West London Massive

After a successful return to Olympia last year, this year?s Toy Fair is even bigger, occupying more floor space and bringing well-known players back into the fold. ToyNews talked to Simon Pilling, BTHA fairs and events manager?
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So, you must be delighted at the resurgence in fortunes of Toy Fair?
Yes, I’m really looking forward to Toy Fair 2011. The show has taken a third more space than last year and has sold out two months quicker. The BTHA has always tried to ensure the Toy Fair stays relevant and the decision to move venue, along with increased excitement of exhibitors, has ensured that Toy Fair looks set to be a very exciting show.

Did you expect to see such an increase in exhibitors this year?
Considering the response following Toy Fair 2010, I did anticipate a strong showing. Whilst on site, the team was approached by a higher than usual number of potential exhibitors, but it is fantastic that the enquiries developed into bookings.

Is it purely down to the venue?
The BTHA considers feedback from exhibitors and visitors very seriously. When the opportunity arose to move back to West London the council felt the timing was right. Moving back to Olympia has had a very positive impact. Not only is it accessible, but the natural light and space creates a pleasant atmosphere which adds to the buzz of the show. The other feedback was to move the show to mid-week dates and this timing seems to have had a positive impact too.

Thanks also has to go to all the exhibitors that help to make Toy Fair look fantastic every year and ensure it is worthwhile for buyers to attend.

Is exhibiting at Toy Fair now more affordable or have costs remained the same?
Toy Fair rates vary year-on-year but discounts make exhibiting affordable. BTHA members are eligible for about 20 per cent discount of the space fee and exhibitors who pay a deposit by April 30th or pay in full by October 31st will also receive rebates.

Last year the BTHA also said they would share the profit of the show with exhibitors attending in 2010 and 2011, so many will have their profit share from last year discounted from their space rate in 2011.

How do you make sure the Gallery section doesn’t feel like a separate part of the fair?
The Gallery will be a bustling area full of big name exhibitors as well as some smaller firms. The press office has been moved to the balcony and following feedback about a lack of space to take a break, two sponsored (Turner and Toy Trust) lounges have been added. A new staircase in the Greenhouse area leads from the centre of the Grand Hall ground floor up to the Gallery.

What about the timing of the fair? Has the change of days made a bigger difference to attendance?
The move to a three-day mid-week event was carefully discussed before going ahead. The change in format has resulted in increased visitor numbers and has prompted a positive response from exhibitors who felt that the final day lacked atmosphere as a result of low attendance.

What feedback did you get from retailers about the fair last year?
We do appreciate that for some retailers the three-day format is tight for visiting everyone. We try to help as much as we can with this by getting plans and exhibitor lists out early to help with meeting planning. Having said that, overall the feedback was positive. Retailers felt the move to a three-day show meant there was a real buzz at the event.

Any changes this year, apart from the additional space?
There are a number of new features this year. New to the show is the Toy Lab Testing area, which will be open on press day in the Greenhouse Area for exhibitors to have their products tested and demonstrated by children.

Notable names retuning to the show include MV Sports, Plum Products and Hornby.

Registration has a new layout, further reducing queuing time, plus if you registered prior to November 23rd a badge will be posted to you.

The BabyCentre has sponsored the ground floor coffee lounge and Innovation First is sponsoring the main entrance.

Also look out for a change to the Relaxation Area, where free foot, Indian head, or back massages will
be available.

Is there room for additional expansion next year? Do you expect further growth?
There will be some scope for additional stands as some of the stands can be reconfigured for 2012 to open up more space. As stands had already booked it has been impossible to do this for the 2011 fair but changes will be made for 2012. I urge exhibitors wanting space at the 2012 event to talk to us early.

2013 will see an increase in floor space at Olympia, as the venue is building a second level above the West Hall. We would like to see Toy Fair expand in 2013 to fill the new upper West Hall.

How much of a difference does it make that the industry has seen some growth this year?
In a difficult financial climate, suppliers can find it hard to justify the cost of a trade show. We would say during times of economic uncertainty, suppliers need to be seen by retailers more than ever to ensure their products are selected.

We are pleased for the whole industry that there has been growth since the last Toy Fair and that is clearly reflected in the growth of next year’s show. We look forward to supplying the industry with an upbeat and positive Toy Fair to help that growth to continue.


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