Jacqueline Vong - East Meets West. Where are we going from here? tBR Person of the Week
Where are we going from here?
In September 2019 – a small group of individuals including Josh Punin of Trade Asia Pacific Toys were trying to organize to move the Hong Kong toy show to Shenzhen because of the unrest of protests in the predominant area of Tsim Sha Tsiu which is known as a major toy district. There was a small amount of interest from European companies, and Hong Kong and China related toy companies but the January toy fair in Hong Kong still went on and while certain things remained the same, you can say other things were different. Everything seemed much quieter especially in the Wan Chai convention center. The streets were dusty from the damage from the protests. Some major companies and individuals decided to skip Hong Kong all together and other retailers may have set up hotel meetings in Shenzhen. There was definitely the rumbling of a ‘virus’ that everyone in Hong Kong was worried about but most of us who attended felt safe and went on with business as usual.
Come 2020 (a.k.a. the year we want to press reset on ) and Coronavirus is rampant globally and now the China and Hong Kong borders are closed to almost all foreigners. International travel is strictly discouraged and zoom meetings and virtual trade fairs are accepted as the new norm. Major companies are holding virtual showrooms, some retailers are not taking actual samples for evaluation and ‘try me’ packaging may be considered a high risk factor. All these factors are playing out in Fall 2020 and beyond and when the pandemic is over, will we come back for any trade shows? And where to?
BUT wait, before we can consider this, we need to also consider the potential of a cold war brewing between the US and China which together represent almost 40% of global economic output. Some pressure points include the tariffs on export goods between China and US. The toy industry has been feeling this especially in plastic and have been forced to look outside China to source it into South East Asia and India. The increase in anti-Asian sentiment across America and having the President refer to the Coronavirus as the “Kung Flu” has not made the situation any better. Hong Kong is a major source of contention as the happenings inside this city have been heavily documented showing the demise of their once democratic society getting wrapped back into the Motherland and with the National Security law in place there, this toy destination is not what it used to be and many are having second thoughts about flying into the city over concerns of safety and freedom of speech. Finally, we cannot ignore the ongoing tension over technology. China owned apps such as TikTok and WeChat are getting banned in the US in a matter of weeks. The battle over 5G, Huawei and Zoom also have been in the news. These provocations have further deteriorated the relationship and trust between these two countries and these are heavy considerations for what will happen for 2021 and beyond.
From a China perspective, in July, Chinese factories reported their fastest expansion in nearly eight years and attributed July’s growth to rising consumer demand in China. There are manufacturers who are struggling with the decline in export goods and global demand due to the pandemic and factory closures causing output delays as we have heard about from Hasbro and others. This has increased the level of unemployment in China and there are fears that it will continue and impact the local economy.
Between Aug 5-8, Shenzhen held the Canton trade fair which was moved in location from Guangzhou and date from April to early August because of the pandemic. It is considered China’s largest trade fair for sourcing both for export and domestic business. It was reported there was very little international traffic and it was even difficult for certain Mainlanders to make the trip to the fair due to travel and quarantine restrictions within China. Many buyers from Toys R Us Shanghai did not attend.
In my humble opinion, when the doors open up again and we are able to travel, there will be a shift from the importance of Hong Kong travel but since our goods predominantly are ‘made in China’, there is a necessity to continue to go. I believe we will be moving the trade show circuit into Mainland China with the Hong Kong toy show moving to Shenzhen in in the near future to come. But who knows when the world will open back up again? Only time will tell.
About the Author:
Toronto-based Jacqueline Vong has been a specialist in consumer products for two decades spanning both North America and the Greater China market. She began her career at Spin Master and specialized her skill set in children’s entertainment and consumer products in positions with such global organizations as Corus Entertainment, Nelvana Enterprises and Mattel.
Her expertise brought her to Hong Kong in 2012 where she expanded her professional realm as Vice President of Marketing and Licensing with King Bee Toys, a company focused on building the toy and consumer products industry in the Greater China market.
After her time abroad, Jacqueline repatriated to Canada where she founded a passion fueled company, Playology Intl., a consultancy with youth-based expertise spanning licensing, marketing, content development and strategy, product innovation and retail development. Playology has a handful of global clients and IPs which include The Wiggles, Elf on the Shelf and Headstart Toys
In 2018, she was awarded the Top 40 under 40 in Licensing by License Global magazine and recognized as Asian Girl Boss that Inspires in Wandersnap Asia’s website in addition to being a frequent contributor to a variety of publications worldwide, including Global Toys News, Women In Toys Asia, Hong Kong Toy Council, Bloomberg Radio Global, The Huffington Post Canada, The Travel Presse, Afar Media and Fusia Magazine.