“Know your open-to-buy or you can be like a hungry person in a grocery store.” — Kate Tanner, Kidstop
If you’ve been in the toy industry long enough — or in any field that banks on multi-day market extravaganzas — you know the No. 1 rule for attending Toy Fair is to … yes, wear comfortable shoes! Twenty-six percent of specialty retailers said as much in a recent TDmonthly Magazine survey. The 46 toy-store staff also imparted other crucial advice for the first-time showgoer:
1. Watch your Budget. This definitely isn’t the year to mess around with money, so go with a budget and stick to it. “Know your open-to-buy or you can be like a hungry person in a grocery store — dangerous,” advised Kate Tanner, owner of Kidstop in Scottsdale, Ariz.
2. Go With a Plan. “We used to do tons of homework before going to shows, type up notes and map out our day to get from booth to booth. We've become much more relaxed about that ... [but] certainly, doing your homework first with the exhibitor list can’t hurt,” Richard Belanger of Scalliwag Toys in Belleville, ON, told TDmonthly. “Score yourself four to 10 people that you really, really want to see, because it's easy to be overwhelmed. Then just be open because you'll see people in the list whose name means nothing to you but their product is like, ‘Whoa.’”
“We even have POs started with companies that we have ordered from in the past,” added Buyer Jill Brown of Kidoodles in Norman, Okla.
3. Give It Some Thought. If you’re at the show for more than a day or two (many retailers recommend spending all four), take notes as you walk the floor and then decide which booths to revisit.
Steve Shelton, owner of Magical Moon Toys in Logan, Utah, recommends that when you get to your hotel each evening, sort pamphlets and sell sheets into three piles: 1) Yes, will order; 2) Interested, may follow up; and 3) Absolutely not. This will allow you to make organized decisions and only leave with the paperwork you need.
4. Get the Discounts. “Ask for specials, ask for freight, ask for things that are going to help you. Ask for samples, demos, so you can learn it and show the customer,” Lori Hershman, owner of Evan’s Toy Shoppe in Hamden, Conn., told TDmonthly.
Don’t let the specials rush you, since some are good beyond the show. “Most vendors will extend specials for some time, which allows you to get home, organize your thoughts, and then make your purchases,” said Joe Berardoni Sr., owner of Pun’s Toys in Bryn Mawr, Pa.
5. Hit the Basement. Mike DiAndrea, manager of Hardware Center Inc. in Paoli, Pa., advocates exploring the lower level, “where the smaller guys are. They are often overlooked, and they get some new stuff that may be a home run.”