The Greenhouse Effect: Exploring Toy Fair's indie scene

Each year, London Toy Fair’s Greenhouse Area grows in size, accommodating the toys of tomorrow, today. Robert Hutchins talks to Toy Fair’s Majen Immink about why it remains a key strand to UK toy industry’s DNA.
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From multinationals to the ambitious inventor, Toy Fair’s Greenhouse Area is as vital to the genetic construct of Olympia’s big January toy show as its biggest exhibitors.

Among the sea of character costumes, celebrity appearances and media photo shoots, where else will you find the toys of tomorrow, today and the level of innovation that keeps this industry the vibrant playground that it is?

It’s why, each and every year, the Greenhouse Area grows in size, accommodating new and exciting companies and nurturing the overall growth of the toy industry as a whole, from the roots up.

“The Greenhouse Area is a vital part of London Toy Fair,” Majen Immink, Toy Fair head of operations, tells ToyNews. “Toy Fair is all about showcasing the talent and ingenuity of the UK toy industry, from largeer legacy multinationals to the ambitious inventor. The Greenhouse Area is therefore the ideal space for small and start-up companies to exhibit at the show, placed at the heart of the show floor, and is an excellent place for visitors and industry experts alike to witness the latest UK inventions.”

Now up to 80 square metres in size, the Greenhouse Area is the biggest it has ever been, attracting regular returnees such as A Girl For All Time, Tractor Ted and Aardvark Swift, as well as first-time exhibitors including the likes of Brixies, Jumini and Push It Games, each looking for their big break in the UK toy industry. 

"At its heart, the Greenhouse Area provides an invaluable opportunity for small and start-up companies,” continues Immink. 

The biggest names in the toy, hobby and games industry are all under one roof at Toy Fair, giving smaller companies the chance to network and demonstrate their innovative products to interested buyers and industry experts.

“For newer companies it can be difficult to arrange those meetings outside of an event like Toy Fair, so the show is a key date in the industry calendar to establish the relationships they need to grow and succeed here in the UK.

“Companies such as Micro Scooters, BigJigs and Bladez Toyz all first exhibited in the Greenhouse Area and are now established companies, driving the toy industry forward, and can be visited on the main show floor.”

If the growing size of Toy Fair’s Greenhouse Area can attest to anything, it is that the UK’s start-up and small business sector is in rude health. While uncertainty surrounding the impact of Brexit hangs like the Sword of Damacles over many of the larger, more international businesses, it is in the vibrancy of the break-through, home-grown toy innovators, developers and inventors that the industry can take some solace. 

“I am always excited to see what toy and innovations the UK’s new businesses come up with,” enthuses Immink. “As we can see by this year’s extension and waiting list of the Greenhouse Area, there are lots of small companies looking to break into the industry with their own new and unique products, so I am confident that the UK toy industry’s creativity and innovation will ensure it continues to thrive for many years.” 

In the wake of the recent upheavals among some of the globe’s biggest toymakers and the financial strife surrounding retail giant Toys R Us, the notion arises as a breath of fresh air. For as long as there are initiatives in place to nurture and fuel the innovation within the sector, the toy industry will continue to thrive.

“There are too many innovative products exhibiting at the 2018’s Greenhouse Area to count,” says Immink. “Personally, I am excited to see the many educational toys we will have in the area this year.

“Toys like AugmentifyIt and Cognisaur are great examples of how new technology can support children’s learning and development. “We will have many fantastic traditional toys at the Greenhouse as well, like the Push It wooden table top game, as well as construction kits like Bildy Megaboards aimed at younger children.

“With such great products on the rise, I am very optimistic about the future of our Greenhouse Area. If demand continues to be strong, then we at the BTHA will do all that we can to support the UK’s ever-grow- ing talent at Toy Fair.”

It’s undeniable then that Toy Fair 2018 really is shaping up to be an unmissable experience for everyone at all stages of development and within all walks of the toy industry.

“We have been delighted to see the show sell out almost four months prior to opening, demonstrating the demand and enthusiasm in the industry. Whether you’re a small company or a show veteran, it’s really an exciting time to exhibit and visit." 

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