Kim Vandenbroucke, formerly of The Game Aisle: The Hottest Topic at NY Toy Fair

by Kim Vandenbroucke | 05 Oct 2023

Industry Commentary, Op-Ed

2023 New York Toy Fair is in the books and what was THE talk of the show? It wasn’t a hot new trend or a cool game with trampolining pigs — although you should check that pigs game out. Nope, it was the future of NY Toy Fair and this topic was HEATED.


Normally I cover Toy Fair Trends, but the change in venue was by far the number one topic of the fair.  Although some said they were pleased with their sales, it didn’t appear that this fall show was really working. Several of the big name companies weren’t there as they had events in LA the weeks prior. There was no big Spin Master party.  Fair attendance felt lighter, and the aisles weren’t super packed with attendees.  Even the seats in front of Starbucks were far easier to come by than in the past.


Then on Sunday, the Toy Association announced that the fair is moving. In 2025 we’re going to have one last hurrah in New York and starting in 2026 the show will be in New Orleans for at least three years. Many I spoke with were disappointed and expressed sadness about leaving NYC. Most who travel to New York have longstanding traditions with clients, customers, co-workers, and friends. How many years has Mary been hosting her People of Play/ChiTAG party at Connolly’s?? The loss of the toy building is still in our lore, and now the city that is so rich with toy history is going to be left behind.


Beyond the initial sadness, there was a lot of frustration with the Toy Association’s decision.  At the show, people were asking: “What is the TA thinking?” “Who is this good for?“Why New Orleans and not LA?” Many toy companies have offices in LA, so if Toy Fair was going to move the obvious choice seemed to be Los Angeles. New Orleans didn’t seem to please anyone. People lamented about the lack of direct flights to New Orleans. LAX has direct flights to over 162 cities and 42 countries (New York Airports have way more).  New Orleans, has direct flights from a paltry 46 cities and 4 countries — an embarrassingly small number for an airport that’s serving an “International” toy show.


There were also serious grumblings about heading to a state that has a multitude of discriminatory policies.  Louisiana doesn’t give women full bodily autonomy and legislation that bans all abortions went into effect in 2022.  In June of this year, the NAACP Louisiana State Conference made an official request to the national association to have a travel advisory issued for their state that is similar to the one issued for Florida. They said that recent legislation targets and marginalizes Black people, members of the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, and those who exercise their right to free speech. The Human Rights Campaign also condemned the Louisiana legislators for their ban of gender affirming care. Our industry already has a diversity problem, maybe we shouldn’t compound it by putting a major show in a state that’s unfriendly to minorities and women.


I also must acknowledge the frustration I heard about timing. In 2025 the fair will be in early March, but in 2026 and beyond it will jump to mid or early January.  Before both London Toy Fair and Spielwarenmess in Nuremberg, and possibly conflicting with CES and the Atlanta Gift Show.  In 2026 it will be over Martin Luther King Jr. day, which is a federal holiday.  One person I spoke to called it a “marriage killer” as anyone who has to attend several of these shows will be gone for weeks.


Overall, New Orleans is fun city but it’s obvious that the people of the industry have some serious questions about why the Toy Association thought New Orleans was the right move. What are your feelings are on the upcoming changes?

toy fair New York Toy Fair

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