The VIP experience …it’s the Friday Blog!

It’s been nice to get out and about at a few events this week, as the toy and licensing industries start to gear up in earnest for the festive season. First up it was the turn of the Licensing Awards: a list of the winners of interest to the toy / kids’ space can be found here, while I also wrote a Blog about the event for, which you can read here. The tldr version – great party, lively atmosphere, some well-deserved winners as well as a few curveballs, and the award presentations part of the evening went on way too long (we were sat at our tables for over four hours), because there are just too many individual awards. Some will disagree, which is fine – but the majority of people I have spoken to since seem to feel the same way I did. Thanks to our host, Wow Stuff’s Richard North, for his hospitality – we still think you were robbed, and not just because we were sat with you.

The next day saw The Big Christmas Press Show take place in Islington. Diary clashes have meant that I had never been able to attend before, so it was great to finally experience the event in person. The fact I was given a golden VIP lanyard (I assumed just about everyone got one, but apparently not) was a nice bonus – that must be what it feels like to be a Smyths buyer at a Toy Fair. According to the exhibitors, despite a marginally lower footfall – almost certainly a result of recent Royal events, especially the TV crews – they were happy that all the important national journalists were present and correct. And credit to the organisers, they certainly know how to look after the media – a few other toy event PR companies could certainly learn a thing or two.

The team behind the event (the CIJ Group) has been appointed to handle PR for Toy Fair next year, so I am looking forward to the breath of fresh air they’ll bring to proceedings. And who knows, maybe DreamToys will become part of their remit in years to come? I can certainly see some potential synergies between the two events, and I think that many people feel that DreamToys – which will take place on 9th November – is about ready for a fresh approach.

My ‘out of office’ will be on most of next week too – like many retailers and toy companies, we will be pausing operations on Monday as a mark of respect for the Queen’s funeral, while I will be heading down to Excel for BLE from Tuesday to Thursday. In case you missed the news earlier this week, there have been a few changes to the build-up schedule and opening times. The key thing for visitors to note is that the show will now officially open at 12.00 on the Tuesday rather than 9.00, to give exhibitors a little extra time to dress their stands. The change has no doubt caused a few last -minute revisions to people’s schedules, which have had to be hastily rewritten this week. But in the grand scheme of things, it could have been so much more disruptive, so credit to Anna Knight and her team for making and communicating the changes swiftly, so everyone had time to sort their diaries out before the show.

The other major toy event taking place next week is happening on the other side of the world – in LA to be precise. It’s still very much a ‘VIP only’ experience, rather than a ‘come on in, everyone is welcome’ type of event – and, of course, it isn’t a traditional toy fair, being focused heavily around company showrooms (although many other companies not headquartered in LA are now setting up camp nearby in the hope of luring buyers and distributors over to their temporary showrooms).

From what I can gather, most of the heavy hitters from the UK toy retail channel will be there (Smyths, The Entertainer, Tesco, Asda, Argos, Sainsbury’s etc), as well as many of the leading toy companies and distributors. It will be interesting to hear what those heading to California make of it – if it continues to expand its horizons and guest list, there will be ramifications for other events taking place in September, not just in the US but across the globe. As journalists often say these days, my DMs are open for feedback – all completely off the record of course.

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