So, I’m sitting home this weekend on the 18th of February enjoying a quiet weekend and watching a little golf. Tiger Woods is back and playing in a PGA tournament this weekend. As I watch him struggling to stay above par he reminds me a bit of our industry. He’s taken a helluva beating the past several years. Going through scandal, divorce and a huge physical health crisis. We’ve gone through the demise of TRU, the threat of tariffs on toys, a global pandemic lasting almost three years, a supply chain crisis effecting supply of parts and shipping, a dramatic overstock of inventory at various levels and a looming threat of recession. Just like Tiger, limping a bit walking up to the tee box, so is our industry limping into 2023 and not unlike Tiger hoping to finish the first half of the event or in our case the year, at par!
The other thing I’m thinking about is that the majority of us in the US and a huge percentage of those in our global industry would typically be in New York City at Toy Fair this weekend. This is this the third February in three years without a NY Toy Fair and while there is not 20 inches of snow on the ground and NY is not in the grip of a polar vortex I’m frankly not missing it. Of course I’m missing seeing our US toy industry family but not missing this particular February in NY.
It’s been discussed and estimated that there is about 25% too much inventory in the pipeline between retailers and vendors. That wouldn’t bode well for “happy bubbly ready to shop” environment in NY. Word in the halls of the European toys shows was a worry about how much of that inventory is going to finds it’s way overseas from the US and China and impact their markets. When you speak to folks in the close-out industry who tell you they even worry about having too much inventory you know there is an issue. So, imagining an upbeat NY Toy Fair this February would have been tough to comprehend. In the end I think it’s a good thing we are skipping this February and will next come together in a big way as an industry in NY in early October.
The fact is life goes on, babies get born, birthdays and holidays happen and toys are and will always be a big part of life for families and as we are learning with “kidults” even without kids in the mix! I’m happy to say that retail sales in the US were actually up 3% in January and at least from what I can see POS for toys is up too. No doubt it’s going to take some time to clear the shelves of the excess inventory that’s floating around the world, sitting in warehouses and the back rooms of retailers but it will happen. By the second half of the year and surely by Q4 things will have settled down and we should be as close to back to normal as we’ve been since Toy Fair 2020. There are a lot of toy lines that have been hot for many years that NPD will tell us are cooling down fast. In addition not a lot of new product was introduced in 22’ and 23’ (thank you Moose and a few others for some nice new products recently though) which means the “clean up on aisle 9” is going to clear out the old and make room for the new in 2024. There are also a lot of new buyers in the market that will be looking at the category with fresh eyes which will keep us all on our toes.
While folks are still scrambling to place and get their orders for fall 23’ the creative minds and hands around our industry are buzzing getting things ready for 2024. Remember spring previews start in about five or six weeks! Spring previews are not generally the most important part of the selling year but I expect a big turnout in LA and who knows maybe a few people will make it over to Hong Kong in the spring too.
I know a lot of folks are finally going to get over to China to see some factories, including me. You will certainly find the factories open and hungry for business. Just note that if you have an old multi entry Visa for China that you got prior to the end of 2022 it’s likely not valid any more and you’ll need to get a new one. My sources tell me China as a country is open and rapidly getting back to whatever the new normal is. Same as I’ve mentioned with Hong Kong. Check with your local contacts for the best way to navigate new rules and paths but the days of random spot lockdowns are over.
Like Tiger Woods as we make our way from the front 9 to the back 9 this year… hope springs eternal and we know good times are ahead of us in this industry. While we all hope for the war to end in Ukraine and the other of the worlds and America’s problems to calm down remember as we like to say “we’re making toy here” and that’s a good thing! Will Tiger ever win another tournament? Who knows, but I’m sure he’ll keep trying and we’ll keep getting up everyday to bring joy to kids around the world and for that we are all winners!