This January, Toy Fair will open its doors once again at Olympia London. As the UK’s largest toy, game and hobby trade show, more than 250 exhibiting companies will take to the show floor to showcase their latest products and inventions. For 2018, more than 100 of these will be returning exhibiting companies.
Celebrating its 65th year, Toy Fair remains a highlight in the industry calendar. It’s the event that big and small companies alike come back to, time and time again. We spoke to a selection of returning exhibitors about their expectations for the upcoming event, their history with Toy Fair, and their own journey into the UK’s booming toy industry.
Smart Games and Toys
Smart Games and Toys will be returning to Toy Fair for the fourth time in 2018. For Brand Director Karen Smart, the pull of meeting with existing customers, as well as seeking new business for their games, are key reasons to return.
“It’s the perfect kickstart of the year and a brilliant networking opportunity.” Through Toy Fair, Smart Games and Toys has a platform to introduce their brand to a whole new market. “It gives us a chance to engage with long standing retailers, as well as meet potential new ones,” Karen adds.
Simon Prest, Sales Director at Orchard Toys, agrees. “I am a huge fan of networking,” he says, “and Toy Fair offers an invaluable few days to meet people from across the industry.”
Orchard Toys has been exhibiting at Toy Fair for over 25 years, and Simon is a firm believer in the importance of face-to-face communication. But it’s not all about business.
“On a personal basis,” he adds, “it is always great to catch up with friends in the toy trade.” alptairector Simon Prest, ple Fair is vital to provide a setting for the toy industry as it looks to continue
Wild Card Games
Although Toy Fair covers an impressive 22,000 square metres, the team has worked hard to create a family atmosphere that helps exhibitors feel at home.
Sean Byrne, Managing Director at Wildcard Games, has fond memories of attending the show. “It’s a big social, with emphasis on meeting with our existing customers, making new contacts and catching up with people we know in the industry.” Wildcard Games are returning for the eighth year in January.
Toy Fair has also become increasingly important to exhibitors as a UK-based event. MTW Toys are Toy Fair veterans, returning to the show this year for an impressive tenth time.
“The UK market is a key region for our global business,” explains Geoff Sheffield, VP Sales at MTW Toys. “To not be at Toy Fair would see us miss our chance to speak to our key partners in their own backyard.”
For many, attending Toy Fair represents the culmination of a lifetime’s work in the toy industry. Kate Gibson, Managing Director of Gibsons Games, recalls past Toy Fair experiences with a nostalgic tone. “We have attended Toy Fair from the very beginning,” she says.
“Having been a British company for almost 100 years, we feel a sense of pride when exhibiting in our capital.”
Aside from the prospect of business acquisitions and networking, attending Toy Fair also rekindles the childhood love of toys that moved so many exhibitors to join the toy industry in the first place. Fiona Fraser-Bell, Co-Founder of Accentuate Games Ltd, was inspired to join the industry by her family’s love of games. “It was an idea that grew from that,” she remembers, “so it was a dream come true to enter an industry that allowed us to play games every day.” Phil Ratcliffe from MV Sports, a leading designer and supplier of wheeled and outdoor toys, feels the same, “I knew instantly that it was the job for me!”
To the BTHA, returning exhibitors are an essential part of Toy Fair’s continued success. Majen Immink, Head of Toy Fair Operations and Sales said, “We are very fortunate to have a very loyal group of exhibitors, with familiar faces returning year on year. We have been able to build up strong relationships with them over the years, and it’s always a pleasure to see them again at Toy Fair as well as the new exhibitors that we look forward to welcoming each year. The continued support of our exhibitors has made the show what it is today – a reflection of the passion and growth of the UK toy industry. We can’t wait to open the show in January.”
Toy Fair is the UK’s largest annual toy, game and hobby trade show held at Olympia, London 23-25 January 2018. Please register for tickets at www.toyfair.co.uk