Richard Highfield: How Essential are Toy Fairs to REAL Toy Buyers?

by The Bloom Report | 15 Jun 2023

Industry Commentary, Op-Ed

Toys and Games are sold all year round with a vast peak in the November and December period. Yet toy stores, toy departments and on-line stockists operate for 52 weeks and need sales and margin to continue. Sales are tough to achieve, but margins even tougher. Just look at some of the recent failures.


How delightful the big brands of Lego, Hasbro, Mattel and the hottest new TV, movie or social media favourites appear. To be credible every outlet needs them and they drive customers to you. But at what cost?


Margins vary from business to business, but each has staff and occupation costs. Constantly rising too. So let’s say your business needs a certain percentage return on sales. Will you get that with the brand leaders and competitively priced ‘in fashion’ winners? Of course not! You need to think outside the box and shop around to widen your consumer offering. You will need a wide assortment of higher margin products and they are available. You will need a great selection of product choices to suit all age groups too.


Toy sources are various. Who and where you purchase from is your choice. Following the crowd to best selling, yet low margin ranges will be a recipe for disaster. See past issues of The Bloom Report for the evidence.


Currently there is much discussion about international toy fairs. When? Where? But forgetting Why?


Isn’t the original idea of a toy fair for manufacturers or distributors to offer their products to buyers to see, but also touch and feel while interfacing with those looking to see their offering marketed, preferably globally?


Market forces will inevitably decide where these venues will be and when they take place after Covid blew the lid on the former round of international shows. It is fascinating to stand back and see collections of individuals pushing their own agendas, while observing that mistakes are already being made and decisions regretted.


Of course, you cannot possibly please the whole of the toy purchasing community in one hit. Some require over a year, some want a show weeks before the peak season. Some seem only interested in the weather.


Wake up toy buyers wherever you are! Purchase where you get variety of products, choices of sources and critically achieve the margins you need to pay your costs and thrive. I hear of retailers getting back to Hong Kong again, even outside of the fairs season.


Wake up toy suppliers! Respect that your buyers are purchasing hundreds, if not thousands of individual SKUs across diverse and multiple categories. From plush to R/C, from pre-school to action figures, from die-cast to games. Proper buyers are inspecting manufacture. Nobody wants a recall, nobody wants a 10% plus return rate. Your buyer is checking the quality of sewing, plastic durability, battery connections and so very much more. That buyer will be aware of specific testing requirements in their region.


Gone are those risky, if emergency days of spending your own precious money or the company’s thousands of dollars in a Zoom call. The world has reopened and it is time to buy…….wisely.


Increasingly toy fairs suck in a peripheral amount of advisory hangers-on who have never bought toys for resale or put together a solitary toy product, to say nothing of a range. I often chuckle reading their observations or watching them at those sparsely attended events that shows seem to think warrant space in recent times.


Remember why we have shows and where your best sources operate.

toy buyers trade shows

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