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Reports on shows, trends, and more

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Two Reports from Toy Fair

Add it to the list of bustling, productive winter shows.

Staff Report (February 20, 2012)

Before the show opened, Gifts & Decorative Accessories/Playthings magazine quoted Mark Rappaport, President of Marky Sparky Toys, saying, "I see Toy Fair as we know it becoming more and more obsolete….I predict Toy Fair, as it now stands, moving the way of the Toy Building: Gone."

That's not the way it turned out.

Attendance was up 4%, including almost 16,000 buyers and 1,000+ exhibitors. Reporting for Global Toy News, Richard Gottlieb wrote, "I have spoken to a great number of people and all are musing over the question, 'Where did all these people come from?'" (Comment: That's exactly what many said about the CHA show.)

Here are reports from our industry vendors who attended.

1. I have exhibited at Toy Fair since 1994 and have always marveled at the diversity of retail and end use that the attending buyers represent.  That diversity of course means it can be like looking for a needle in a haystack to find buyers whose merchandise strategy is in line with your product categories. It's a tough sell getting a doll store or a train shop to carry our kid's craft or jewelry programs!

Retailers in attendance cover the spectrum, from wholesale clubs and department stores to specialty mass retailers -- and more catalog and web retailers than ever!

The traffic this year felt like it continued the trend that has been in place since the mid-90's: slight decline or at best holding steady to the year prior. This is largely thought to be due to an ongoing decline of independent retailers. The number of international buyers seemed consistent; there are always many, from all corners of the globe. 

The general tone among the international and chain buyers was positive, with a more cautiously optimistic tone prevalent among the domestic independent retailers.

Order writing was generally down, with numerous independent, single-store retailers (mostly Eastern seaboard) noting a very soft January and the need to keep inventories lean through the first quarter. This sentiment suppressed show orders when compared to the past few years. Since it is the smaller retailers who tend to write show orders, this came as no big surprise.

Most, if not all, of the major chains from within our industry were represented (Michaels, Hobby Lobby, A.C. Moore, etc.) and plenty from other channels with relevance to crafts. A number of good independent craft retailers and distributors were there as well. 

A comment that was heard quite often was, "Does Amazon carry this?"  It seems that independent and chain retailers, plus distributors, believe they are losing sales to Amazon or Amazon based e-tailers and are concerned about the trend going forward.

For my company, the CHA and Toy Fair shows both showed improvement in terms of "major leads," but only the CHA showed growth in show orders written as well. -- Tom Lonergan, Exec VP, Janlynn Corporation

2. I thought Toy Fair this year was very busy and bustling. The atmosphere was upbeat.  Manufacturers that I talked to said they were writing orders.

Manufacturers were also talking about "Made in America." The ones whose products are made in the U.S. were quick to point that out when they talked to retailers in their booths. It has always been an issue, but much more so recently.

Personally, I spoke to manufacturers who were desperately trying to move their manufacturing from overseas to the U.S., but couldn't justify the cost. A first-time exhibitor with a new product picked my brain about it a little. She told me that manufacturing overseas makes her product $4 each wholesale. Manufacturing in the U.S. would double it. What should she do -- did I think "Made in America" was important enough to toy retailers (and really the consumers) that they'd pay more?

I think all manufacturers are struggling with that same question.

The diversity of the quality of the products exhibited always astounds me. It ranges from the inexpensive plush and novelties that carnivals give as prizes, to really high-end wooden toys and furniture made in Europe. Buyers really have to sift through it all to pick what's right for them. Huge companies like Melissa & Doug, Lego, Hasbro and others "exhibit" in huge enclosed booths at the Javits Center; some require an appointment. Their setup replaces a showroom they might have had if the Toy Building at 200 Fifth Avenue still existed. There was a place for incubator companies called "Launch Pad." Looking at the exhibitor list, I noticed that there were a lot of first-time exhibitors. -- Tina Manzer, Editor of Art Materials Retailer and CHA's new member magazine, Craft Industry Today



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