The Toy Association (TA) is not so "Special" Anymore

by Cassidy Smith | 27 Feb 2022

Industry Commentary, Op-Ed

 I was so excited to finally attend New York Toy Fair to debut our new company, Uniche Collective! I knew going in attendance would likely be less than stellar, especially relative to previous years as this was the comeback from the cancelled 2021 show. That said we wanted to support the show as much as possible and maximize the exposure we would get to our valued retailers. You can imagine how difficult it was to get the news that the show had once again been cancelled, only to then find out that Toy Fair's plan was to move the subsequent show to September of 2023. Compounding the frustration was the fact that I had just returned from New York Now which had been extremely productive. It was clear this was not New York forcing Toy Fair to shut down for health and safety reasons, but that Toy Fair had shut itself down for more political reasons.  

Between the cancellation of Toy Fair in 2022 and the new September 2023 dates, it has becoming increasingly clear TIA is directing their show toward the mass market and sending a clear message they don't really care about the specialty buyer, making Toy Fair far less special than it was before.
 I feel ASTRA took a positive step in reaching out to their members to get an indication of what works best from a cross- section of specialty retailers, independent reps and manufacturers. ASTRA president Sue Warfield took a very savvy approach to this, and appears as though she truly has the best interest of the specialty markets in mind.   
Although the world is certainly moving in a remote direction, I feel there is still no replacing the face to face, in-person connections that trade shows provide us. It's unlikely retailers and manufacturers will attend as many shows as in past years, and very likely we will become much more selective in what we do to attend than ever before, Still, It's a shame to see TA making that decision for us by taking steps that from my view, evidently support the mass.
To date, 2022 has already been a busy year on the road. From Dallas, Atlanta, Las Vegas and New York, it appears these smaller regional shows will be becoming increasingly more significant part of our calendar. I'm particularly interested to see what ASTRA has planned, as I think a February replacement to Toy Fair will be paramount. For years many complained about traveling to New York in February. Terrible weather, travel issues and expensive hotels were just a tip of the iceberg (no pun intended) to the potential maladies associated with Toy Fair. I will certainly look on with interest to see what happens with February of 2023. (Possibly a warm weather option?). Regardless of what happens, it is my hope the voice of specialty retailer is considered now more than ever in regard to what works best for them. The real question is: Will anyone listen?
Cassidy Smith. President Uniche Collective.      

toy association toy industry toy fair New York Toy Fair specialty stores ASTRA NYTF specialty retailers

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