Toy Fairs Offer Opportunities to Stay Market Savvy

by Lynn Winston

Hundreds of visitors to the 2014 Nurnberg Toy Fair attended the Global Toy Conference.

Hundreds of visitors to the 2014 Nurnberg Toy Fair also attended the Global Toy Conference. (photo c/o Spielwarenmesse)

Asked why they attend annual trade shows, most visitors will typically respond this way: they want to see the latest products first hand, suss-out coming trends and create or re-cement industry connections. But these days, more people are also likely to say they count access to educational workshops and presentations given by industry experts as an important motive for attending.

Obviously, organizers of key trade events, such as the Spielwarenmesse German International Toy Fair, and the American International Toy Fair, have been listening. Both expanded their 2014 roster of informative seminars and sessions targeting the needs of a broader audience of industry professionals.

Even our own smaller-than-usual Canadian Toy & Hobby Fair, which wrapped up on January 28, added a series of speakers that included The NPD Group-Canada’s Pam Wood, and Kevin Cochrane, of enRiched Academy.

Wood, who spoke on the Evolution of Play, was especially impressive. She came armed with stats and information culled from a survey – the first of its kind in Canada – recently completed with 1,740 parents, whose kids ranged from two to 12 years old.

As part of this Canadian Online Consumer Panel, parents were questioned on a multitude of issues — everything from the amount they spent last year on traditional toys for their offspring to the ways in which technology has impacted their expenditures and purchasing decisions. There were a lot of thoughtful faces in the audience as Wood delivered the good and bad news facing Canadian retailers and suppliers.

As mentioned above, the annual New York Toy Fair, which runs mid February, also strengthened its already excellent lineup of educational sessions and seminars. While some were directed to suppliers looking to wet their feet in North America’s intimidating licensing market, other presentations like Patricia Norins’ “60 Promotions in 60 Minutes”, were aimed directly at the needs of specialty retailers.

Norins, a well-known U.S. author and entrepreneur with more than 15 years of experience in retail, actually created the presentation for an earlier fair. But her message to retailers was just as on-point as ever: know how to market your business and then get out there and do it.

She introduced her message by reminding audience members that before attempting any promotion of their business, they needed to create an informal and brief question/answer-style marketing analysis or plan.

She said retailers needed to ask themselves only six questions: what is the purpose of the business, what is the store’s main competitive advantage, what is the target audience, what marketing tools are available, what is the store’s niche or what does the store “stand for”, and finally, what will be the budget for marketing.

Norins went on to cover many more than 60 ways to affordably promote an independent business. Plus, she also offered many valuable retailing tips that, again, had audience members looking thoughtful.

In addition to the few shows I’ve mentioned here, there are lots of other events and exhibitions still to take place around the world this year. Of course, seeing new products will always be priority number-one for the vast majority of trade show visitors. But next time you’re at a show, I urge you to take a moment to also check-out the often unique educational opportunities that many of these events now offer. It’s information – much of it accessible without cost – that will keep you on top of the game and your market.

Lynn Winston has been the editor of both print and online versions of Toys & Games Magazine since 1991. To contact her directly, please click here.
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