“WHEN YOU walk through the doors into the Grand Hall, you’ll know you are at Toy Fair,” says event manager Simon Pilling of new venue Olympia.
There’s no doubt that 2010 will be a big year for the Toy Fair. The 2009 downsized gathering at ExCeL, while seen as worthwhile by exhibitors and visitors, only served to underline the fact the venue wasn’t really working and a change was desperately needed to secure the fair’s future – something brought home by the cheers that greeted the announcement of the venue change and shift in dates at the TRA Awards.
It seems to have worked, too. At time of writing, the event was almost sold out – with all 39 places in the Greenhouse area already taken up. The event received another boost when Tomy confirmed it was returning. “The move to Olympia will enable us to secure a more appropriate space and stand structure,” Joanne Gray, head of European marketing, said of the firm’s decision. “Attendance makes more commercial sense for us for 2010.”
The exhibitor list is certainly healthy, with big names such as Bandai, Character Options, Drumond Park, Golden Bear, Hasbro, Halsall, Leapfrog, Ravensburger, Spin Master, Vivid and Winning Moves among those pledging support for the new venue. Notably, the percentage of exhibitors showing in 2010 that didn’t exhibit in 2009 stands at 36 per cent (at time of press) and is estimated to exceed 40 per cent.
“The stunning structure of Olympia lends itself to a truly great experience,” Pilling continues. “The exhibition will be beneath a magnificent recently repainted roof, bathing the products on display in natural daylight. Importantly, it also offers the buyers who perceived ExCeL as too far from the centre of London, a chance to return to Toy Fair now that it has returned to the West End.
“The move has obviously been the correct one judging by the way exhibitors are booking space. I can say with almost certainty that the Grand and West Halls will be completely sold before the year is out, which is an amazing achievement in such a difficult climate.”
As at the beginning of November, pre-registered visitor figures were also up 23 per cent year-on-year and Pilling points out that every effort is made by the team to ensure that exhibitors are seeing the right people.
“Toy Fair is run by the British Toy & Hobby Association – on the whole our members are our exhibitors and vice versa,” Pilling explains. “We are overseen by a Toy Fair committee (made up of a selection of exhibiting members) and a council (many of whom also exhibit).
Toy Fair receives feedback directly through these members and has to account to these groups for everything to do with Toy Fair, including visitor numbers.
“The reason the numbers are not released to the media is that, as an association, we feel it is the quality and not necessarily the quantity of visitors that is important to the show. We scrutinise our pre-registered visitors to ensure only the media receive media badges, and only the buyers are presented with buyers badges, and that the quality of visitors is maintained.
“As long as our exhibitors are seeing the right people it will give them the best return on investment. Doubling our numbers with time wasters really helps no-one.
“I don’t doubt that the 2010 stands will certainly follow the creative flair of previous years, if the rumours and preliminary designs are anything to go by – but we invite you to come and see for yourself.”