Reports on shows, trends, and more
CHA Winter Show Report
The product trends – and good
by Cindy Groom-Harry, Craft Marketing Connections (February
The sense on the show floor was upbeat, though some commented on
there being less traffic. We're hearing that manufacturers are
hesitant to develop new products now, due to the general economy,
yet in talking with independent craft store owners, their business
is relatively consistent.
From our company's perspective, we know that it might be tempting
for manufacturers to hide under a rock until this recession is over.
But we think that it's more important than ever to continue the
business and creative process.
There's a story my Dad used to tell that best illustrates the
point. Because of the sugar rationing during WWII, the Coca Cola
company wasn't able to produce any product – nothing – for
several years! Yet they continued to do national advertising every
month during that entire time period. No income. Significant
expense. They were gambling that when the American GI's returned
home, they'd remember Coca Cola – and they did. Post war sales
Here are some of the observations made by our design team, noting
that there are companies who are not letting concern for the economy
1. Die cutting machines of all types are hot. Company booths
were hopping. Interesting, considering the relatively higher retail
prices on this equipment.
2. Similarly, there were a lot of die cut shapes, chipboard,
felt, embellishments, etc.
3. Board books are hot – with the entire book being
chipboard – in all shapes and sizes.
4. Stamping continues to be strong. While it seemed to dip in
popularity a few years ago, the clear, acrylic stamps seem to have
brought it back. (Retailers say they love that the clear stamps take
up so much less shelf space!)
5. Techniques: magazines all want to focus on new and unusual
techniques for the readers, and the smart companies are responding
with lots of mixed media. (Logical, since the basic scrapbookers,
cardmakers, and crafters are ready to grow beyond their basic
6. "Green" is showing up in a lot of places. Not
all manufacturers know what to do with that trend, but others are
jumping on it with enthusiasm.
7. Education continues to be important. The attendees were
upbeat about the make-it/take-its and workshops.
8. Design. Good Design. Walking the show, seeing the booths
with products on display without any projects, speaks to the
disconnect that continues to exist for many manufacturers. Many
still don't understand that it's the project – the design of that
project – that sells the product. Consumers do not know what to do
without seeing projects that they want to make or that spark their
creativity to develop their own ideas. But they still need to see
the projects in order to come up with ideas.
Thanks to CHA's focus on the importance of design through the
development of the License and Design Section, the Designer
Showcase, The Fashion Display and The Fashion Show, we are seeing
more companies making the connection between their products and the
need for good design.
The designers have been emailing their appreciation for CHA for
all the contacts they made at this show. Now if the deals can be
negotiated and the real value of designers appreciated through
commensurate fees, manufacturers will see an upsurge in consumer
interest which WILL result in sales.
(Note: Cindy is head of Craft Marketing Connections, a
leading industry firm that works with companies on product
development, marketing, public relations/editorial and yes, good
design! To contact Cindy, write to Cindy Groom-Harry, Craft Marketing Connections, Inc.,
2363 - 460th St., Ireton, IA 51027. Call 712-278-2340; fax: 712-278-2308;
email email@example.com; or visit www.craftmarketingconnections.com. To read more about designer compensation fees, read Designing
International Toy Fair 2008 Review
by Mary Ann Blackburn
The 105th International Toy Fair, held Feb. 17-20, 2008 at
the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City, boasted record
attendance with more than 30% more buyers and triple the media
reported on the show's opening day. An estimated total of 35,000
members of the toy industry and media were expected to attend this
year's show, indicating a strong confidence in the toy industry, as
per show officials. The Toy Fair Times (daily newspaper
distributed free at show and also online) proudly noted that all the
major retailers were attending the show, plus companies such as
Hewlett Packard, QVC, Foot Locker, Harrods, Amazon, Radio Shack, and
Bed, Bath & Beyond.
Here are some general observations of the show, which was
described as being "exuberant" and had a more optimistic
feel on the show floor than last year. This could be due to what was
noted as "more attendees, more qualified buyers, and more
business being done," any of which would make for a good show.
Here's what I saw:
1. Larger toy manufacturers (i.e., Mattel, Lego, Gund, Leap
Frog) had enclosed booths with little product visible to the average
show walker. Entrance to these booths required registration at a
reception desk and only qualified buyers were admitted. These same
manufacturers also hosted buyers at their NYC showrooms. Interesting
note: Mega-manufacturer Hasbro chose only to exhibit at their
showroom and not on the trade show floor.
2. My overall impression after walking both floors of the
show was that there was a breadth of product for "creative
learning" everywhere. Many toys, games, activity sets
proclaimed the learning element for children, not just the play
factor. Phrases such as "Think, Play, Explore,"
"Learning for the Fun of It," "Edu-tainment,"
and "Imagine, Build, Learn, Play, Discover" bombarded
attendees on the show floor.
3. I was also impressed by the amount of enthusiasm and
entrepreneurial spirit that abounded at the Toy Fair. Since I
could not see the new products of the big players, the booths of the
small and medium sized manufacturers were the main focus of my
review. Many booths were manned by the owners/inventors of the
game/toy/activity, and they would proudly proclaim their product
features to anyone who walked by their booth. Demonstrations were
going on all over, and there were so many very good new ideas
available to retailers that the choice had to be difficult.
4. The effect of the recent recalls of Chinese-made toys was
clearly visible at this year's Toy Fair. Booth signs were
front and center announcing "Made in USA" and
"Products Safety Tested for Lead." Companies displayed
signs stating "ITCI Care Process." (ITCI is the
International Council of Toy Industries and its members are
committed to promoting toy safety standards and addressing social
responsibility, environmental concerns, fair and lawful employment,
and workplace safety in the toy manufacturing process.) Numerous
safety-testing companies exhibited at the show. Toy Fair hosted
a performance (three times per day) entitled "The Story of Toy
Safety," discussing the history of toy safety in the past and
where it is headed in the future. Plus, there was a well attended
seminar hosted by a rep of the Consumer Product Safety Commission on
the topic of "What is Being Done to Improve Toy Safety?"
5. There was definitely a "green" presence at this
show, with booths publicizing that they manufacture using organic
materials, recyclable packaging and sales materials, eco-friendly
components, and manufacturing processes. There were also many
companies whose product lines were composed of activities to promote
ecologically friendly activities. There were even 100%
bio-degradable building blocks!
6. Technology continues to have its influence on the toy
industry, with further expansion of the interactive connection of
physical toys with online sites related to those toys. As quoted
from the Toy Fair Times, "Many manufacturers are
investing in and developing brands that have both reality-based play
and the new online, web-based components." The term
"cyber-playground" was growing in usage at the show. There
is also the connection of hand-held games to physical activity,
attempting to engage kids in more exercise while fulfilling their
desire for electronic games.
The show floor, although dominated by the General Toy category,
was segmented into other specialty areas, allowing buyers to focus
on certain areas of interest. The largest of these subdivisions were
the Game Zone (board games, puzzles, card games, brainteasers,
etc.); Hobby Tech (model trains, remote controlled vehicles, models
to build); Electronic Play (hand held games, DVD's, video games,
etc.); Reading, Writing & Rhythm (books and music); and
Specialty Source (high-end, premium quality learning toys
specifically for independent toy stores). The Arts & Crafts area
consisted of 23 exhibitors with these familiar faces from the craft
industry and recent CHA Show:
Creative Fun Ltd. (craft kits);
DMC (Stitchopoly board game, floss party packs);
Ideaon (product development firm);
Pepperell Braiding (bead kits, general craft supplies);
Rainbowbrush (kids' activity kits);
Royal Brush (paint-by-number supplies, various painting/drawing
Sandastik Products (sand kits, molding kits, science kits).
Other CHA members who chose to exhibit in Toy Fair's
larger General Toy area were:
Activa Products (molding, sculpting, casting supplies);
Amos Marketing (craft decorating kits);
Center Enterprises (rubber stamping, arts & crafts kits);
Colorbok (arts & crafts kits; make-it/bake-it line, jewelry
Crayola (children's art materials);
Darice (Foamie products, Sparkle Art, kids' crafts);
Dimensions/Perler Beads (Dimensions kits and Perler Bead
products; also advertised in Toy Fair Times stating in ad,
"Proudly made in the USA of non-toxic materials"; plus
feature article in Toy Fair Times);
Dover Publications (design-your-own-kits, craft & activity
Elmer's Products (science kits, arts & crafts kits, very
Faber Castell/Creativity for Kids (creative craft kits under
Creativity for Kids brand; plus feature article in Toy Fair Times);
Janlynn (licensed painting kits for pillowcases and other
activities, floss packs);
Magnetic Poetry (magnetic words & craft kits; plus feature
article in Toy Fair Times);
Mak-it Products (licensed Make-a-Plate kits featuring Disney,
Marvel, Barney and more);
Masterpieces Puzzle Co. (puzzles/games, including license for
Bella Sara and Leap Frog);
Milestones Products (DIY stone & handprint craft kits);
Mrs. Grossman's Paper Co. (stickers, kids' activity kits,
Roylco Inc. (arts & craft kits that reinforce language, math,
science skills; plus feature article in Toy Fair Times);
Sandylion Stickers (stickers, scrapbooking, & stationery
supplies, wall/window décor;
plus feature article in Toy Fair Times);
Scratch Art (Scratch Magic activity kits, stickers, stationery
& school supplies; plus feature article in Toy Fair Times);
Shure Products Inc. (wooden puzzles/toys, magnetic play sets);
Skullduggery (cast & paint kits; plus feature article in Toy
Trends International (color activity kits).
In Toy Fair's Reading, Writing & Rhythm section was:
Walter Foster Publications (Learn-to-Draw kits with licensed
Disney, Nickelodeon, Nascar and Dreamworks themes).
In Toy Fair's Electronic Play section was:
Madcap Logic (Creativity Express software for kids).
What were some of my favorites at the show? Definitely the
mechanized Marshmallow Blaster from Marshmallow Fun Company. For
anyone who has had a Cub Scout, you know about these and have gotten
whacked with a few marshmallows in your time. The employees at this
booth were having a lot of fun!
Another favorite booth was Idbids, an eco-friendly company whose
storybooks with corresponding stuffed character toys help to teach
children "the part they can play in keeping the Earth happy,
healthy and green - one iddy biddy step at a time". Their staff
was so passionate about their mission and so thrilled to be
exhibiting at Toy Fair for the first time that it was great
to visit with them.
Another interesting product was Bookchase, from U.K. based Art
Meets Matter Co., which is a board game designed around best selling
kids' books. This company's rep was an avid reader and seemed
focused on passing on his zeal for reading to kids through the fun
of a board game. He even gave me several good titles for my pre-teen
son to read.
Marie Osmond got in on the toy market, just like she did in
Crafts. There were dolls dressed up like her from her recent
performance on Dancing with the Stars!
All in all, a very full day of walking and talking at the
International Toy Fair, and getting inspired with so many
exciting, educational and fun products hitting the market. For more
details on the show and to read all five issues of the Toy Fair
Times, please visit www.toyassociation.org.
(Note: Mary Ann is an industry veteran with more than 25 years in sales, marketing, and product development
in the craft industry. To read previous Scene & Heard columns, click
on the titles in the right-hand column.)