Even if the shows are off...
Sh w off
we can still show off your products
Let’s do the show right here! With travel restrictions and social distancing measures causing disruption to what would usually be a busy schedule of trade events and previews, suppliers and retailers are having to find alternative ways to keep the toy industry connected. Toy World asks what impact the loss of key shows may have on the sector, how suppliers are addressing the ongoing ‘no contact’ communication challenge and looks at the service providers aiming to help fill the void.
he year started normally from a trade show and preview perspective; the January Hong Kong trips went ahead as planned, London Toy Fair went off without a hitch, while both the Nuremberg Toy Fair and Spring Fair snuck in just before the virus began to disrupt proceedings in the UK and Europe. And although Toy Fair New York, which took the decision to close the China Pavilion, reported a 7.7% decrease in international buyer attendance, it was still a successful and busy show. After that, the situation changed dramatically, resulting in postponements and cancellations of trade shows and events for all sectors, right across the globe. Distoy was called off early on and Toymaster has been cancelled for this year too (having originally been postponed to September from its usual May slot), as has Cologne’s Kind + Jugend. Autumn Fair will be an online-only event in the form of a Virtual Forum, and the Independent Toy & Gift Show has announced its intention to hold a streamlined buying event at the end of September, rather than the full blown buying show - although this will only go ahead if there is a change in government trade show guidelines. In October, BLE 2020 will transition to an all-virtual event, the Festival of Licensing. And as it stands, there’s even a growing sense of unease regarding prospects for the early 2021 fairs. Trade fairs and previews are a vital part of the toy industry’s yearly calendar, each one providing its own unique atmosphere, audience and opportunities, and the loss of them this year is not being taken lightly. There’s not much can replace the joy of getting hands on with an awesome new
toy, or seeing all your major clients face-to-face, supported by likeminded colleagues. However, if there’s one thing that the coronavirus has taught us, it’s that the toy industry is brilliant for making the best of a bad situation, and the innovation and ingenuity usually seen in product is now making its way into the events, networking and retail spaces. We’ve already seen a number of suppliers hosting virtual previews. PMI took to Zoom in May to hold a week-long virtual ‘toy fair’ showcasing its portfolio of licensed collectibles, stationery and pocket money lines, while Eolo launched a virtual showroom offering entertaining sessions which allowed customers to see new lines, product features and additional materials. We’re likely to see plenty more companies taking this approach in the short term in an effort to fill the current void, and specialist service providers are making it easier than ever before. Show Cloud is one such company, and its platform is the one Eolo opted to use back in May. The brainchild of well-known UK toy industry figure Chris Jones and his business partner Ian de Kretser, Show Cloud is billed as a ‘virtual showroom for virtual meetings’, the platform allows companies to manage and share key brand information with their customers remotely, 24/7. Users can enjoy a high level of personalisation, while the Customer Insights feature offers a breakdown of customer behaviour so businesses can better plan their sales conversations and see where their time is best spent. With over 7,000 users already on board, Show Cloud is ideally placed to help toy companies navigate the coming months, in lieu of physical events. With international travel bans and 14-day
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quarantine periods still in place, the October Hong Kong trip looks to be in jeopardy for 2020. For those looking to source product in the Far East, the cancellation of trips this year (and potentially next year) poses its own particular set of challenges. Solutions are at hand though. Enter Spider Global, a sourcing, product development and procurement company based in Hong Kong. Founded in early 2019 by René Schweitzer and his Hong Kong and UK partners, the company boasts a rich portfolio comprising hundreds of vendors in the region and is able to identify opportunities and secure favourable commercial terms including price, payment and lead-times. René has over 20 years’ experience managing sourcing organisations in the Far East, while the wider team has decades of experience working in the Hong Kong buying offices of companies including Vivid, Hasbro, Metro Group, Top-Toy and more. While video conferencing and phone-calls might suffice outside of the Far East, Spider Global is still able to meet face-to-face with suppliers, allowing it to forge strong relationships in the region. According to the company, this makes it the ideal sourcing partner for that part of the world. Elsewhere, businesses are turning to the online space to bridge the gaps in business the Covid-19 pandemic has created, with many suppliers and retailers utilising the likes of eBay and Amazon to reach consumers directly. Ideally placed to assist those looking to make the most of Amazon is Caoss, a dedicated full-service Amazon agency, representing brands in the EU, North America, Singapore, Australia and the Middle East. One of a small number of UK agencies to be a certified part of the approved Amazon SPN network, Caoss offers a range of services, from content