November 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 11
Carter Keithley Speaks Out on Toy Fair
TIA President Tells Why Specialty Retailers Need New York
The American International Toy Fair may have been going strong for decades, but it’s never old news to retailers and manufacturers who want an opportunity to strengthen their businesses.
At the Fall Toy Preview in Dallas last month, Toy Industry Association President Carter Keithley told TDmonthly Magazine the top three reasons specialty retailers should attend Toy Fair in 2008: 1. Get a first look at the year's new toys; 2. Gain access to smaller manufacturers who otherwise fall off the radar; and 3. Take advantage of great networking opportunities with other toy-store owners.
SAFETY IN ACTION
Most companies do attend to network and see all the new products, which comprise 80 percent of what's sold at the show, Keithley said, so Toy Fair doesn’t necessarily focus on educational sessions. One session, however, the safety seminar, “will take on new meaning” this year in light of all the recalls, he said.
In the past, the session has consisted of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission talking to manufacturers and retailers about compliance requirements, recall methodology and phthalates in toys, as well as input from laboratories about toy testing.
This year, it’s likely the seminar will center on TIA’s new conformity assessment program with the American National Standards Institute. TIA has been working with ANSI on safety requirements since early fall, and the writing portion of the program is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
WHAT’S NEW FOR ‘08
In addition, the second meeting of The Major Toy Retailers Council, a group of five mass-market retailers that first assembled at the Fall Toy Preview, will take place at the show.
The council is "an attempt to try to bring the retailers around the table to talk about issues important to the industry,” such as safety, advertising to children and RFID supply chain matters, Keithley told TDmonthly.
The goal is to grow beyond the initial five members — Target, Wal-Mart, Toys “R” Us, Learning Express and Amazon — one of whom has already suggested including smaller retailers as well.
GO FOR GROWTH
Smaller, independent retailers have big reasons to check out Toy Fair, according to Keithley — one being that it gives them new ideas on ways to build traffic and effectively compete with mass retailers by offering “superior product or customer service.”
For vendors, he added, it’s “an opportunity to meet new paths of distribution — not only traditional toy stores, but also variety, craft and Internet” venues.
Toy Fair may grow internationally as well, as TIA has ramped-up promotion of the 2008 show in Europe, focusing on "TIA's knowledge of the U.S. toy industry, the products its members generate and the trends and crazes that develop," according to TIA Spokesperson Adrienne Citrin. The PR campaign is also highlighting things attendees will see at Toy Fair that they won’t see anywhere else.
PLAN IT OUT
There’s a lot to see, though, and despite the fact that Toy Fair spans four days, making appointments with 10 or so vendors per day still won’t make much of a dent in the more than 1,200 exhibitors present, Keithley told TDmonthly.
“You have to plan ahead and make appointments ahead, so they know when to see you and what sorts of things to talk about,” he advised.
It’s also a good idea to set aside time to wander around the exhibit hall and see what catches the eye, he added, and leave evenings open for dinner and other social events with vendors.
In addition to speaking with Carter, TDmonthly spoke with manufacturers about their new toys for 2008 and videotaped more than 30 products. See them here!
Videography and editing by Alison Marek.
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Writer's Bio: Julie L. Jones has written articles for both newspapers and magazines. Before joining the staff of TDmonthly Magazine, she worked as a communications writer and provided editorial support for a market research company. Read more articles by this author
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