Observations from a toy industry survivor (April)

In a new book called Toy Town, author Sarah Monks tells the colourful tale of Hong Kong, the city that took toys to the world.
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The book should be essential reading for anyone serious about buying, selling, manufacturing or marketing toys anywhere in the world. It explains why Hong Kong has played such a vital role in 20th century toy development but also how transient can be a location’s grip on a business when the book explores whether China will one day lose the toy industry just like Germany lost it to Japan and then Japan to Hong Kong, concluding that the most likely contenders, Vietnam and India, have a long way to go, from expertise and red tape to logistics. The Pearl River Delta will reign for some time to come, it decides.

Highly respected US toy inventor Bruce Lund says he recently heard from a very knowledgeable Chinese factory source that the government intends to double factory wages in next five years. With labour representing 20 to 50 per cent of a product's cost, the price of all kinds of products, not just toys, are expected to rise dramatically over the next five years. With commodity prices already up dramatically and others still rising due to hikes in oil prices, it looks as if China is steadily catching up with the reality of a developing economy.

It wasn’t that long ago that Western marketeers were too embarrassed to admit that their products were originating in Hong Kong. Lesney, the makers of Matchbox Toys, used to put on their packaging “Manufactured in Hong Kong under European supervision,” to divert attention that the toys were made in the Far East.

I wonder if it is all going to come full circle, perhaps US and European designed toys will soon be able to shout from the rooftops “Manufactured in China under Chinese supervision”?


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