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Serious Fun(HKTDC Toys & Games , Vol 01,2009)

Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair

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Fun is serious business at the HKTDC Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair 2009, where creative, multifunction and technology-oriented toys are set to steal the spotlight.

The industry's largest show in Asia and second-largest in the world, the fair is a true showcase of prevailing and emerging product trends.

Organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), the 35th edition of the event sees some 2,000 exhibitors from 37 countries and regions presenting their best collections from 5-8 January 2009 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The fairground is divided into specialised zones to facilitate sourcing, including:

  • Baby Toys & Products
  • Candy Toys
  • Hobby Goods
  • Magic Items
  • Outdoor & Sporting Items
  • Battery-Operated & Electronic Toys
  • Educational Toys & Games
  • Soft Toys & Dolls

In addition, the new Paper Products & Toys Packaging zone is making its debut to help toy manufacturers fulfil the increasingly important need for attractive packaging.

The latest hot-selling toys tend to feature multiple functions, innovative designs or advanced technologies while being safe for youngsters, according to exhibitors.

"Toys need to be of perfect quality and safe for kids, especially now that international safety requirements have become more stringent," says Connie Leung, Manager of Scenique Toys Ltd, a Hong Kong manufacturer of baby toys.

"As far as baby toys are concerned, today's parents like multifunction items, even if it means paying a little bit more," she advises, citing a popular mobile that can be fixed onto a cot. The mobile will be shown at the 2009 fair.

"It is an innovative mobile with lighting, music and rotation functions," Ms Leung explains, adding that it is made from ABS, PC and fabric. "As the mobile rotates, the soft light projects attractive moving patterns onto the ceiling, the plush figures orbit and beautiful melodies play."

Educational elements

As infants and toddlers grow older, they need educational toys that require a higher level of creative input and help develop brainpower, coordination and teamwork.

Both classic and novel styles seem to have their own fans in this product segment. "Given the economic slowdown and other challenges for the toys industry, buyers may prefer more traditional items in 2009, because they involve smaller investments and are proven, sure-fire sellers. Examples include floor-standing writing boards," observes Keith Yiu, Marketing Executive for Hong Kong's Parkfield Industries Ltd, which will be exhibiting a wide range of educational toys at the fair.

His company also produces innovative multifunction varieties, such as a portable wooden writing board. "This is a three-in-one writing board - with a blackboard, a white magnetic board and a magic drawing board," Mr Yiu explains.

It is designed to look like a briefcase with a handle, which makes it very convenient and easy for kids to carry anywhere. "Two pieces of chalk, a magic pen and one double-sided eraser are included for children to write and draw, while 41 magnetic blocks bearing letters or numbers will help them learn the alphabet, words and simple arithmetic."

Many educational toys are also battery-operated or electronic, such as the range supplied by Timber Ocean Industrial Ltd, a Hong Kong exhibitor that specialises in creative remote-control toys.

"Creative toys that allow children to develop their imaginations and play together with their parents will be popular in 2009," insists the firm's Assistant Manager Silvia Chan. "We are going in that direction."

Timber Ocean's exhibits will include a remote-control toy truck with a long platform for loading play blocks. "The truck can move forward and backward, and turn left and right," Ms Chan explains. "Children can create their own designs on the platform using blocks of various brands."

Timber Ocean also offers a series of DIY track sets, with a typical model featuring track sections, fences, cars and a hand control. More complex varieties sport tracks with yellow patterns, looping tracks, bridges, pillars and Start and Finish signs.

Tech hits

While these toys use electronics technology, others employ IT. "There's a trend for products that are usually used by adults to be adapted for children to play with," maintains Kwang Shing Digital Mfg Industrial (China) Ltd Sales and Marketing Manager Dixon Lee. "Our company, for example, has developed some digital cameras with cute appearances that appeal to kids."

Another case in point is the firm's colourful, patented USB Flower Plant. "It features a digital photo frame shaped like a flower standing in a pot, which is in fact a four-port USB hub," Mr Lee says.

The user simply connects the hub to a computer, and a program will pop up on the computer screen for him/her to upload photos onto the digital photo frame. "It is so easy to use that even children can play with it and have fun."

He adds that the other three USB ports can be used for USB clocks, fans or flash disks available from Kwang Shing Digital, or any other USB devices.

The standard model is made of ABS and EVA, although buyers may opt for other materials such as PVC. "Our target market is the US and Europe," Mr Lee advises.

Meanwhile, robotic and interactive toys are also all the rage, observes Virtus Asia Ltd President and CEO Louis Ross. "These toys have gained popularity as their prices have come down, and we believe that as new cutting-edge technologies continue to be introduced at unprecedented low costs, manufacturers will come out with even more such products."

These technologies will be found at the fair, including Virtus's Motion Remote Control for Robotic Toy Application. "We supply motion sensors that manufacturers can embed in the controllers for robotic toys, which can then be controlled by movements of the human body instead of buttons or joysticks," explains Mr Ross.

"This technology that gives 'life' to inanimate toys greatly enhances consumers' interest, and is especially helpful under the current economic climate and state of the global toy industry, which require manufacturers to develop truly unique, attention-grabbing toys."

Assorted attractions

These are only some of the numerous delightful offerings to be found at the HKTDC Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair 2009, which puts a premium on high-quality, safe and value-for-money products.

Buyers may also check out products from the Chinese mainland, Italy, Spain, Korea, Thailand, Taiwan and Pakistan at their pavilions, as well as the Product Demo & Launch Pad sessions on 5 January that will see exhibitors present new products on stage.

Other highlights include the Hong Kong Toys Industry Conference 2009, scheduled for 7 January with a "Latest Product Safety Directives of the Toys Industry"theme.

Key speakers include Richard O'Brien, Director of International Programs and Intergovernmental Affairs for the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, and Liu Xiang, Vice Director of the Defective Product Administrative Center of China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

Elsewhere, networking events such as a cocktail reception on 6 January will provide fair participants with ample opportunities to mix and mingle.

Running concurrently is the Hong Kong International Stationery Fair 2009, jointly organised by the HKTDC and Messe Frankfurt (HK) Ltd for the convenience of cross-sector buyers.

More than 200 exhibitors from about 16 countries and regions will be displaying a wide variety of stationery, including back-to-school items, calendars, paper bags, printing ink, laminating and binding machines, white boards and paper shredders.

Together these events confirm Hong Kong's solid reputation for quality toy manufacturing. The world's second-largest toy exporter, Hong Kong shipped some US$11.5bn worth of toys, dolls and games in the first 10 months of 2008. This impressive figure was up almost 13% over the same period in the previous year - with exports to the US, the Chinese mainland and the EU climbing 5%, 12% and 28% respectively.

The HKTDC Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair is therefore a key event on the international show calendar, with the 2008 show hosting more than 2,000 exhibitors from 36 countries and regions.

Almost 30,000 buyers from 130 countries and regions visited the fair last year to fill their inventories, including 86 HKTDC-organised buying missions comprising more than 4,800 major buyers from around the world.

Among them were buying representatives from well-known toy brands and leading chain stores such as Toys 'R' Us, Walt Disney, Mattel, Hasbro and Bandai (the US); Toyworld (Australia); VEDES (Germany); Pantaloon (India); Don Quijote and Kawada (Japan); The Baby Factory (New Zealand) and Hamleys (the UK).

Buyers from markets with huge growth potential opened up exciting new possibilities for exhibitors, with numbers from Africa and the Middle East, for example, increasing by 15% and 16.5% respectively.

Such a strong track record ensures that participants in the HKTDC Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair 2009 will find plenty of profitable deals and stay ahead of the game.