By Kristin Morency Goldman, The Toy Association
Few industries rival toys for the need to know what’s hot and what’s not. Buyers who stay abreast of the latest trends — from re-introduced classics to the latest innovations in tech toys — are one step ahead of the competition in being able to attract the attention of shoppers in their stores. A deep understanding of what kids are gravitating towards leads to spot-on product selection and relevant in-store displays.
The Toy Association’s trends team is often asked how they stay in-the-know about the next “it” toys. It’s a job that kicks off at Fall Toy Preview in Dallas, Texas — considered by many retailers to be the “essential first stop” on the toy-buying circuit. Held annually in October, Fall Toy Preview is a unique opportunity for global buyers to spot new toys and games for fourth quarter the following year and in some cases, even negotiate customized lines with manufacturers.
This year’s fall marketplace, held Oct. 3rd -5th, welcomed more than 600 registered buyers from a wide range of retail outlets, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, Toys“R”Us, and Walmart, as well as drug stores, supermarkets, discount chains, and department stores. Just over 320 toy companies unveiled innovative new lines, creative takes on classics, and unique trends — including K’NEX, Adora, Alex Brands, American Plastic Toys, Basic Fun!, Diggin Active, Endless Games, Green Toys, HEXBUG, Ravensburger, Schleich, and TOMY, to name just a few.
At Fall Toy Preview, The Toy Association’s trends team meets individually with exhibitors to begin mapping out future trends, themes, and fads emerging across the board. For example, last year the team noted that many companies were introducing a variety of collectible toys — from basic minis, to blind bag collectibles, to detailed collectible figures for more avid fans. Sure enough, collectible toy sales grew in the first half of 2017 and are predicted to be a key sales driver this holiday season, according to The NPD Group.
Trends spotted at Fall Toy Preview this year are being kept under wraps by the trends team until the North American International Toy Fair, taking place in New York City in February. Known by many as the place where trends “come to life,” New York Toy Fair feels a lot like Christmas. More than 440,000 net square feet of exhibit space overflows with hundreds of thousands of brand-new playthings and youth entertainment products. Upwards of 1,000 global toy companies show their latest toys to buyers representing 7,000+ retail outlets. For the first-time visitor, or even the hundredth-time visitor, it can be a bit overwhelming. That’s why The Toy Association’s trend-spotters help make the show a little less daunting for media and buyers by announcing the top toy trends of the year and showcasing new product directly from the show floor during a special presentation called the “Toy Trends Briefing” held on the second day of the show.
Fall Toy Preview has already come and gone this year, but New York Toy Fair is just around the corner and promises to be bigger and better than ever. Count yourself among the first to see the latest innovations in toys; mark your calendar for February 17 to 20, 2018 to attend the largest toy, game, and youth entertainment product marketplace in the Western Hemisphere. Don’t forget to attend The Toy Association’s “Toy Trends Briefing” seminar while at the show to learn all about what’s new and cutting-edge in toys and play. Visit www.ToyFairNY.com to register and to learn more about Toy Fair’s special events, educational seminars, and more.