Top Reasons to Visit Toy Fair

Cynthia Compton - February 24, 2020

I’m spending four days at Javits Center with around 25,000 playmates for the 2020 New York Toy Fair, the largest trade gathering in the toy industry in the United States, and I’m having all kinds of fun. I’ll use my post on Wednesday to share some thoughts about current trends in play and popular items this year, but this evening as I rest my feet for a minute I’m going to try to entice you to join me at Toy Fair next year, with a few of the best reasons to put on your play clothes and skip work for a couple of days.

One: Celebrity Sightings

Shaquille O’Neal and toy photographer Mitchel Wu cut the ribbon to open the 117th Toy Fair New York. They were joined on stage by (l. to r.) Basic Fun! CEO Jay Foreman; Skip Kodak, executive v-p of the Americas at LEGO Systems; Bob Wann, chief playmonster at PlayMonster; and The Toy Association’s president & CEO Steve Pasierb and Marian Bossard,
executive v-p of global market events.

We get a little jaded, perhaps, in the book business, with our frequent exposure to literary rock stars at industry events, and sometimes even in our own stores. Still, there is nothing quite as cool as seeing “larger than life” heroes in person, and Shaq is a personal favorite. He wasn’t the only famous guy in yellow, either, in the Crystal Palace:

Two: Fun Is Big Business

With more than 25,000 play professionals from all over the world,
and more than 100,000 products on display, the impact of toys on our economy
(and mental health) is hardly pint-sized.

Three: The toy industry celebrates the power of play

The essential role of play in the development of human’s social, cognitive, and physical skills, and the need for a lifetime of quality play experiences, is a fundamental value of this industry. Open-ended, imaginative play fosters communication and connection, builds empathy and resilience, problem-solving skills and language fluency at all life stages. Toy Fair is all about the valuable role that play fulfills in our lives, and listening to conversations between inventors, designers, manufacturers, retailers and distributors about the play value of their toys is fascinating and inspiring.

The 2020 Special Edition Train from Brio combines classic “kid powered” train play (no batteries, no remote) with a shiny new coat of silver metallic paint. The doors open to put figures inside, just in time for the call of “All Aboard!”

Four: Everything Old Is New Again

The return of a vintage classic toys are celebrated at this show, and toys that stand the test of generational popularity are honored and revered. Here’s an old favorite that I spotted in the aisles today:

Celebrating 60 years of Etch A Sketch, SpinMaster will release a series of new/old frames on the classic toy, honoring brands like Monopoly, Rubik’s Cube,
and a Stan Lee edition for comic fans.

Five: Toys fill important needs

There has been a steady, rising trend of tactile toys in the last few years. Beginning with bookstore favorite Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty, the fascination with compounds that stretch, ooze, flow, and mold has been a constant moneymaker for retailers. The “slime craze” continues unabated, even revitalizing sales of plain old glue in an age of “copy, cut, and paste*” on the screen, as kids and preteens concocted their own special slime recipes at home. (It would be interesting to study the impact of this craze on the business of upholstery and carpet cleaning services, but that’s another post.) For the last few years, Toy Fair and other trade shows has seen a dramatic increase in the “play compound” category, and this year is no exception. What’s driving this need to squish, mold, squeeze and stretch? In a word, SCREENS. We are living in an increasingly non-tactile play environment. Humans crave touch. Children need sensory stimulation to process their environments. We are handing iPads and smart phones to toddlers and preschoolers, while play dough and mud and sand are no longer everyday playthings. For parents and children, this sensory need is filled later with putty and slime, giving support to a huge growth category in play.

Debuting at NYTF 2020, the Land of Dough line from Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty.

Here are a few more photos from my walk through the aisles today, and I’ll look forward to sharing with you which product trends seem important to follow this year in our stores.

Newly released plush from Douglas.
Lego’s larger-than-life builds are always inspiring
Avian finery from Great Pretenders (Creative Education).
This dude is everywhere – it’s a race for manufacturers
to bring the baby-of-the-year to market.
  • Scientist Larry Tesler, an icon of early computing and the inventor of the “copy” and “paste” commands, died this week at the age of 74. He contributed greatly to the ease with which we “people of the page” communicate today over time and distance, and we owe him much gratitude for his work.

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About Cynthia Compton

Cynthia is the owner of 4 Kids Books & Toys in Zionsville, Indiana, a 2600 sq. ft. childrens store founded in 2003. She serves on the board of the American Booksellers Association, is a past president of the Great Lakes Bookseller Association, and is a former member of the American Specialty Toy Retail Association board of directors. 4 Kids was honored with the Pannell Award in 2013 and has received numerous "best of" awards in the Indianapolis area. The opinions expressed in her posts are her own, and sometimes those of her english bulldogs.

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