The New York Toy Fair returned with shocking announcements about its location and timing that temporarily shook the industry. Then, before marketers could even schedule a strategy meeting, the Toy Fair would do a 180.
Here’s an overview of all the drama that recently went down around the NYTF, and how this all potentially affects brand PR plans.
Over a Century of Toys
The international expo has served as the can’t-miss event for the toy and entertainment industry to showcase their latest products and launches in front of key audiences eager to see what’s next for the $29.2 billion US toy industry.
Said to give the city’s economy a $30 million boost, the NYTF has been hosted by the Javits Center in New York City since 1903.
After a 3.5-year pandemic pause, the NYTF returned in a different quarter than its usual February time slot. Citing supply chain issues, the Toy Association hoped to give retailers and manufacturers more lead time for holiday orders.
The Toy Association then announced that it would return to a Q1 time slot in 2025 in New York, with no Toy Fair in 2024. Starting in January 2026, however, the fair would be hosted in New Orleans. That’s quite a lot of change, and its effect on brands did manifest in this year’s show and were vocalized to the association.
How Did the 2023 Time Change Affect Brands?
Major brands like Mattel and Hasbro declined to attend this year, and overall game company attendance was down. This could be attributed to slowing toy sales or simply a scheduling conflict as LA has become a massive hub for the toy industry’s fall previews, leading Q4 trade shows on the West Coast to take priority over NYTF.
What’s Up with the Proposed Move?
Moving the NYTF out of its namesake city has been debated for years. While given a year to prepare, this meant brands would have to foundationally switch up their marketing and promotional efforts around the fair for the first time in literally a century to reach the audience they need in NOLA and still have representation in NYC.
Just Kidding– We Think
However, brands need not panic. While there were some glitches, NYTF was a success this year in NYC, and feedback made the trade group reverse their decision on New Orleans. According to the Toy Association, “the industry’s desired location for the great industry-wide coming together remains New York City.” A NYC show is slated for March 2025, but future dates are up in the air, and retailers, manufacturers, and brands alike can only hope there are no more major surprises to come.
Plans for 2025
With the NYTF staying in NYC, brands can breathe a small sigh of relief. However, marketers need to move fast to fill the gap next year.
Not having the NYTF in 2024 means brands have to shift not only their budgets but their strategies for promoting seasonal and highly anticipated launches.
Luckily, the Toy Association recognized that Los Angeles has become a central toy hub for fall previews and decided not to wait until March 2025 for the next show. The trade group is therefore looking for solutions that support the LA market, so brands should prepare for some west-coast activity at the end of 2024.
Making Up for No-Show 2024
While supporting LA-based fall debuts and keeping NYC Q1 seems like a perfectly imperfect solution, brands can’t overlook the challenge 2024 brings.
With no NYTF in 2024, brands must ramp up the promotional efforts from a digital and social perspective for the market they typically held court in during Q1.
On the other hand, 70 percent of the toy economy comes from Los Angeles, and there are plenty of trade opportunities there for brands to showcase products, educate audiences, and engage with industry experts and media. Brands with west-coast headquarters are already hosting their own trade shows, a smart move if budget allows.
Brands without a West Coast presence can still make noise in the media even if they can’t attend LA trade shows. Creating in-person, pop-up style “showcases” is a definite way to generate press among industry and consumers.
Overall, keeping the NYTF as-is while adding LA’s toy hub into the mix should be a plus for all parties. Tapping into Q1 with brand-built experiences and Q4 through West Coast trade opportunities gives brands the opportunity to double the exposure.
The author, Dara Busch is Co-CEO of 5WPR.