As many readers will have already heard, Toys & Games Magazine is officially closing its doors on December 31 — a final e-blast will be sent to subscribers on December 30.
I’ve helmed T & G — first as editor and later as editor/publisher — for 24 of its 40+ years, so folding the publication wasn’t an easy decision to make. But with a new year ahead and so many industry changes looming, the time just seems right.
T & G was founded in the 70s as a print publication designed to promote and serve the growing Canadian toy, hobby and seasonal products industry. The magazine covered the news, events, and issues affecting the businesses of industry members — retailers and manufacturers of all sizes to sales reps and inventors.
In its heyday, Toys & Games was published eight times a year with each issue going to 7,000+ qualified subscribers across the country. As part of its mandate to facilitate communication between members, T & G also published an annual Directory that listed several hundred manufacturers, importers, licensors and sales agencies, as well as their brands and products.
I joined T & G in late 1991 and in the following January I attended my first Canadian Toy & Hobby Fair, held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Of course, many industry old timers told me “the show just wasn’t the same” since leaving its original site in Montreal and moving to Toronto. However, I thought it was a fabulous event. Not only did it feature thousands of exciting products, but it also brought together retailers and suppliers from across the country.
That year, I also attended my first American International Toy Fair in NYC — again, I loved every minute. Although it has gone on to experience many changes, including a name change to reflect the new partnership between the Canadian and U.S. toy associations, the NY Toy Fair is still one of the best places to see what’s new and trending. To this day, I’m amazed at toy designers’ ingenuity.
In 1999, Graham Kennedy and Chelsie Communications acquired the magazine and I came along as editor. By that time, the Canadian economy had weathered at least a couple of “slumps” and our industry was also experiencing its share of ups and downs. Two of the more serious bumps in the road came later in the decade when Mattel Inc. recalled more than 20 million Fisher-Price and Barbie-brand products in 2007. And the following year, Canada and the U.S. experienced a bona fide recession that surpassed all other recent downturns.
The world wide web was accelerating a different way of doing business and while still healthy, the toy industry lost many players — both on the retail and supply side of the equation.
Over the next decade and despite the hurdles, Graham and I continued to put out a viable publication that served and supported all segments of our industry. However, we worked especially hard to strengthen our affiliation with Neighbourhood Toy Stores of Canada (NETS), the country’s group of independent specialty retailers.
To that end, we published an in-depth Retailer Wrap-up article in the giant January issue each year. Plus, we sponsored the Retail Partner of the Year Award, an annual honour handed out at NETS’ after-hours get-together held during the Canadian Toy Fair.
T & G Relaunches
In 2009 when Graham retired, I took over as editor/publisher. Although maintaining all its traditional mandates, I dropped the print edition of T & G and relaunched the publication in its current online format in 2010.
At this point, I should mention that I couldn’t have moved forward with the new T & G without the help of my partner, Larry Heintzman, a man of many hats. Thanks to his behind-the-scenes hard work, computer skills and technical know-how, T & G was soon ranked as one of the leading toy trade websites with readers — both professionals and consumers — logging in from over 130 countries.
Granted, the past six years have been a learning curve — I discovered way more about web-based publishing than I ever thought I’d want to know. And it has been a challenge to stay timely by posting new content every week rather than the slower-paced bimonthly regimen of print publishing.
However, I’ve also had the chance to add to my already long list of good memories of the industry and the many wonderful people who keep it humming.
I’m certainly delighted to have been around for last year’s launch of TaG Central, a new toy fair that was created primarily to serve the retailers and suppliers in English-speaking Canada’s specialty marketplace. The twice-a-year Toronto TaG show (along with its sister venue in Drummondville, QC), is nicely filling the void left when Canada’s 73-year Toy Fair was terminated in 2014.
Finally, before 2016 comes to a close and the last e-blast goes out next week, I want to let everyone know just how much I have appreciated your friendship and support of T & G through the years. I hope everyone enjoys peace, health and prosperity in 2017 and beyond.
|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.|