I’ve been to quite a few conferences and work exhibitions in my time, but none of them have been quite like Toy Fair 2015. For starters there weren’t giant characters wandering around, or famous stars launching products, and let’s face it, toys are a lot more exciting a business to be in than merchandising solutions.
I decided to check out Toy Fair 2015 after hearing about it last year from a couple of friends. My aim was to meet some of the PR and brands I’ve been working with, making some new contacts with brands I’d potentially like to work with this over the next year, and find out more about what upcoming launches in the toy world this year (nothing like being prepared for Christmas ideas).
I think there’s mixed thoughts on bloggers going to Toy Fair. It is ultimately a trade fair, a chance for manufacturers and distributors to meet buyers, and buyers to decide their new toys, but the Tuesday is press day, so you’ll always see lots of cameras and journalists around. Some people told me it was a waste of time for bloggers, that no-one really wanted to see them, while others said it could be useful if you planned it well. I took a chance, booked a day off work, and if I really wasn’t finding it helpful, I could just have a day in London.
I decided against booking appointments in advance, and took the chance on being able to speak to those I wanted to when I turned up at their stands. Given the 1.5 hour train delay it was probably a good thing, and apart from huge companies like Lego and Playmobil where appointments seemed to be essential, it wasn’t a problem.
The Toy Fair is held at Olympia which is a great place, but a pain on public transport with all the changes on the tube. I grabbed a map, checked off the companies I wanted to talk to, then headed round the stands. Being press day there were lots of new products being launched; Toy Fair tv was recording from the show and showing some of the new launches.
I headed to Galt Toys early on because it was near the start, plus one of my favourite Strictly Come Dancing pros Aliona Vilani was on the stand with fellow dancer Kristina Rihanoff to launch Galt’s Sensational Sequins Dazzling Dancers craft set. Definitely a potential craft set for my niece/god-daughter and any other children who love crafting and sparkle. The stand was packed with press and buyers, so I headed back later when it was less busy.
I love ambling round the stands. Even if you think you know toys, you probably aren’t aware of many of the manufacturer names, and I was astounded at the ranges that some manufacturers or stores have.
Great Gizmos is an online store I love. Stocking ‘slow toys’, including many ethically manufactured brands, there was so much variety on the stand. I really liked the Zoob construction toys. After examining the suspension and flexibility on some of the models on display, and nearly knocking the display over, I was pleased to hear that there’s a junior range. It’s great that so many more manufacturers are now doing junior ranges for preschoolers so they can progress gradually to the brands, rather than having to wait for years.
After working with Trunki for a while now, it was lovely to meet my contact face to face. Their new London trunki suitcase, complete with stickers, is great fun and complements their range. Although we’re now at the older end of their range, I always enjoy waiting to see what else they’ll launch.
N’s a bit of a Peppa Pig fan still and enjoys puzzles, so I was pleased to see what new lines Jumbo Games were planning for the first quarter of 2015. As well as 4 new products from their Peppa Pig licensed range (including ABC and 123 puzzles), they also have Ben and Holly and Mr Bloom’s Nursery items being launched. I loved their large interlocking foam floor jigsaw/mats – you can combine characters as your collection grows. Great for playroom floors or outside.
Microscooters are celebrating their 10th anniversary this year, and it was great to meet them and see all their products in person. Much easier to plan N’s next scooter by seeing them in person. I am intrigued by their upcoming trike – it looks like a really odd contraption.
Having said that, everywhere I turned I spotted something new that was unique – including some very strange toy methods of transport on some of the smaller stands.
John Adams made me feel welcome, walking me round their stand and showing me their new Pip Ahoy range due out later this year. It’s really colourful, and one of many tv character based toys at the show. I was pleased to see the contemporary version of Girls World (I was always jealous of my friend having one of those as a child), and also discovered that it’s Tiny Tears’ 50th anniversary.
Then it was over to more outdoor toys, perfect for the outdoor space we have on the farm, over at MV Sports and Leisure. Again a really friendly team who obviously love their products which range from licensed toddler and preschool wheeled toys through to , children’s and adult bikes and Kickmaster football toys. Check out their Batmobile car for a bit of childhood fun.
As a first timer representing my blog, it’s definitely one of those occasions where you get to practice what you preach in terms of pitching yourself and your blog, and having thick skin. I was lucky in that I didn’t experience anyone on stands being rude or dismissive. In fact the majority were welcoming, being interested in hearing what I blogged about and doing a walk around the stand with me.
Often as blogger, it feels like most brands know about blogging, they really don’t. On one stand I was told they do work with bloggers, but then it turned out that really it’s a case of them appreciating someone reviewing one of their products off their own back. So it’s a case of finding the right person on a stand to talk to and asking the right questions so you don’t waste yours or anyone else’s time. There’s not always a marketing or PR at the fair, although it’s still worth handing over a business card and getting their details if possible.
I bumped into a couple of other bloggers on my way round, which is always nice to have a chat, compare notes and work out what I might have missed. I spent around 3 hours there, and that was fine for me.
If you’re thinking of going to such a fair or exhibition, my tips are:
- Take business cards, note book and pen
- If you get given business cards, write the brand on it. Often you’ll get a PR’s business card, but you need to know who they’re representing.
- Plan your objective beforehand – what brands do you want to seen, is it pr or the brand teams itself?
- Speak to your contacts beforehand to see if they’ll be available and make appointments in advance if there’s people you really must see.
- Follow up however has been agreed.
- Smile and be willing to promote what you can do for businesses.
It was an interesting day, and one that I took away a lot of learnings from for future networking.