If it moves, Toy Fair will become impermanent, and impermanence is where irrelevance begins.
As you have learned by now, The Toy Association is considering moving Toy Fair out of New York. The first Toy Fair took place in 1903. Since then, I do not believe thought has ever been given to moving the show to a different city.
Each year I publish a piece I wrote entitled “The Gathering of the Tribes.” It is a celebration of Toy Fair as the industry’s gathering place for its scattered people. Here is how I put it:
Every year at this time, I get that sense of anticipation, knowing that our tribal get-together, Toy Fair, is about to commence. In my mind’s eye, I can look out into the distance and almost see them coming: The Toy and Game Inventors, Designers, Packagers, Publicists, Manufacturers, Retailers, Advertisers, Journalists, Agents, and Sales Representatives…I believe that it is this mingling of the tribes that is the most important function that Toy Fair provides.
We in the toy industry are a scattered and migratory people. We travel what I like to call “the toy highway.” We work from distant cities, chancing upon each other as we appear in Hong Kong, London, or Nuremberg. A scattered people needs a place of permanence where they can gather.
Toy Fair is, therefore, more than a trade fair. It is a ritual. It is a place where we gather together in one place to buy and sell and embrace and renew, to celebrate and decry in booths, on bar stools, in restaurants, and hotel suites, just as we have done for the last 119 years.
And the toy industry complains. The hotel and food costs are too high, the weather is terrible, our flights got canceled, and why do those weird people wander the show on the last day. Yet, the complaining is embedded in the fabric of memory. These are the war stories that toy people were telling in the 1920s and now in the 2020s.
After 119 years, Toy Fair and New York are deeply entwined. I think The Toy Association would be making a major error if it moved Toy Fair out of New York City. Toy Fair would become just another show, taking place in sequence of pro forma convention centers in a series of cities. If it moves, Toy Fair will become impermanent, and impermanence is where irrelevance begins.
We live in chaotic times. At such times we look to our institutions to provide us with a sense of stability. This is not the time to ponder change. The Toy Association, and all of us, need to take a deep breath and a long view.
Toy Fair can be better. The Toy Association can hold additional events, in other locations. However, this is not the right time to destabilize our most important institution.
Toy Fair is important to all of us. The whole, and that includes each of us, is far, far greater than its parts. Leave Toy Fair in New York City.