The Business Times

After Toys 'R' Us demise, no meltdown at biggest US toy expo

Published Sun, Feb 17, 2019 · 11:01 PM
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[NEW YORK] Meltdowns and toys go together. Put hundreds of thousands of toys in a space the size of seven football fields, and the odds of a temper tantrum increase. Unless it's Toy Fair New York, and no kids are allowed.

It was all grown-up business at the US's largest toy show this weekend. There were no tears for Toys "R" Us, the giant that once dominated the show but was liquidated last year, leaving hundreds of toy sellers high and dry. Rather, the show was bigger than in recent years, as toymakers looked for new buyers.

"The mood out here is everyone has turned the page on Toys "R" Us," said Steve Pasierb, president of the Toy Association, the trade group for manufacturers that puts on the annual event. Only Hong Kong and Nuremberg put on bigger shows.

"It's hard to hold grudges when you're trying to open doors," said Jeremy Padawer, co-president of Wicked Cool Toys, maker of Cabbage Patch dolls and Pokemon toys. Toys "R" Us once made 15 per cent of Wicked Cool's business, he said.

Manufacturers like Wicked Cool set up booths in New York's Javits Convention Centre to woo buyers like Walmart, Target and Amazon. Some setups are top secret fortresses. If you're a regular buyer without an appointment, you're not getting into booth number 1835 where special edition prototypes inspired by the video game Fortnite were stashed in a back room.

"Toys "R" Us might have. And if not exactly missed, its absence was felt this year. "Toys "R" Us used to show up to this show with about 125 people," Mr Pasierb said.


Although many toymakers were hurt when Toys "R" Us died, attendees said the mood at the show was one of nostalgia, rather than animosity."We miss the linear space that Toys "R" Us gave our toys," said Jay Foreman, CEO of toymaker Basic Fun, using a bit of industry jargon for the display on shelves. "Walmart and Target blocking off three frames is not the same as eight feet in Toys "R" Us."

Both toy manufacturers said that even though they'd been burned, they'd consider business with the remnant of Toys "R" Us, called Tru Kids.

"The entity born out of the bankruptcy is a new structure," Mr Padawer said. "There are familiar faces we trust."


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