Friday, February 21, 2014

TOY FAIR NY14 - My Experience as a 1st Time Attendee

Preparing to enter  TOY FAIR!!
I first heard about Toy Fair in 2011, when I worked as a designer for a toy company that neither exhibited nor attended it. I made a few half-ditch efforts to get a pass through various toy companies in both 2012 and 2013 with no success. So when a opportunity to attend this year fell into my lap, I figured I better take it, though my initial excitement to attend had waned a bit. I actually no longer work in the toy industry, though toys are still very interesting to me both professionally and personally (I have 3 kids, toys are literally scattered all over my keyboard as I type this).

If you're going for the first time, here are my tips so you can avoid making the same mistakes I made:

1) CHECK YOUR COAT or whatever else you've carrying: Don't be cheap like me and haul it around along with everything you brought to pass time on the train. It's not worth it! Your arms will quickly get tired, and you won't be able to pick up any promotional materials. Which brings me to #2....

Promotional materials from my 2 favorite booths
2) BRING A BAG TO TAKE ITEMS HOME WITH YOU - There is a ton, every booth has promotional materials, and at the entrance there was a bunch of free industry magazines which I had to pass up, because I thought my arms might actually fall off. I saw many people with small rolling suitcases, which is an even better idea.

3) THERE ARE NO INDIVIDUAL TOYS FOR SALE - Don't be fooled by the super cheap prices on everything, those are wholesale prices when you buy a significant quantity for your store. Yes, I made this total rookie mistake ;). I did see a bunch of attendees carrying toy samples, so while there were some free toys out there (perhaps with some schmoozing :), they were the exception. I did get offered a balloon animal, cupcakes and chocolate strawberries and there was abundant candy samples at most booths.

Going into this booth while hungry was a HUGE mistake
4) EAT SOMETHING, AND KEEP UP YOUR STRENGTH - This is the New York Marathon of toys, don't rely on candy samples to get you through the 1,000+ toy vendors, you'll burn out quickly. There's quite a few food options inside the Javits Center and on the toy floors, including a Starbucks, or you can exit the building, though there's no food in the immediate vicinity. Think of it as leaving the mall instead of getting something from the food court, slightly inconvenient.

5) MAKE A PLAN - There's too much to see and it quickly becomes toy overkill - Rather than just wander around, make a list of the top 10-20 booths you must see, then go exploring at the end. There's 2 HUGE floors, the main floor has most of the big toy companies and large, elaborate booths, and the lower floor has mostly smaller companies. I made the mistake of spending all my time and energy on the main floor, then getting tired and not as excited for the lower level - which I actually found much more interesting. There are also targeted "product zones" (action figures, crafts, preschool, etc, etc, etc.) and a "launch pad" area of small, start-up companies (many with amazing things), which I didn't get to until the very end, when I just wanted to go home.
View from the Mattel lounge where I took a much needed break.

Other quick points: dress professional but wear comfortable shoes, Don't take photos of any booths without asking permission first (the lighting inside was terrible, so all your iPhone photos are going to look like crap anyway), & take advantage of the FREE shuttle to/from numerous hotels and Penn Station (especially at the end of the day when you are tired).

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