In our new regular end-of-week blog Lewis Tyler visits Top Drawer and plays with a pooch called TechPet.
What you see before you is the first in a series of regular blogs that the ToyNews team - myself, Samantha and Dominic - will be writing for you every Friday.
We very much hope that you’ll enjoy them and would love to hear what you think (but please, go easy on me.)
So on with the blog. My week began with a visitor pass to Top Drawer landing on my desk. The Editor – that’s the aforementioned Samantha, in case you don’t know –decreed that I should head down to Olympia to see what the gift show had to offer toy-wise.
Top Drawer is a rather ‘chic’ affair with a particular type of ambience that I’ve never experienced at another trade show. There's a mixture of soft-lighting, a low-key soundtrack and white carpets, which I’ve also never experienced at another trade show!
Anyway, what about the event itself? Well, for any interested toy retailers I would say Top Drawer’s strength is where it falls in the calendar – providing a final opportunity to see toys in a show setting before the Christmas season gets underway (in the South, at least).
But Top Drawer’s real relevance to the toy industry is what it can offer to our suppliers. Being a gift show, there are obviously a lot of gift buyers walking around, so it’s a real opportunity to put playthings under the noses of those people and grab some new, different accounts.
As far as the actual toys go, it was predominantly plush and wood on display.
Scooter accessories were also in abundance - in just over a year, scooter accessories has almost grown into an industry of its own, supporting a number of start-ups – such as Scoot – as well as big names like Micro Scooters, which had its own scooter accessory division at the show.
I saw everything from scooter hand warmers, to scooter plush, to scooter bling and neon deck lights. There’s even scooter confectionary these days…
Well, actually that’s just a promotional snack, but I think it serves as a symbol of how far this area of the outdoor sector has come.
There was also a wealth of ethically produced or fair-trade toys on offer. It’s really touching to hear the stories of people from companies like Kenana UK and Lanka Kade, who with their manufacturing operations and ethical sourcing, are really helping third world communities to empower themselves through toy making.
As a journalist at these shows, my role is not that dissimilar from a buyer as I really enjoy looking at new product and get to find some hidden gems.
Top Drawer provided me with a great opportunity to do that and I certainly noticed some interesting, innovative and funny products which I’ll be sharing with you in ToyNews as Christmas draws closer.
GIVE THE DOG A PHONE
On Wednesday evening I made my way to Leicester Square’s swanky W Hotel to celebrate the arrival of Bandai’s TechPet in the UK.
Bandai doesn’t often do launch events like this, but then TechPet isn’t your average toy product.
It is yet another ‘app toy’, true, but it really does exploit the full range of technology available in the iPhone and combines it with robotics.
Speaking of which, I’ve noticed that the term ‘app toy’ is the one which has been accepted into the toy lexicon (rather than ‘appcessory’ or ‘iToy’ or similar).
Anyway this robodog has so many features it’s hard to know where to begin (you’ll have to check out the video on our YouTube channel to get a better understanding).
But I will say that playing with TechPet really bought back memories of Tamagotchi. You have to feed, play with and help the pet progress in the same way you had to with the old ‘Giga Pets’, and you can continue to nurture your pup using the app when you’re on-the-go.
Here's Amy from Bandai's TechPet. It has fleas and is rather dirty. "A dog is for life..." and all that.
I was excited by the toy when it originally debuted at the Tokyo Toy Fair and I was thrilled to hear that Bandai UK had decided to bring some over at an industry social earlier this year, so its great to see the project coming to fruition.