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Ahead Of The Game(HKTDC Toys & Games , Vol 02,2007)

Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair 2008

 

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The second-largest fair of its kind in the world and the premier toys event in Asia, the Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair is a not-to-be-missed sourcing hub where global buyers hunt down hot items and new ideas alike

For buyers, the term "next year" usually means making preparations "now", and with 2008 looking set to be another vibrant and prospective year for the toys and games industry, thousands will already be making plans to head off to the Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair 2008 in January.

"So far the world's economy in 2007 is doing well, which sets an optimistic backdrop for 2008," believes Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC) Toys Advisory Committee chairman Jeffrey Lam.

"Of course, oil prices and other material costs are still high," he adds. "However, we are seeing prices holding within a steady range with no dramatic ups and downs."

Noting that Hong Kong is also making fast inroads into unconventional markets, he adds: "Interesting emerging markets encompass the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Russia, with growing consuming power. The Chinese mainland market is another great possibility, further boosted by the 2008 Olympic Games. China should prove to be a highly lucrative market."

Regarding product trends, Lam predicts a broader application of technology in various categories. "The situation was quite unbalanced a few years ago, when IT-related toys suddenly took the market by storm," he recalls.

"Now," he adds, "Hong Kong companies are so innovative and responsive that they are able to take many traditional toys, such as plush dolls and plastic toys, and rejuvenate demand with value-added electronic and other hi-tech elements, making these basic toys once again essentials."

A toys industry veteran, Lam also offers another hint. "As far as I know, many Hong Kong toy makers are working hard on new and surprising items. International buyers, therefore, should not miss the next toys fair as innovation and technology will be there in abundance - and there may be many new toys that go on to become new best sellers."

As the second-largest fair of its kind in the world, and the premier toys event in Asia, the Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair is a not-to-be-missed sourcing hub where global buyers hunt down hot items and new ideas alike. HKTDC senior exhibitions manager Anne Chick is also confident that the upcoming event will be another bonanza.

"In 2007," she states, "we had a record-breaking 1,978 exhibitors from 37 countries and regions, and they attracted more than 29,000 global buyers from 124 countries and regions - including 79 buying missions from 39 countries and regions."

Chick firmly believes that buyers will find exactly what they are looking for. "For example, there is growing interest in toys for adults, and there is a special area dedicated to that segment," she says, adding that other firm favourites include Candy Toys; Paper Toys; Hobby Goods; Baby Toys & Products; Magic Items; Outdoor & Sporting Items; and Story Books.

"In addition, the very-well-received round of informative forums and seminars and will centre on hot industry topics," Chick assures.

Hong Kong's exhibitors are also carefully gauging prevailing market demand in order to develop the right goods for visiting buyers.

Certain to be there is regular exhibitor Eastcolight (HK) Ltd, which ships its Tele-Science and Micro-Science branded telescopes and microscopes, Master-of-Spy electronic detective lines and other educational toys to more than 90 countries.

"We are very strong in science-related educational toys and the good market response to our smart toys demonstrates that we are on the right track," says general manager Salley Sze.

She mentions the firm's latest hot-picks: telescopes and microscopes with software programmes that transfer captured images to a computer for further fun.

"The integration of high technology will continue to be a core element in our coming innovations," Sze assures. "And buyers, for sure, can look to us to lead the way with more exciting toys like these."

Welly Die Casting Fty Ltd, a specialist in die-cast vehicles manufacturing, is another regular exhibitor. "Apart from creating upbeat collections for our toys and promotional premiums, we also have new licensing agreements underway that will make our now 30-plus licensed model car replicas more comprehensive," says marketing manager Liona Lun.

She also mentions that Welly is also refreshing its car series with new, electronic features. "Although still at the trial stage, we expect to present some of our achievements soon."

Hobby toys will be the focus of another exhibitor, Unimax Toys Ltd, whose lines embrace more than 500 different items ranging from pre-school toys and dolls to die-cast vehicles and other licensed products.

"We've been doing well with our Unimax pre-school collection and our Anne Geddes plush dolls, yet hobby toys remains a sector of promise and growth as it has a broader consumer profile," says managing director Arthur Chan.

In fact, the company's Forces of Valor brand has already made a name for its authentically-designed replicas of military vehicles and soldiers complete with amazing detail.

"Besides Forces of Valor, another important line among our hobby categories is our Radline radio-controlled cars, and we will have new exciting designs for both series at the coming event," concludes Chan.

The Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair takes place from January 7-10, 2008 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and will be held in tandem with the Hong Kong International Stationery Fair, thus offering buyers opportunities to explore an array of stationery products in addition to toys and games.

MARKET RESEARCH

Oracle Added Value conducted independent market research at the 2007 Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair. Some 402 exhibitors and 706 buyers were interviewed on the outlook and trends of the toy industry.

In summary, it seems there are rosy prospects. For example, most people in the industry will be encouraged to learn from buyers that the number of orders and the quantity per order were substantially higher in 2006 as compared with 2005. This led 70% of those interviewed (buyers and exhibitors) to predict a bullish picture for 2007.

Exhibitors also anticipated the highest growth area to be emerging markets, including the Chinese mainland and Eastern Europe, although expansion in mature markets such as the US and Western Europe was thought to be less prominent.

Computer Toys & Games, Battery Operated & Electronic Toys & Games and Educational Toys & Games were regarded as the fastest-growing categories. In addition, the traditional market for players aged 6-10 years was seen as the driving force across different markets. The adult segment was also predicted to contribute to growth in Japan, the Chinese mainland and the Asia-Pacific region.

Educational toys were anticipated to attain a growth rate of more than 10% across different markets, with creativity, logic and IQ, and language functions leading.

On the licensed characters front, which always chalks up a prominent share of the toys market, traders reported they expected sales in this sector to account for more than 20% of their totals in major markets.

Disney characters still reign, followed by Spiderman and Hello Kitty, with both exhibitors and buyers stating a belief that a 25% premium could be charged on the retail price of licensed character toys versus another brand.

Interviewees stated ongoing compliance with new environmental concerns and regulations, including RoHS, EN71-Part 9, and environmentally-friendly practices such as green packaging, green product design and labelling as being highly important.

When it comes to the best place for sourcing toys, buyers stated a preference for Hong Kong and the southern Chinese mainland, followed by other regions on the mainland.