7 July 2006
Fun For All(HKTDC Toys & Games , Vol 02,2006)
Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair 2007
Few industries are as innovative and imaginative as Hong Kong's toys industry, where exciting new ideas keep popping up, asserts Jeffrey Lam, chairman of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC) Toys Advisory Committee.
"And, when those products are simply irresistible, you may be sure that they will become best sellers," he adds.
There is a further "hot tip" from this experienced authority, who has his finger firmly on the pulse of the toys industry and whose message is loud and clear. "Stand by for many exciting surprises at the 2007 edition of the Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair."
Indeed, breathtaking new products and knock-out surprises are exactly what are in store for international buyers in January when the doors are thrown open for the 2007 Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Lam says there will always be a market for good toys at a reasonable price, but adds that in recent times the industry has not been helped by the never-ending increases in oil prices, combined with the higher prices for zinc and copper alloys that are used in many toy products.
"The result is inevitable," he states. "Costs rise, selling prices rise and sales are affected. But despite this, overall our toys industry is doing as well as can be expected."
According to Lam, the good news is that Hong Kong's toys industry is developing new markets. "We are now in Russia, the Czech Republic, the UAE, Argentina and Chile, for example," he reveals. "So, on the one hand we are still a strong force in such traditional areas as North America and the UK/Western Europe and on the other hand we are expanding into new markets as fast as we can."
Meanwhile, says Lam, developments in Japan are worth closer study. "Although Japan's economy is now greatly improved after a long and tough haul through many years of recession, the toys market there is recovering very slowly and Japanese buyers still have many other priorities besides toys," he says.
"But an interesting trend has developed there, and Japanese toy-makers have found a niche market for adult toys among retirees and single people aged 60 and more, especially women who have developed a fad for cuddly baby toys that can express simple phrases such as 'I love you'," he adds.
"We cannot lightly dismiss this Japanese trend towards adult toys, and we should seriously consider if there might be an international market for them among older people elsewhere," he says.
Also upbeat about the upcoming fair is TDC senior exhibitions manager Anne Chick, who confidently expects "yet another blockbuster event that will be bigger and better than in recent years".
Chick says the TDC is also inundated with enquiries from overseas buyers keenly waiting for the next generation of toys, while exhibitors are clamouring for exhibition space. "All the signs are positive," she states, "and point to another crop of spectacular new products to dazzle visitors - toys that will grasp the imagination of kids all over the world."
Furthermore, says Chick, there's only one way to guarantee being among the first to place orders for these must-have toys and that is to be there on the opening day.
The opening day is January 8, while the event continues through to January 11.
At the 2006 edition, 1,077 Hong Kong exhibitors, plus 858 others from 37 countries and regions, crammed their wares into the fairground and in prestigious international group pavilions that included the Chinese mainland, Germany, Italy, Korea, Pakistan, Spain, Taiwan and Thailand.
The number of buyers attending last year's fair reached 29,180, of whom fully 15,218 came from outside Hong Kong.
For up-to-date information, please visit the fair website at http://hktoyfair.com
Visitors also have the opportunity to visit the Hong Kong International Stationery Fair that runs concurrently with the Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair. For up-to-date information, please visit http://hkstationeryfair.com
January 2007 should prove a bonanza for toys buyers and sellers alike.
A TDC report on the Hong Kong toys industry reveals several opportunities for buyers at the upcoming Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair in January 2007.
Continued popularity of smart toys: The worldwide mega-trend is to integrate electronics and new technology with toys to create additional and new playing possibilities. Even very successful and thoroughly popular "oldies" are refined with electronic features. Classic wooden trains by BRIO, for example, are now equipped with modern infrared remote controls and electronic sounds. Newly introduced dolls and toy robots are capable of communicating directly and interactively with others in the same product line, such as Robosapien made by Hong Kong-based WowWee, and FurReal Friends by Hasbro.
Sustained interest in licensing: The sparkling success of licensed products is expected to continue. While more toys manufacturers will ride on the licensing bandwagon in the hope of success, they should be aware that the trade is characterised by a rather short boom-and-bust cycle. A few leading toys companies have adjusted their marketing strategies to be less reliant on licensed products. Video games are now constantly inventing new characters, while sales of traditional characters remain satisfactory.
Strong and clear focus on educational, creative and developmental toys: With a better-educated and prosperous demographic audience growing in size, the market for educational toys is gaining notice from industry and consumers alike. Some parents are concerned about the possible negative impact of video games on children, such as a lack of social interaction. Such concern stimulates the demand for quality educational toys, which have emerged as a key sub-market, whether electronic, non-electronic or a combination of the two.
Trend of shorter product life cycles and a wider variety of novelty designs: As fancy designs and gimmicks increasingly become key ways to attract buying, the product life cycle of toys has shortened over the past decade. The boom-and-bust cycle is further driven by the renewed interest in licensed toys. Indeed, even for classic toys such as LEGO construction sets and Barbie dolls, new playing features are regularly added or enhanced to stimulate new sales. Besides the tendency of shorter on-shelf time, toys are also characterised by a wider variety of novelty designs.
Wide interest in multimedia and Web-compatible toys: With the rising popularity of the cyber world, assimilating real and virtual toys is another continuing trend. It is already common for toy makers to have websites for sales and product promotion. Now, they are introducing toys capable of linking with the Internet so that play can be extended beyond the physical plaything. Bandai, for example, has rolled out toy robots that allow buyers to play games with animated versions of their robots over the Internet.
Sports-like toys: Due to concerns about health and child obesity, experts and parents are searching for sports-like toys for children to exercise. Demand for aquatic toys and equipment, for example, has been strong. This development is a trend beyond the industry's traditional focus on mental development and game play.
Growing demand for collectibles: Collectors' articles are increasingly sought after by adults and seniors, particularly in the US, Germany and Japan. High spending power characterises these consumers, who show great interest in soft toys, dolls, model railways and parlour games. In fact, a growing number of companies are introducing two lines for the same product, one for kids and the other for collectors. For example, Mattel has a strong collector business in Barbie dolls, Matchbox die-cast cars and the Hot Wheels racing system, in addition to the children's line.
WRITTEN BY GEOFFREY SOMERS