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Dear Tim, Hey! What Happened to My Toy Fair Season? tBR Columnist Tim Kilpin Comments

Hey! What Happened to My Toy Fair Season?

OK, we all know exactly what happened. But I’m sure that, like me, you are experiencing some dislocation right about now. Aren’t I supposed to be tacking up samples in our Javits booth? Or catching a flight out of snowy Nuremberg at 4 am? Or trying to sleep through Night 12 of my Hong Kong jetlag?

At this point early in our year, we’d already have logged something like 25,000 miles slogging from show to show. Grumbling, aching, and loving every minute of it.

Toy people are tuned to some strange inner clock; the bell would have barely chimed 12 on New Year’s Eve…and we’d already be mentally packing our bags and scanning our schedules for the Walmart appointment.

So this year we get a pass. Setting up Zoom calls with buyers and inventors, perusing The Bloom Report (!) for the latest news, scanning the fansites for new product tidbits. All while in our wooly socks. Sigh.

I can’t believe I miss the Javits Center. But admit it, you do too. When the badges are swinging, the coat checks are jammed, the Starbucks line snakes back to Midtown, and that infernal Dixieland band kicks in, who doesn’t feel alive and filled with the promise of a new year?

Because, as you know, so much of what these shows is about is the BUZZ – the talk in the hallway about who landed the latest hot license, who joined which company, what was hot at the previous show, can you believe THAT thing won a TOTY? At $90 billion in retail sales, the global toy business is big…but when you’re on the floor, hugging friends (remember that?) and catching up, it feels small – more like an extended family.

And these Toy Fairs are that family’s annual rite of passage and celebration, our Thanksgiving feast of news and noise. Not only are the buyers able to actually touch and try our new products, we’re able to tell them our stories in the best way possible – with engagement, excitement, a little sizzle, and a lot of fun. No Zoom call can replace that, sorry.

As a member of the Toy Association’s board of directors, I’m involved in ongoing (and lively!) discussions about the future of Toy Fairs – where, when, how big, for whom. The debate is robust, and the answers aren’t necessarily obvious. But there is one thing we all know and agree on – our industry thrives on human connection with our brands, our products…and our partners, colleagues, and friends. I miss that sense of community this year, and I can’t wait until we are together again.

See you next year in the Starbucks line!


In additional to penning his thoughts here, Tim Kilpin is enjoying his role as President of PlayMonster. To read more about Tim's career in the toy industry, check out this interview with Tim last year! Tim Kilpin - I’m a very proud elf. Every Christmas morning...


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