For more than 40 years, the Western Toy and Hobby Representatives Show has offered toy stores west of the Mississippi an alternative to the crowds and bustle of New York.
"What I like about the show is you have an opportunity to spend time talking to customers," said Todd Mullins, sales manager for University Games. "You get more time one-on-one in a relaxed atmosphere."
Held at the Fairplex in Pomona, CA, the show draws heavily from specialty stores, especially those located farther West.
"You´ll get some [customers] who just don´t want to go east for whatever reason, particularly cost," notes Mullins, whose company has been a regular participant in the show. "New York is expensive. It´s an easy show to get in and out of. Fewer of the big specialty customers are there because they´re all out of business. Now you are seeing mom and pop stores come to do business."
This year´s show, scheduled for March 6-9, features the return of the “Tons of Toys Giveaway.” Introduced in 2003, this promotion gives attendees the chance to win thousands of dollars worth of merchandise.
"This event is a big hit with the retailers," said Betsy Harney, vice president of the show. "Every order written is a chance for retailers to win $10,000 of free goods."
Featuring a casino night and a games night, show organizers have paid close attention to providing a great social atmosphere at the show.
"You want to make a show fun to attend," explains Pat Duncan, president of The Great American Puzzle Factory, Inc. "People are there to write business, but why not make it fun and entertaining."
"The venue allows retailers a chance to move at a slower pace and experience more one-on-one attention with the exhibitor," Harney explained. "Our show features a wide variety of manufacturers and representatives, providing both well-established and brand-new resources for retailers. Plus, you can’t beat the southern California scenery, weather and attractions.
"We offer a broad list of categories, such as educational products and gift items, plus specialty toys, hobby, and games," Harney continued. "Our show floor is an easy layout, making it user-friendly for all attendees. WTHRA also boasts one of the best seminar programs, and it is free to all retailers."