Matt Nuccio. "The Circle of Shows."
Toy & Family Entertainment, Sept. 2012
I am writing this late at night on Tuesday, September 4, the day after Labor Day weekend. For the past few years this has been a day of insanity over here at Design Edge. The phone rings off the hook, and my inbox fills up fast. This is the day that much of the toy industry gets back from their summer vacations and realize “Oh $h#*! the Dallas show is just around the corner and we need to get cranking!”
Years ago January 2nd was the day of panic. That was the day when everyone returned from their holiday breaks and realized “Oh $h#*! New York Toy Fair is right around the corner!" The pressure was far more intense back then. The New York Toy fair was a make-it or break-show. Everything was done to the nines because the New York Toy Fair was the only one that counted. Back then it felt like we had months to prepare for the one great show. Now there is a series of shows each benchmarking the progress of a product. These shows guide a product all the way to the retail shelf.
Arguably the majority of the toy industry kicks off with the Dallas preview show. Dallas is the starting point where, behind closed doors, package front panels and rough prototypes first make their way in front of the buyers Once all the input is gathered from the Dallas meetings, it's time to crank all amps up and start planning for the Hong Kong show. What was once package fronts and rough protoypes in a Dallas showroom now must be turned into a proper prototype with a defined packaging in a Hong Kong show room. In the 3 short months between Dallas and Hong Kong, concepts are cleaned up, thought out, rethought, fine-tuned, refined, and sometimes even discarded.
From there it's off to more open show formats. Some companies, depending on your markets, are off to Nuremberg, while others turn their sights to the New York Toy show. Some go to both. These shows are generally open formats with countless aisles of new toys. Buyers can walk in unannounced, and press can snap pictures and post blogs on the spot. These are the shows where many toys are first debuted to the world at large. After all these shows buyers make their decisions, orders are written and production is started. Then the ball really starts rolling even faster.
After New York Toy Fair, a ton of time is devoted to crossing the T's and dotting the I's assuring the final design and production are perfect. By the time it's all summed up the ASTRA show appears. A wonder show with a great vibe, ASTRA is all about the speciality retailer and the companies that cater to them. You won't find Walmart walking those aisles, and the toys tend to put individuality first. You don't see mass market product here, but rather the items you wouldn't find at the big box retailers. At the ASTRA show it is no longer a question of will this toy be made, but when will it be ready to ship. So ends the cycle of shows and leaving many companies some R&D down time before ramping up for Dallas and enjoy their summer vacations all over again.