It was Shaquille O’Neal who cut the ribbon of the 117th New York Toy Fair this February, marking the start of what was to be yet another successful show, and the 117th edition of the global toy fair that brought in tens of thousands of play innovators from across 100 countries last month.
The towering NBA icon – who went to take up residence on the opening day of the show at Basic Fun’s booth for its latest Tonka developments – presented the perfect metaphor for the four day show homed within New York City’s expanding Jacob K Javits Convention Centre: When the US does its Toy Fair, it likes to go big.
O’Neal played his part wonderfully in drumming up the buzz around the show that saw more than 100,000 toys and games line the halls of the Convention Centre from February 22nd to 25th this year, as it once again not only amplified itself as the world’s stage for the latest in toy developments, but housed its usual roster of daily educational programming, developed and curated to propel the industry into the new decade and newer ways of thinking about the toy and retail environment.
“Over the past 117 years Toy Fair New York has evolved from business meetings in New York City’s iconic Toy Building to a crucial global hub for play professionals seeking the hottest new trends, new business opportunities, access to New York’s finance and media communities, and unrivalled educational programming,” said Steve Pasierb, president & CEO of The Toy Association.
“This year’s marketplace unveiled fresh product lines, innovative twists on classics, exciting new tech and interactive playthings, and licensed toys driven by digital and traditional media IP – all competing to top kids’ wish lists and vital to driving the $27 billion US toy market and US toymakers’ integral role in the $90 billion global toy industry.”
The show saw exhibiting companies from 30 countries showcase their new lines to buyers from the nation’s top 25 toy retailers, international outlets, and specialty stores, including the likes of Amazon, Target, eBay, Disney Store, Gamestop, Walmart, and more. Retailers from the UK even made an appearance, including The Entertainer and Smyths Toys.
First-time exhibitors in the “Launch Pad” section of the show offered guests a first look at never-before-seen playthings, while veteran brands continued to raise the bar on play and innovation.
As a major pop culture destination, Toy Fair New York also welcomed more family influencers and content creators than before, including Tic Tac Toy, FGTeeV, ThatYouTub3Family, Jace’s Toy Playhouse, and SuperHeroKids.
Multiple entertainment companies were in attendance to negotiate deals and tap into new categories of play, including Disney Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products; Lionsgate Entertainment, Netflix, Sesame Workshop, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros. Consumer Products, and ViacomCBS.
In addition to conducting business, exhibitors leveraged media opportunities with nearly 1,000 members of the press attending Toy Fair to scoop the toy story of the year and report on The Toy Association’s top toy trends of 2020.
“Toy Fair New York is one of the most exciting events on the calendar for our PR and Influencer team as we have the opportunity to meet with so many media and content creators to showcase the innovation in our upcoming line up of toys, games, and entertainment and digital properties,” said Tammy Smitham, VP communications and CSR at Spin Master Ltd.
Dozens of daily educational seminars, panel presentations, and demos took place at the show, covering every toy and play topic imaginable, including safety, compliance and sustainability; toy invention, design and entrepreneurship; top trends; global trade and market expansion; licensing; and more.
Meanwhile, an expanded Creative Factor programme was a show highlight, with nearly hourly presentations held in the Creative Factor theatre to provide creative professionals with the tips, tools, and strategies they need to innovate in today’s toy, play, and retail environment.
An inaugural Student Congress for university-level toy design students also took place, as well as the second annual CF@TF Inventor Day providing up-and-coming inventors with the chance to pitch their ideas to top toy professionals and manufacturing partners.
It was fair to say that the mood on the show floor was upbeat and energetic.
“As a first-time exhibitor, the show was amazing for us,” said Pia Colon Wurth, licensing director at Buzzy, Inc. “What a diverse group of attendees. We met everyone from liquidators to independents to museum stores to Shark Tank. No one got past our booth without seeing our products. It was a great show for us.”
Eric Von Stein, partner at Bright Stripes, added: “We had an incredible experience at Toy Fair New York and saw hundreds of buyers in our booth. The Launch Pad [for first-time exhibitors] was packed with people looking to spot fresh new products, and we were busy through to the very end of the show.
“We experienced so much genuine excitement and enthusiasm for our line and are already looking forward to booking our booth for 2021.”
Shelley MacDonald, divisional merchandise manager at Toys R Us Canada, said her team “had great feedback from this year’s show,”
“From solid product lines and new introductions to exciting vendor activations like the TY Fashion Show and seeing Shaquille O’Neal at the Basic Fun booth for Tonka – it generates a fun buzz and keeps things interesting. We always look forward to checking out the Level 1 booths, where there are always interesting and unique finds,” she added.
The Toy Association has confirmed that the global toy industry will come together once again next year at the 118th Toy Fair New York, taking place Saturday, February 13 to Tuesday, February 16 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.