September 21, 2023

TDmonthly Magazine

December 2011 | Vol. X - No. 12

Retailing Tips: 10 Ways to Survive Toy Fair

Getting the Most Out of Too Much

By Alison Marek
December 2011

Planning ahead can make your Toy Fair experience less stressful and more successful. Below, TDmonthly Magazine shares 10 valuable pieces of advice retailers have given in the past on navigating the biggest toy show of the year.

This article was originally published in the January 2007 issue of TDmonthly Magazine.

“They always have the new vendors downstairs.” Kim Smith, Red Wagon
How do you navigate the year’s largest toy trade event? Systematically, 34 specialty toy retailers told TDmonthly Magazine. Planning beforehand, and sticking steadfastly to that plan, helps you find the toys you need while skipping the stuff you don’t.
  1. Make appointments. “We set up appointments with some of the major companies ... to view and play with what they're bringing out,” Maryalice Miner of Miner's Doll & Toy Store in Ocean Springs, Miss., shared with TDmonthly.

  2. Don’t make appointments. “If you set up appointments, you are always at the wrong side of the hall at the wrong time,” warned Ginger Milligan, buyer for Fantasy Island Toys in Fairhope, Ala.

  3. Walk the aisles. “My game-plan is to see new, unique sources that I have not seen before … I go up and down every aisle,” said Dennis of Linden Tree Children's Recordings & Books in Los Altos, Calif.

  4. Go downstairs. “They always have the new vendors downstairs,” advised Kim Smith, owner of Red Wagon in Woodstock, Vt.

  5. Know your must-haves. “We’re specialized. If it’s something that I think might promote language or culture, or if it just looks interesting, I'll ask them if they have it in a language other than English,” noted Becky Dolan of Magellan’s Toy Shop in Seattle, Wash. “Lots of them say ‘No.’ For me, that makes it really simple.”

  6. Block off the no-gos. “I walk up and down every aisle except for ‘Techno,’ ‘Dolls’ and the Hong Kong Pavilion,” said Randy Austin, owner of Gifted Child in Lenox, Mass.

  7. Take notes. “We take notes and play all the games,” shared Barbara Fineblum, owner of Barston’s Child’s Play in Baltimore. Because she never places orders at Toy Fair, the notes help her make buying decisions once she returns home.

  8. Walk the aisles again. “Believe it or not, I work the entire show twice,” said Allen Brafman of Little Things Toy Store in Brooklyn, N.Y.

  9. Be disciplined. “You could spend the whole time looking at and learning about the games,” John, the owner of Thinker Things in Del Mar, Calif., told TDmonthly. “We just blaze through … if you stop and try to be polite, you're there forever.”

  10. Stay open and have fun. “We talk to the old, and look for the new. Every year I open up a couple new accounts and bring in a couple of new lines,” said Frank DiPietro, owner of Mumbles & Squeaks in Ellicott City, Md.

After the show is over, check back at to watch our video toy demonstrations from Toy Fair and read what other specialty retailers had to say about this year’s toys and games.

To go to the TDmonthly ToyShow Preview, with lots of new toys for 2012, click here. To see more tips for tackling trade shows, click here. And to see what Toy Fair looked like last year, watch our videos by clicking here.

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