The Toy Guy, Chris Byrne.

And now, here are my nine takeaways from Toy Fair 2020:

1.    I have to start by congratulating Marian Bossard and her crew on doing a fantastic job of putting on a show that must be much like solving a Rubiks Cube. Each time you address one challenge by making a change, it creates another. Despite the complexity, the Fair was well run, and there were no complaints of which I was aware.

2.    It looked to me like attendance was down, and as a result, the aisles felt less active. The Coronavirus was the biggest culprit. There was, for the first time in decades, no Chinese Pavillion. Many of our Chinese friends were absent due to the 14-day Coronavirus quarantine they faced if they chose to fly into an American airport to attend the show.  Also, I suspect there were Americans who decided not to participate out of a fear of the virus.

3.    Crowded aisles are essential to smaller companies.  Larger, more established toy companies with strong customer relationships can expect customers to make and show up for appointments. It is, however, a more challenging proposition for newer companies who are dependent upon catching the eye of retailers walking past their booths.

4.    Another factor impacting attendance may have been what seemed to be stricter enforcement of attendance policies. Though I am sure it was needed, it may have cut down on participation by smaller companies who wanted to get a taste of the show but had limited budgets.

5.    What was not down was attendance at the TOTY Awards and the WIT Banquet. The WIT event had over 800 people in attendance while the TOTY's have become too big for the Ziegfield Ballroom. One change I would still like to see is for the TOTY Awards to create off-site venues (bars or restaurants) offering closed-circuit television of the awards ceremony. The Toy Association could charge a lower entry fee and share the event with more of the industry.

6.    It seemed to me that downstairs is now the place to be. There was palpably more excitement, particularly around the more adult-themed exhibitors like Funko, Diamond Comics, Neca, and others.  Part of the appeal is the product itself, which is often dramatic and bordering on art. Another reason may be the number of open booths. When you walk down an aisle in which you are greeted by exhibit after exhibit with very different products, your senses are constantly stimulated.

7.    Walking the aisle of the main floor, however, often felt like passing by walled estates. All that was missing were the dogs and Mr. Burns from the Simpsons. There was nothing to see but decorated wallboard, some running for blocks of space. It is essential that companies protect their proprietary products, but is it necessary to wall off the entire booth?

8.    What happened to the Toy Fair child policy? In the past, no one under 18 could attend. Something certainly has changed as there were a large number of children, some babies, in attendance. I am guessing the children were influencers. These kids may have millions of followers, but it did not prevent some of them from breaking down in tears. A tired child is a tired child.

9.    The Creative Factor indeed has turned the corner. There were excellent speakers (Nolan Bushnell among them), an ample event space, and what appeared to me to be a sharp increase in the number of audience members.

What did you think of Toy Fair 2020? Let us know.


2 thoughts

  1. I agree about the restrictive entry policy. I resented the fact that I had to submit my TAX forms to get in! I didn’t mind that I had to have at least one appointment, but honestly- I’ve got a website and I wrote a book about my career in the toy industry, why couldn’t I just submit my resume? And the cost was really high. (As a non-employee, it was particularly onerous!)
    I also agree about the long walls. It was rather off-putting.
    But on the whole, it was enjoyable and inspiring. I hope those small companies on the lower level had a successful show!

  2. Great to see you at the Show. Agree with your observations, especially point #7. Think many of these companies lack the creativity and branding opportunity to create better and more informative walls. Basic Fun did a good job in building brands and still kept their privacy.
    Also agree with roaming kids running amok. Lastly, invoice documentations, blood type, DNA…to get into the Show. Maybe if the TIA eases up a bit, there will be more people attending the Show. Personally know a handful of creative people who would have loved to attend if not for the restrictive requirements.

Leave a Reply