Today, for the first time in many years, I went along to a trade expo as part of a business venture I am currently developing. (Sorry, not saying any more about my business right now as it is still in the early stage of development. You’ll have to wait and see!)
It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a trade show and never one in Hong Kong so I really had no idea what to expect.
As you might gather from the title of this post, I went along with a specific focus of looking at toys. If the vendors at this show are any indication of the toys to come out in the next few months/year… well I would have to say it was uninspiring. Rainbow loom and magic tricks are SO last year and I’m not entirely sure how many foam and cheap plastic $2 shop toys people REALLY want…
90% of the stuff I saw on offer I wouldn’t buy for my kids (so I would never consider it for a business)… and it really showed the gap in Western vs Asian thinking when it comes to toys. One Chinese vendor desperately wanted to show me her companies electronic plastic toys hoping I could help introduce her company to the Western market (even though I told her that I wasn’t interested in that part of the toy sector). The toys she was marketing felt like something out of the late 1990’s/early 2000’s (or worse!). I felt bad for her but I told her honestly that even when her toys had licensed Disney branding all over it *cough* FROZEN *cough* it wouldn’t find a market in the Western world where we all have iPads and iPhones readily available that can do the same thing without being locked into just one franchise. She was disheartened but persevered in showing me another “fabulous” toy – a plastic dancing robotic monkey that reacted by moving, flashing it’s red LED eyes and making bizarre noises when you tapped his head. The poor saleslady was nice and friendly – A for effort – but her toys were unimaginative, ugly and had nothing gimmicky or cool to draw a kids eye or interest. In fact I would hazard to say they were downright primitive compared to a lot of what is currently on the western toy market. There was no value in the toys she had on display for a parent or a child. I felt bad for her, but she was one of many companies at this show who had wares on display that really don’t seem to match the modern toy market.
The fact is a LOT of the toys at this particular show were JUNK.
It wasn’t all bad though – there were some cool concepts hidden amongst the rows of stalls. This show was dominated by manufacturers which was interesting. Had I known that I might have approached the show differently in terms of how I went into it as at this point I am really looking for distributors. Never-the-less I did come across some toys that piqued my interest and had potential to them. Some of the best toy concepts at this show came from Shenzhen, Guangdong and Hong Kong.
There was a strong representation of die-cast cars in various forms, although they all seemed to have similar models on display … lots of yellow Camaro’s and gunmetal Lamboghini’s … can’t help but wonder why that is! (And if you can’t figure it out either then you must be new to my blog) One company gave me a small sample of one of their vehicles (which was also a business card – NEAT!). I’ve now got Mitchell product testing it for me. Don’t laugh… I’m serious. Who better to test the robustness and durability of a potential product than a 7 year old car/Transformer obsessed boy? If it survives a couple of weeks of his toy play regime then I know the manufacturer’s products are worth considering.
There were dinosaurs in various forms, Jurassic Park is coming out next year after all, with a couple of clever, interactive and may I hazard to even say educational concepts being shown.
One company had merged classic toys with digital tech in a clever and innovative way. Definitely piqued my interest!
Can’t show you though as no photos were allowed I’m afraid.
As much as I didn’t achieve everything I wanted to with this show I came away with an appreciation of what and who is out there in terms of the companies behind the big toy brands and the small companies trying to break into bigger markets. It’s given me an idea of directions and scale and next year I might be ready to do some on the spot negotiating/buying! 😉
What do you think of the current toy trends?
What would you like to see toy-makers and manufacturers come out with?