As the Toy Fair gears up for its 64th show, EN hits the playground with head of ops and sales Majen Immink to talk business
From Trivial Pursuit and the Jibber Jabber, to Action Man and the Cabbage Patch Dolls – the Toy Fair has seen it all through the decades.
The size and content of the show has changed over the years, growing and developing as the toy market has evolved.
While the fair was celebrating its 40th birthday in 1993, Barbie and Action Man were also blowing out their birthday cake candles, celebrating their 35th and 27th birthdays respectively.
The show, organised by the British Toy & Hobby Association (BTHA), continues to showcase the big name manufacturers and retailers as well as championing the entrepreneurs and independent smaller companies.
“Being the only dedicated toy, game and hobby show in the UK is what is key to the show’s success over the years,” Majen Immink, Toy Fair head of ops and sales at BTHA tells EN. “It’s about getting the right retailers rather than necessarily increasing our numbers and we feel as the key trade show for the toy industry, we get the right people there, as well as other members of the wider industry.”
Traditionally a domestic show, with almost 90 per cent of visitors and exhibitors UK-based, the Toy Fair opened its doors to European manufacturers in 1960 and encourages more international visitors from the likes of Europe, USA and Asia.
“With the BTHA representing the interests of British toy manufacturers and to raise standards of practice in the industry, the show itself is about creating that platform for retailers and manufacturers to meet as well as generally industry networking all under one roof,” Immink says.
The profits of the fair are ploughed directly back into the workings of the association to ensure that members and the industry continue to benefit from the work that the association does.
In 2017, the show will be supporting KidsOut for the second year as the show’s official charity partner.
“We run a trolley dash at the end of the final day where exhibitors can donate products to the charity that goes direct to helping disadvantaged children and families,” Immink adds.
With more than 250 exhibiting companies ranging from the large renowned brands through to smaller start up companies, the sold-out show spans 22,000sqm at Olympia London with visitors such as John Lewis, Argos, Toys R Us, through to smaller independent toyshops. While the show has changed venues and name over the years, the main attractions, Immink explains, have remained the exhibitors.
“When it comes to the Toy Fair, it’s a pretty fantastic looking show thanks to the exhibitors and their contractors. The stands that they create are visually spectacular and it creates a great platform for them to promote their products from.”
A key part of the Toy Fair is the greenhouse area, located in the middle of the show on the ground level.
“It’s been going for about 12 years now and is a hub of smaller stands. It’s a zone where we entice entrepreneurs and smaller companies,” says Immink.
“It creates a bit of a buzz for them where they’re among like minded individuals looking to break into the industry and equally for visitors, it’s become recognised as an area to go to where you might uncover an entrepreneur with really exciting innovative products.”
Interestingly, the value of the market when the show started was around £85m, compared to today which is just over £3bn. It’s fair to say that the show and toy market has come a long way.
Toy Fair takes place on 24-26 January 2017 at Olympia London.