By: Jay Foreman
Well, what a week in NY! It ended with a lullaby but started with a nightmare. The question is, did the show wet the bed? It depends on who you ask. The first tale is of the show itself and those for whom it worked out very well and those for whom it didn’t. The second tale is of two industries: the one that is ready and in need of showing next year’s lines this year (September/October show) and the one that needs to show this year closer to the coming fall (February/March show).
We can all remember that the last time we had a toy fair was 42 months ago, in February 2020! If the industry had held a show this past February during the height of the economic slowdown and inventory overload, it would have been a complete disaster. If we saw key buyers in February, none would have been in the mood or mode or able to buy; we’d have had no ability to generate buzz from the press or with influencers that would have lasted to the end of the year to drive product. It just would have been really ugly.
So, with a need to burn off held deposits for the canceled 21′ show and a real need to gather and have an event, it’s my opinion this was a better time to hold the show this year. As we all know from the recent announcement by the TA, there will not be another NY Toy Fair in the fall, so there really isn’t a lot of value in trying to defend showing in the fall, at least in NY! One note of clarification: The “official” Toy Association trade show committee that I chaired for over six years was disbanded earlier in the year and never met to discuss and was never consulted about the issues around the new show plans for NY and New Orleans.
On a truly positive note, the new policy by the association that was put in place to motivate more open booths was a huge success. The show was much more relaxed, engaging, and fun. Many companies created especially dedicated social media activation areas, such as Just Play, Spin Master, Jazwares, and Lego. Others, like Basic Fun, had open booth fronts, while others, like TY, had wide open booths. It looked and felt better than ever. All the social media influencers, kids and adults, took advantage of the more open formats. They were all over the show floor, and it will be interesting to see the knock-on effect as they all start to post about the show. This is one of the significant benefits of an exhibition held this time of year in a city like NY. NY has an abundance of these folks in easy travel distance to the show who are interested and able to travel. Despite the insane rain on Friday and early Saturday, the traffic, while lighter than usual, was still robust over the weekend and very busy on Monday and even solid traffic on Tuesday until about 2 p.m.
As mentioned, both the Gala and WIT events were hugely successful sellouts and a highlight of the show run, and once the raid stopped, the weather was great.
On a negative note, a Fall Toy Fair only works for a few, and many were very disappointed with this show at this time frame. However, others would have been no more or less disappointed if this show had been held this past February. While most retail accounts and licensors that planned to attend showed up, some prominent ones didn’t show up due to the weather. Exhibitors and guests alike were appalled by the debacle around guest badges. It’s one thing to try to keep the general public out to control crowds and generate some revenue. Still, when exhibitors can’t get guest badges quickly, and it costs $400 to replace a lost badge, it’s problematic and a total failure of foresight. Also, despite how close we are to the holidays, the lack of meaningful local and national press coverage during the show’s first two days was disappointing and a missed opportunity by the TA to generate interest and excitement for the event. We know the Trump show was in town and court, but that was Monday and Tuesday, not over the opening weekend.
To add to questions and challenges for the association executive management was the dissemination of the salaries of the top management of the TA, highlighted by the CEO’s $930,000 base annual salary. The industry and board of the TA have a big question to answer: Does the management serve the industry, or does the industry serve the management? Is the desire to generate revenue and surplus to justify the association’s overhead the driver or to help manage the costs and dues for the members? The board should empower a committee and outside advisor to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of the association and executive management. If all goes well, we know we have a great team worth what their compensation. It would be time for a change if all doesn’t go well. As I’ve said before, there are no easy answers or solutions around the show location and dates, and the team at TA deserves a fair hearing, but a hearing should happen ASAP.
Finally, as for the new show dates and locations, New Orleans is a significant problem as a location and should get a severe reexamination. Also should the concept of an East/West Toy Fair scenario with a mini LA show of some sort in the fall and a NY mega show in the winter? We’ll all hear more about this from our board in the coming days and weeks.
All the best for a strong Q4 and holiday to all. We need it!!!
Thoughts and prayers for all those affected by the horrific events this weekend in Israel.