Bombshell…it’s the John Baulch Friday Blog!

I’m taking the unprecedented step of writing this week’s Blog on Wednesday evening. I landed back in the UK yesterday after three full-on days in New York, only to head straight off to London to do it all over again at BLE. As a result of this Transatlantic Road Trip, my voice is already hoarse (my own fault, I know), but on the plus side the London Underground strike was called off at the last minute, making a lot of people’s lives just that little bit easier.

As I will be flat out at ExCeL for the next two days, I am getting this one ‘in the bank’ – next week’s Blog will have much more from BLE, but for now, let’s digest the week’s news from New York…and boy, there were some interesting curveballs along the way.

It all started well, with the TOTY Awards once again providing the glitzy Friday night curtain raiser for the Toy Fair. It was a hugely successful night for Mattel, who took home no less than seven awards, followed by Lego with five and Jazwares (Squishmallows) and Playmates (TMNT) with two apiece.

Despite media reports of an apocalyptic flood in New York which greeted our arrival at Newark, thankfully by the time we reached Manhattan the storm had passed. To be fair, it did look pretty horrendous in the boroughs and outlying districts, and the storms saw many flights cancelled, including that of Walmart team, who I understand sadly never made it to the show.

The following morning saw the storm clouds disappear and Toy Fair open. If the aisles seemed marginally quieter than usual, the audience was still a good blend of the US and international toy communities. Only a handful of UK retailers made the trip (Toymaster, WHSmith, Hamleys, Wicked Uncle…did I miss any?), although there were plenty of Brits present overall.

I had wondered in advance just how the change of date would affect the show. I knew that some of the biggest toy companies wouldn’t be exhibiting, especially from the ‘LA crowd’ – Mattel, Hasbro, MGA, Zuru etc. Some companies chose to showcase ‘holiday’ ranges for this year, which worked for US specialty retailers and US media visiting the show, but for me personally and most of the major retailers, we were there mainly to catch a glimpse of ’24 ranges. There were some great new lines which we were given a sneak peek at (Wow! Stuff has an absolute belter of a new launch which I am not at liberty to talk about just yet…but I gather it is already being fought over by retailers from across the globe), and I saw plenty of other good new introductions during the trip which we’ll cover down the line.

However, the mix of current product and a smattering of new lines arguably gave the fair something of an uneven, inconsistent feel…perhaps it lacked a clear identity, or a common goal that united exhibitors and visitors. Nevertheless, I felt that there was something there to build on for future years. Then came the bombshell(s)…


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