When the Toy Industry Association announced the first Fall Mass Market Toy Expo for the autumn show schedule, some in the industry wondered if the annual American International Toy Fair in February was beginning to lose its luster.
"Everybody was a little anxious for a while, but that has sort of simmered down," said Joanne Farrugia, president of the American Specialty Toy Retailers Association. "Maybe specialty is going to have to change what makes them special. It´s less about products and more about service and knowledge."
Farrugia, who owns three specialty toy stores in New Jersey, says it is too early to predict how the changes will affect the Toy Fair.
"I don´t think we have an idea yet," she said. "There´s always been a preview show in the fall for the mass markets. I guess we will see."
In a press release in February 2003, Thomas Conley, president of the Toy Industry Association, Inc. (TIA) which owns and sponsors the Fall Mass Market Toy Expo, said adding the fall show would allow exhibitors to focus their attention on this vastly different market.
"Attending this new fall show will provide specialty toy retailers with a venue to meet with the vendors who serve this specific market," stated Conley in the release. "And completing a majority of their buying decisions prior to arriving in New York in February will allow them to focus on the smaller manufacturers at the Toy Fair."
Expanding the October show came after consulting with mass retailers.
"The larger retailers requested it," explained Barry Shapiro, chairman of the Trade Show Committee of the Toy Industry Association. "February is too late for them. They have long lead times and can´t wait. As a fact of life, they have [already] been seeing all the large manufacturers early at their offices."
Tony Laferra, co-president of the United League Toy Representatives Association, doesn´t believe those attending the show will notice a major difference at Toy Fair.
"[Not] other than the fact that there will be more time for the vendors who cross both markets to spend with the specialty retailer," he said.