An energetic crowd of nearly 26,500 toy professionals from 94 countries flocked to New York City last week to participate in the largest toy marketplace ever held in the Western Hemisphere. Owned and operated by the Toy Industry Association (TIA), the 111th American International Toy Fair (Toy Fair 2014) boasted a record-breaking 414,060 net square feet of exhibit space and welcomed an 11% surge in international buyers, an 8% rise in exhibitors, and a 5% spike in overall attendees, bringing total attendance to 26,493 for the Feb. 16-19 show.
A snowstorm that hit the New York City-area on the Thursday before Toy Fair opened did little to dampen the spirits of 1,153 exhibiting manufacturers, distributors, importers and sales agents, who showed up on-time to fill the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center with hundreds of thousands of eye-catching playthings – including e-Connected toys, outdoor ride-ons, customizable arts & crafts, classic board games and everything in between.
Nearly 10,000 buyers from more than 5,000 retail outlets were in attendance, including buyer delegations from 22 of the nation’s Top 25 Toy Sellers, such as Amazon, Costco, eBay, Target, Toys“R”Us and Walmart. The top five countries represented by the most buyers were Canada, Mexico, the U.K., Japan and Russia; notable increases in buyers from Malaysia, Taiwan, Nigeria and South Korea were also recorded.
“New York City is reclaiming its position as the toy industry’s international center of gravity,” said Carter Keithley, President and CEO of the Toy Industry Association. “Mass retail buyers, independent toy store owners, licensors and many others reported a highly successful, highly productive and very upbeat Toy Fair. Buyers from across the country and around the globe were writing orders. Many buyers and media reported that they spot more trends and are introduced to more diverse and highly innovative product lines at our North American show than at any other toy trade event.”
“Toy Fair has once again proven itself to be a must-attend marketplace for anyone with a stake in the toy business,” agreed Marian Bossard, TIA vice president of meetings and events. “The show provides brands with global media exposure, caters to retailers looking to revamp and diversify store shelves, and offers all attendees the chance to participate in world-class educational sessions and networking activities.”
Babak Forutanpour, founder of garage-based startup AryaBall, was among the 287 first-time exhibitors at the show. “I couldn’t have imagined that with a modest 10×10 booth and armed with just two prototypes I would be getting orders from so many specialty stores, interest from big retailers, press coverage, and even an invitation to audition for ABC’s Shark Tank!” said Forutanpour. “If you are serious about the world of play, you need to be at this show. Thank you, Toy Fair, for giving a little guy with a dream a chance to share his creation on the world’s biggest stage of play.”
“Launching our new product, the Cup Catcher, at Toy Fair provided our company with incredible exposure and a great return on the investment. We are ecstatic with our choice to exhibit at Toy Fair 2014!” added Missy Reukema, owner of Brilli Baby, LLC, another first-time exhibitor.
“We were thrilled to be a part of Toy Fair for our second year. For a small firm, the show is an invaluable way to meet buyers and make contacts in the industry,” said Dr. Rebecca Klemm, Founder of NumbersAlive! “Snow delays aside, it was a successful week. Highlights included pitching to Walmart and being interviewed by several members of the media.”
The top toy trends for 2014 – which include Larger than Life, Full STEAM Ahead!, RC Rampage, Frightfully Fun, Retro/Back-to-Basics and Custom Built – were scouted by 995 members of the press from top-tier media outlets, including Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New York Times, TIME for Kids, Mashable, Huffington Post, CNN Money, Fox Business, ABC, CNBC, CBS, VH1, MTV and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
“Toy Fair is more than the perfect opportunity at the perfect time of year to see the full array of offerings from well-established vendors as well as up-and-coming companies … It is also an ideal venue to sit down with many of our suppliers and network with retailers from around the country,” said Edith Brafman, owner of Brooklyn-based Little Things Toy Store.
“I always go to Toy Fair,” added Pamela Pier, buyer and owner of Dinosaur Hill toy store in Manhattan. “I can count on the vendors to deliver toys that amaze and amuse me, and add money to my coffers.”
“The positive momentum of this year’s show will carry the global toy industry through the rest of 2014,” predicted Keithley.
The global toy industry will converge once again next year at the 112th American International Toy Fair, taking place Saturday, February 14 through Tuesday, February 17 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Show information will be available in the coming months at www.ToyFairNY.com.