License to Thrill: Steve Pasierb talks the Toy Association

Jack Ridsdale

By Jack Ridsdale

October 8th 2017 at 9:32PM
UPDATED October 8th 2017 at 10:01PM
License to Thrill: Steve Pasierb talks the Toy Association

As president and chief executive of the North American Toy Association, no one is better equipped to assess the health of the industry than Steve Pasierb. As the industry gets ready to hit London’s Olympia, Jack Ridsdale sat down with Steve to get the rundown on the biggest toy event in the US, licensed toys and the future of the Toy Association.

 retailers, suppliers and industry hangers on explore the vast halls of London’s Olympia venue at this year’s BLE, their minds may be cast back to industry shows of years past. No doubt, the most memorable show for all those lucky enough to attend is the New York Toy Fair.

With its sprawling show floor hosted at the big apple’s famed Javits Centre, the vibrant trade show plays host to over 30,000 attendees, showcasing the latest in innovation and creativity in the ever-changing toy space. For those exhibiting at BLE, images of the show’s extensive licensed categories will spring
to mind, an aspect of the space that Steve Pasierb, president and chief executive of the North American Toy Association is quick to highlight.

“Licensed toys continue to be a strength, driving about 30 per cent of annual toy sales here in the US,” enthuses Pasierb. “Assuming that entertainment companies and brands continue to produce new content that engage consumers and create new properties, and that toy manufacturers continue to make creative and innovative licensed toys, aggregate sales should do well in 2018 and beyond.”

The space is undeniably one that is growing ever stronger by the day, boosted by the latest brand’s willingness to expand and take chances in a more diverse variety of categories.

I believe toy companies of all sizes need to be focused more on IP development and bringing their brands to life via entertainment channels. That would bode well for the industry and specifically for licensing.

Steve Pasierb, The Toy Association

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The LEGO Ninjago Movie, and Justice League are just a few examples that promise to propel the licensed toy business,” continues Pasierb. “We’re seeing a range of products – from infant and preschool, to vehicles, to games. Best of all, these toys are hitting on the emotional aspect of a licensed character or storyline, while also deepening classic play patterns like role play, active play, arts & crafts, and so on.”

However its not all positivity in the licensing sector. While the winter slate of family-friendly blockbusters look to re-invigorate toys with new life, Hollywood’s summer offering limped in with high profile releases, consistently disappointing with their box office returns.

“Clearly, the US summer box office was a disappointment,” comments Pasierb. “I believe toy companies of all sizes need to be focused more on IP development and bringing their brands to life via entertainment channels. That would bode well for the industry and specifically for licensing.”

Turning our focus towards the 2018 New York Toy Fair, Pasierb is quick to point out the continued growth of the show- despite the sizeable convention centre reaching capacity last year.

“Even when an event has limited opportunity to physically grow, it must still grow in stature,” explains Paseirb. “We look at the entire audience attending and isolate their individual interests in being there, and then try to find ways to make their participation that much more valuable and worth coming back every year. There is rumor of some event space opening up in close proximity to the Javits Center. Perhaps that will be another solution until expansion is complete.”

Behind the biggest event in the toy industry’s calendar is the all-important Toy Association, in many ways the backbone of the US-side of the industry. Earlier this year, the association underwent a rebrand, turning towards a more global focus.

“Our new mission to be ‘a unifying force for members’ creativity, responsibility, and global success, advocating for their needs and championing the benefits of play,” Pasierb explains.

“Our expert staff collaborates closely with international toy associations and foreign governments to align global standards, lessen trade barriers, and mitigate the harmful effects of unnecessary regulations that prevent members’ safe, enriching toys from being sold in the United States or from entering new markets. We’re on the ground and continue to do an extensive volume of international travel on these issues, support training initiatives in developing markets, and look for opportunities to bring standards more into alignment.”

2018 looks to be a big year for the Toy Association and their flagship event, especially when it comes to licensing.

“With so many licensed toys on the market and so many toyetic films coming out, competition is fierce,” concludes Pasierb. “Going forward, companies will need to be more thoughtful and cautious, both in placing their bets on new properties and the volume of toys produced for each. The combination of quality IP and quality toys will ultimately win the day.”