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Toy Fair 2013 and the new normal

February 15, 2013

It seems like, for several years now, there has been a great deal of concern in whether show attendance was up or down from the previous year. I don't remember these discussions back in the 90's but now it seems like many see this as a type of temperature reading for how the industry is doing.

Yes, it looked to me like attendance was off sharply the first day (at least in part, weather related) and then came back as the week moved on. I base this on available tables in food areas and the activity at the various coat check areas. I also base it upon a steady refrain I have been hearing at show after show in which exhibitors tell me: "There seems to be few attendees this year but the quality of my appointments is way up."

No matter how good or bad attendance was, however, I think it's time we accept that falling or steady attendance is the new normal and it's not going to change any time soon. We have simply lost too many smaller retailers and our larger merchants have steadily cut back on the number of buyers and staff they send.

But what does the new normal tell us about the health of our industry?

For starters, I don't think show attendance tells us much about how the industry is doing macro economically. With over 50% of retail sales divvied up between Wal-Mart, Target and Toys R Us, and with some toy companies either withdrawing from Toy Fair or cutting back it says little about how the industry's revenue numbers are going to look at the end of the year.I think what is important is the spirit of those in attendance. How do we gauge spirit? To do so, let's take a look at what I call: "Arnie Rubin's First Rule of Exhibiting." Arnie Rubin is the founder of Funrise and one of the smartest (and nicest) businesspeople in the toy industry. His maxim states "I am not concerned with how many people come to a show as long as my company's customers show up for their appointments and like what they see."

The exhibitors I spoke with generally seemed pleased with the quantity and quality of thier appointments so based upon "Arnie Rubin's First Rule of Exhibiting" I believe the show was a success and a harbinger of an improved year for the industry.

How did you read the numbers? What did you think about this year's Toy Fair? Write us and let us know.