The Chinese Perspective: Our Exclusive Interview with China Toy Association President, May Liang

The U.S. toy industry has long, enduring and in many cases warm personal relationship with its colleagues in China. I wanted to find out how the Chinese toy industry has been doing during the last few months of global disruption. May Liang, President of the China Toy & Juvenile Products Association. (CTJPA), graciously agreed to answer my questions. I found her answers to be highly insightful and informative.

Here is how the CTJPA describes its mission:

Founded in 1986, China Toy and Juvenile Products Association (CTJPA) is the only nation-wide non-profit trade association representing the interests of the Chinese toy and juvenile-products industry.

The CTJPA became a member of the International Council of Toy Industries (ICTI) in 1998 as the only official representative in China. The government, the trade, the media and consumers recognize CTJPA as the only authoritative voice of the toy indusry. The number of registered members exceed five thousand in total. www.tjpa-china.

The CTJPA became a member of the International Council of Toy Industries (ICTI) in 1998 as the only official representative in China. The government, the trade, the media and consumers recognize CTJPA as the only authoritative voice of the toy indusry. The number of registered members exceed five thousand in total. www.tjpa-china.

Here is my interview with Ms. Liang.


Richard: What is the new normal for life in China after the closings caused by the Coronavirus?

May Liang: In China, consumer behavior changed a lot because of the national-wide quarantine. Many consumers shifted their shopping from physical stores to e-commerce channels. T-mall, JD, and Taobao, are the top three online shopping platforms.

Another very interesting phenomenon is video clips and live streams become popular, many consumers learn products information via video clips or live stream, and place their purchase orders online.

Richard: Will there be a toy show in Shanghai this October? If so, will there be any changes?

May Liang: China Toy Expo 2020 will be held as planned, the show period remains the same on Oct. 21 to Oct. 23.  

This year, CTJPA launched the “Certified Supplier Initiative”. The purpose of CSI is to build a reliable platform of searching top-rated qualified Chinese manufacturers which hold valid testing reports and certificates to meet various standards of product safety, quality management system, social responsibility, and specified standards by individual buyers. CTJPA verifies the validity of all certifications and testing reports submitted by suppliers and publishes all comprehensive information of Certified Suppliers on our website, which facilitates international buyers to find the desired products and suppliers accurately and efficiently. The website will be available by end of June. 

The exhibitors joined the CSI will be given obvious sign at China Toy Expo in October to attract international buyers’ attention.

Richard: What was the impact of the Coronavirus-caused closings on the toy retail sector? (Domestic market?)

May Liang: During the quarantine time, many physical shops were closed. But thanks to the development of E-commerce in China, most toy retailers and distributors enhanced their efforts and expanded their sales online. According to statistics from T-mall, toy sales from January to April increased by 22.2% compared to last year.  

The toy sales in physical stores are recovering now. June 1st is Children’s Day. Most of our members reported the sales on June 1st was nearly same as 2019, better than they anticipated after the Coronavirus.

Richard: What was the impact of the Coronavirus closings on the toy manufacturing sector? (Global implications.)

May Liang: According the data from Chinese Customs, from this January to April, the traditional toy exports (excluding games) decreased 15.9% compared to the last year.  According to a survey conducted among CTJPA members, the situation varies. Some members reported that their orders had been postponed and few cancelled. Some members reported their orders are nearly the same as last year. Some members producing for hypermarkets reported the orders increased 15-20% compared to last year.

Richard: With so many companies shipping out of China for fourth quarter sales, will companies and shippers be able to meet the demand for container space?

May Liang: Firstly, our members reported that international orders have been recovering gradually since April. Secondly many non-toy products are not in peak-demand during the fourth quarter. Because of this, the total supply of containers should be able to meet the possible increase demand of toys.

Richard: How badly were Chinese toy retailers affected by the Coronavirus?

May Liang: The physical stores in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen are more affected by the Coronavirus because of China’s strict isolation policy. Most reported the sales in February was only around 20%-30% compared to last year. According to the survey conducted in the middle of May with toy retailers in these cities, most reported that the sales recovered to 60-80%, few even reached the 100% the same as 2019.

Richard: As a result of Coronavirus and U.S. trade issues, there has been some talk of companies moving out of China. We see China as a pivitol link in the global toy supply chain. What are the main reasons that U.S.companies in particular should keep manufacturing in China?

May Liang: It is true that the labor costs are much lower in some Asian countries. Also the U.S. tariffs in are another factor to increase the cost for products made in China. But for toys, the raw material, spare parts, and color package supply chains, production efficiency and infrastructure are very important factors contributing to production cost. China built strength in these areas over the past 30 years. Some members did research in other Asian countries. And they reported that so far the production cost in China is still competitive

Richard: What is the future of the domestic Chinese toy industry? If so, have you had to make any changes?

May Liang: The market size of the Chinese domestic toy market increased 7.8% in 2019. The average spending for children 0-14 years old was less than $50 US. So there is big potential to increase the market size in the future. But it is challenging that many young parents do not understand the value of play and lack awareness of toy brands. This is due to their not playing very much with toys when they were children. CTJPA has been taking many efforts to promote the value of play and play with kids.

Richard: If the Trump administration ends the “special status” for Hong Kong, what will that mean for the toy industry? Will things change and if so in what ways?

May Liang: The toy exports from China to Hong Kong only accounted for 2.7% of total toy export in 2019. Many international brands can sell products directly from the producing factories within China.

Richard: What do you think that most Americans misunderstand about China?

Many U.S. toy companies have long term win-win business relationship with Chinese partners. CTJPA has good communications with The Toy Association in U.S. Most Americans we know are friendly and understandable.

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