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Toy Fair, New York: Ready to play

After a three-year absence, Toy Fair is heading back to New York City in a new autumn slot and boasting a number of new features. LicensingSource.net catches up with Kimberly Carcone, evp of global events at The Toy Association to find out more.

We have to think back to February 2020 – pre-pandemic – for the last time that the global toy industry was able to head to New York’s Jacob K Javits Convention Center for Toy Fair.

Since then, the Javits’ expansion project has been completed – with an estimated investment of $1.5bn and including a significant increase in exhibition space as well as a number of other features – while The Toy Association also undertook its own project. The ‘Toy Fair Reimagination Project’ included focus groups, surveys of toy manufacturers and retailers and other research, along with consultation from an outside company which specialises in trade shows.

From this, the decision was made to shift the show from its traditional February slot to the August/September window. This year’s dates are 30 September to 3 October and, from early stats, it seems that the return of Toy Fair is being keenly awaited.

At time of writing, almost 1,000 companies had signed up to exhibit, while registration was up 7% over Toy Fair 2020 with registrants representing 73 different countries and territories. This includes buyers from over 1,400 retail outlets spanning across all 50 US states and 59 countries and territories, including 22 of the top 25 sellers representing the $40 billion US toy market.

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“We can’t wait to celebrate the return of Toy Fair to the global stage,” says Kimberly Carcone, evp of global events at The Toy Association. “For everyone at The Toy Association, it’s the opportunity to showcase the show’s legacy while also highlighting all the new elements we’ve incorporated to evolve alongside the ever-changing landscape of the toy industry and provide the industry with the tools and resources they need to succeed.”

The new elements include a Visual Merchandising Initiative which requires exhibitors to make product visible in at least 20% of their aisle-facing booth space – which comes as a result of feedback from the retail community and media to create a more engaging show experience – plus new product zones to help attendees tap into toy-adjacent industries and trends. The World of Toys Pavilion is in partnership with Spielwarenmesse eG, while there are also pavilions from France, China and India.

A new Halloween Pavilion will emphasise the influence of these products and experiences, while there will also be a ‘Hot for Holiday’ display keyed into what families will be vying for in Q4 and a ‘Pet PLAYce’ section highlighting products for pets.

“These new dedicated zones at the show reflect how play trends reach beyond the toy space and highlight areas for growth and opportunity avenues for growth,” explains Kimberly.

There will also be nearly 350 first time exhibitors on the show floor which Kimberly says illustrates Toy Fair’s strong pipeline for innovation and creativity, regardless of time of year.

“New ideas and innovation are what ultimately drive change and this industry forward,” she comments. “We talk a lot about diversity and inclusion in the toy space, but this idea also applies to creating pathways for diverse and inclusion product assortments. This is at the forefront of what Toy Fair spaces like Launch Pad, which is designed specifically to feature up and coming toy inventors and international companies interested in expanding their products to the US, are all about – helping facilitate those business-accelerating connections between freshman exhibitors and buyers and media.”

NYTF2When it comes to licensing, Kimberly is quick to point out just how important it is, not just to Toy Fair, but the toy industry as a whole.

“The dynamic collaboration between toys and licensing has given rise to timeless and beloved products that have captured the hearts and imaginations of generations of consumers and produced billions of dollars in revenue (representing 30% of total global toy sales in 2022, according to Circana),” Kimberly says. “Beyond the nostalgia and entertainment factor, the toy and licensing industries share a common goal of creating consumer-centric products that resonate with audiences of all ages.

“The Toy Association’s Toy Fair will put this synergy between our two industries on display, through in-booth activations, powerful branded experiences throughout the show, as well as through dedicated educational programming.”

Licensors including Disney, Moonbug, NBC Universal, Paramount and Sony Pictures among others are due to attend, while Paramount is also the sponsor of the press centre.

There’s certainly going to be a lot of ground to cover at the show and, much like Santa will be making his list and checking it twice, Kimberly advises that attendees make a clear list of objectives about what they want to accomplish, create a game plan and stick to it.

She concludes: “Toy Fair’s heritage as the largest toy, game and play product experience will carry forward, bringing the global toy industry together to make even more connections, share new innovations and preview what’s coming next. We’re ready to play!”

NYTF1Licensed moments

As part of the show’s educational line-up, Licensing International will host a Toy Fair University session that addresses how the current entertainment landscape is constantly dividing children’s attention and why brand building is more important than ever to hold kids interested.

The session will also offer insights into the $340.8 billion global licensing industry and guidance on how best to grow your own toy and game properties through licensing in, licensing out, brand collaborations and more. Licensing International will also host its annual Toy Fair networking event after-hours.

There is also a Licence of the Year category at the Toy of the Year Awards, which serves as the kick off to Toy Fair, taking place on 29 September, the night before the show begins.

This feature originally appeared in the autumn 2023 edition of Licensing Source Book. To read the full publication, click on this link.

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