I went to the Jacob Javits Center yesterday and attended my first Toy Fair in a really long time. In fact the last time I went to Toy Fair it was in the Flatiron District at 200 Fifth Avenue so it suffices to say that was in the last century if we are being kind.
Why did I go to Toy Fair? Well we have clients and prospects in that industry on the publishing side as well as the sourcing side and I wanted to see first-hand how people interacted and how things were done.
The Javits Center is a big place to fill up but Toy Fair was spread far and wide on the main floor of the exhibit hall. In walking the aisles (and rather quickly as I am not a toy store owner or product buyer) I was not only impressed at the sheer number of exhibitors, but also the similarities in the product offerings. After awhile they all seemed to meld together leaving me with relatively no impression at all. Everything looked like everything else.
There was an area of the exhibit that appeared to be populated with eco-toys or ‘green’ focused toys – environmentally responsible and earth friendly. I felt that was an interesting and a good idea but then further on there were other companies outside of that enclave pitching their eco-friendly toys – which confused me.
As I continued on my very long walk up and down I noticed that the exhibitors and attendees skewed older than most trade shows I attend (reminiscent of the Direct Marketing Association shows). But what I really noticed was that for a trade show dedicated to toys it appeared to me that people were not having much fun at all. That was the most puzzling thing to me overall. After all what’s the point of toys if they are no fun?
I realize that at times toys can and should be educational. Yet if the spirit of Toy Fair is not fun and the people exhibiting and browsing don’t seem to be having any fun I question the entire concept and feel that it could use a total revamp. There should be a fun – almost circus-like component to the show – maybe a big top and with some circus acts in the center to make people smile and get into a fun frame of mind. Who knows they might even buy more product.
In the 1988 movie ‘Big’ with Tom Hanks, his 30 year old body with the mind of 12-year old looks at toys as needing to be fun – something the toy executives have a hard time with. The folks that put together Toy Fair might want to review that concept.