With the US Toy Fair just over a week away, we chat to the TIA's SVP of global market events on what those making the trip will be seeing.
What will be new at Toy Fair 2015?
The 112th North American International Toy Fair (February 14th-17th,2015) will see the launch of hundreds of thousands of brand new toys and games and provide attendees of all types with plenty of enriching educational and networking opportunities.
As part of Toy Fair’s expanded resources and special events, we recently announced that a special screening of I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story will take place on Monday evening (February 16th). The feature-length documentary explores the life of Caroll Spinney, the actor who has played Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street since 1969. Funded largely by Kickstarter donations, I Am Big Bird won’t be released publically until later this spring, so it’s a great opportunity to be among the first to view this inspirational and playful film.
Another feature we have recently introduced is ShopToyFair365.com, a B2B e-commerce site that is free for all registered buyers and exhibitors. It’s an online shopping tool for buyers to browse exhibitors’ latest products and place purchase orders – even before Toy Fair opens its doors (and long after the show has closed).
The education program of events is always popular. What can people expect to see on offer this year?
Toy Fair is first and foremost a critical business hub, but it’s also home to top-notch educational programming and special events which are designed to help attendees grow their businesses, expand their knowledge and deepen their professional networks. I encourage your readers to visit the Knowledge Network section of www.ToyFairNY.com to see the full line-up of educational programming, but in the meantime, here are some highlights:
• TIA’s Licensing Content Connection will offer education geared toward licensors and licensees and include sessions covering licensing basics and how to use licences creatively and strategically.
• Creative Factor is a free series that aims to provide information specifically of interest to toy inventors and designers; while Independent Thinking is another free series catering to Toy Fair’s specialty toy shop owners.
• Toy Fair’s Safety, Compliance and Environmental program shares tools and insights stakeholders need to know in order to bring safe and compliant toys to market. Among the included sessions will be TIA’s free Toy Safety Update, covering toy safety standards and regulations updates in the US and abroad.
• TIA’s Market Research Program will share commissioned research examining market trends and influencers, demographics, economic growth and consumer behaviour in the US, as well as toy and youth market opportunities and economic indicators in Mexico and Australia.
• The Digital Kids Conference is a fee-based program that will co-locate alongside Toy Fair for the fifth consecutive year. It will address important new strategies and tools for youth-focused media professionals who create digital toys and games for kids. The pre-conference Learning Summit will explore the rapidly changing innovations occurring in learning technology.
What is the highlight of the show for you personally?
Each year, Toy Fair unveils the cream of the crop in toys and games. Simply walking the show floor and taking in aisle after aisle of innovative new playthings is a thrill for me. I love being among the first to see what kids will be asking for next holiday season.
Do you have any tips for first timers at the show?
1) For first-time visitors, Toy Fair can seem a bit overwhelming. Luckily, the show floor is divided into 13 unique product zones (including outdoor, arts and crafts, modern design and tech) in addition to general toys, so it’s fairly easy to navigate. An insider tip: check out Level 1 companies, many of which are newest to the industry. This is the best place to spot out-of-the-blue finds.
2) For those who would like an in-depth look at the hottest toy trends of the year, plan to attend the Toy Trends Briefing hosted by TIA on Sunday, February 15th at 4 p.m. TIA’s trend experts will provide an overview of the year’s leading trends and demo products hand-picked from the floor.
3) Before you arrive in New York, get a head-start by visiting ShopToyFair365.com. It’s a great, free tool for pre-show networking and appointment scheduling. It can also be used to scout exhibitor offerings (and even place purchase orders) before Toy Fair opens its doors. I also recommend checking out Toy Fair Mobile – another free tool that can be used to start planning your show experience. You can search exhibitor booths and bookmark favorites, navigate the show floor, browse educational sessions, interactively locate meeting rooms, and more. Simply search Toy Fair Mobile in the Apple Store or Google Play Store to download the appropriate version for your mobile device.
4) Finally, plan to spend all four days at the show. You came all this way, so take your time, and be sure to soak in all that Toy Fair has to offer. And don’t be shy about reaching out to somebody at TIA if you have a specific need or interest – we’re here to help.
What trends are people likely to see?
We can’t give these away before the show, but we can tell you that this year’s trends are expected to have a strong emphasis on toys that promote child-driven creativity and support the healthy development of lifelong cognitive, physical, social and emotional skills. Smart Toys that employ the latest technologies to teach kids important concepts will also reign supreme, as will toys that make a splash – literally.
How is the 2015 show shaping up in comparison to 2014?
Pre-registration numbers for Toy Fair are quite strong – we have already sold out of exhibit space and will be filling a record-breaking 39,000+ net square meters of exhibit space at the Jacob K. Javits Center. Nearly 10,000 global buyers from more than 7,000 unique retail outlets are expected at the 2015 show. We also just received word from The NPD Group that US toy retail sales grew by four per cent in 2014; this is great news for the toy industry in general and will likely have a positive impact on this year’s show.
What can visitors who have already been to London, Hong Kong and Nuremberg see in NY that is different?
Toy Fair showcases hundreds of thousands of playthings from around the world with some products out of North America not shown at any other global toy event. If you don’t attend New York Toy Fair, you will simply miss out on the opportunity to see all of these innovative playthings. On top of that, our international trade media delegations have told us repeatedly that at New York Toy Fair (unlike other toy marketplace events) there is a genuine playfulness to the display and demonstration of the toys and games. You see and feel the passion of the exhibitor for bringing joy to children of all ages.