President’s Letter: Toy Association Aims to Bring Industry Back Together for Toy Fair NY in May 2021
October 5, 2020 | Call it “pursuing the possible,” or perhaps “optimistic realism,” but whatever the take, The Toy Association is planning to bring the industry back together as soon as it’s safe and possible to do so – and we are aiming for May 1 to 4, 2021 at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City.
We have been presented with a window in the opening days of May and we are willing, ready, and able to put resources toward the show and any other projects that will continue to help members grow their businesses.
When the time was right to provide a digital solution, we did just that by leveraging our existing technology to build and offer Toy Fair Everywhere digital market weeks. When the time was right to provide companies with private virtual preview opportunities with key retailers – Target, Toys“R”Us Canada, and Meijer – we did. And when the time is right for a return to in-person meetings, we will make it happen. While none of us can be certain what the nation and world will look like some seven months in the distance, we all need the promise of a future for the toy and play industry, a return to a degree of business normalcy, and to reclaim some aspects of our collective pre-COVID-19 lives.
The Toy Association’s trade events effectively and efficiently help members and the industry do more business more often, whether large- or small-scale. We canvassed our primary audience of retail buyers and toy sellers to determine whether they want us to plan for a May 2021 tradeshow. They said yes! We heard from them that the first few days of May have high potential, and the timing is relevant to specialty, long-lead, and mass market retailers. May serves specialty in time for Q4 2021; is well-timed for long lead and mass to conduct or complete Spring/Summer 2022 line reviews; and may even offer some early views for Q4 2022.
There is also a healthy slate of toy, entertainment, and licensed properties targeted for 2022 that need to be acted upon. As always, Toy Fair New York is a key opportunity for influential brand owners, licensors, licensees, retailers, and manufacturers to connect in the media and financial capital of the world, New York City. To be certain, this not the Toy Fair NY we have traditionally known as we anticipate smaller footprints, a different exhibitor mix, less extravagant if not workmanlike displays, and simply a focus on making the human and product connections that Zoom and similar substitutes have not been able to offer.
Protecting everyone’s health and safety remains paramount. We are right now working closely with every entity connected to Toy Fair, including federal, state, and city officials; contractors; and support teams, to ensure a safe environment. The show will be designed to reflect these proven approaches and will follow every prescribed health and safety protocol.
We understand that not everyone will be comfortable in an in-person environment, which is why we continue to expand our other digital engagement opportunities: Toy Fair Everywhere, which is rolling out its year-round version later this year, and the aforementioned private preview program with key retailers.
What if the situation does not turn in our favor in spring of 2021? If at any time we feel that Toy Fair NY 2021 cannot be produced in a safe manner, we will cancel the show. If the event needs to be canceled, as is the long-standing show policy, any monies paid will shift toward Toy Fair New York in February 2022, when it returns to the newly expanded and state-of-the-art Javits Center. In fact, almost all 2021 exhibitors had already shifted to 2022, so May again presents a more immediate opportunity.
Our community made it clear they did not want Toy Fair NY 2021 to simply become virtual. Rather, the connections, ability to experience products first-hand, and return to some form of human connection in doing business have proven to reign supreme. Together looking toward May with optimism reflects the very nature of the toy and play community – resilience, tenacity, confidence, and a willingness to find new ways forward.
The immediate next steps are the one-on-one conversations our account executives are having with exhibitors and the conversations our team is having with retailers and other members of the show’s audience. Much more news and specificity are to come. For now, mark your calendar and together we will do whatever we can to make good things happen in a safe, healthy, and business-building manner.
All good wishes,
President & CEO