New York becomes a playground for buyers and sellers of the latest

and greatest toys at Toy Fair, happening again in early 2019.

By John Krukowski, Knighthouse Media

Who doesn’t love toys? They may have changed quite a bit since we were kids, but the industry remains exciting in ways we couldn’t have imagined. To give a sense of the toy business, New York’s Toy Fair 2019 is expected to draw 10,000 buyers from 100 countries when it runs Feb. 16-19 at the Jacob K. Javits Center.

To get an early sense of what to expect at this enormous even, Retail Merchandiser interviewed Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of The Toy Association. We also touched on broader issues of interest to toy manufacturers and retailers.

Retail Merchandiser: Market research company The NPD Group painted an upbeat picture of the toy industry in the first half of 2018, and The Toy Association stated it was optimistic about the remainder of the year. How do you think this positive trend might impact Toy Fair in early 2019? What is your sense for the toy industry’s overall performance going into 2019?

Steve Pasierb: The fact that sales grew 7 percent in the first half of this year amid the tumult of Toys“R”Us (TRU) shuttering its U.S. stores underscores consumer appetite for quality toys and play products. We have been told that mass market store managers reported strong 2Qs due to the attention paid to and discounts at TRU, which seemingly put consumers into full buying mode. 

Absent finding their desired items at TRU, they went to a range of other retailers and paid full price. From specialty to mass to e-tail, we’re also seeing retailers mobilizing to claim their market share by expanding toy selections in time for the lucrative holiday selling season. Many specialty toy retailers are also doing an excellent job of claiming their space and extolling their many benefits to shoppers in the local markets they serve. 

Looking ahead, we are seeing positive signs for recovery as the industry moves through 2019. At this moment (mid-August), the toy community is gearing up for Fall Toy Preview in Dallas (Oct. 2-4), where hundreds of toymakers will showcase their ready-to-preview lines for next year in front of global buyers as well as make deals for the current holiday season. Those attending the show will get a first-look at all the creative new toys and games that will make their public debut at New York Toy Fair in February before hitting shelves throughout the coming year.

Our initial conversations with companies point to another successful Fall Toy Preview event filled with innovation – and we are excited to see how it will all unfold in 2019, both at New York Toy Fair and beyond. 

RM: Retail Merchandiser’s coverage has expanded in recent years to include more profiles of companies involved in licensing and/or e-tail. Do you see more representation of those two sectors at Toy Fair? How, if at all, has the show changed to accommodate them?

SP: The toy industry has evolved considerably over the last 10 to 15 years, and The Toy Association’s New York Toy Fair has evolved along with it. Our Licensing Content Connection educational series has been in place for the past few years and is a successful component of New York Toy Fair’s “Knowledge Network” programming. Licensing seminars focus on licensing fundamentals, as well as how to negotiate a licensing deal, global licensing trends and how to evaluate whether a property is ready for licensing. 

We also support our industry’s relationships with other sectors throughout the year, not just at New York Toy Fair, via partnerships and networking opportunities, as well as through our B2B e-commerce platform,, which connects toy brands with buyers and licensors for business transactions and relationship-building. 

RM: What special events or promotions are planned for the 2019 fair for either attendees or exhibitors?

SP: We’re particularly excited about the growth of our Creative Factor program for entrepreneurs and inventors at New York Toy Fair. Now entering its 16th year, Creative Factor was co-founded by Brett Klisch, creative director at Peru Meridian Studios, who passionately led the program over the years and continues to develop inspiring educational and experiential content for attendees. At New York Toy Fair 2019, Creative Factor will have an even more visible presence and feature an expanded line-up of content presented by experts across a wide range of disciplines.

Additional special events, including networking functions and educational opportunities, will be announced in the coming weeks. 


RM: I know it’s early, but any sense of what might be the most buzzed-about new toy or toy category at the show? What had everyone talking in 2018?

SP: Sales results and trends are pointing to the continued popularity of collectibles (lower-priced items with a surprise element), innovative robotics and tech toys that are both engaging and educational, and action figures/dolls based on popular entertainment properties. Of course, we won’t know what will be trending with buyers until Fall Toy Preview, and even then, we’ll have to keep that information under wraps until it becomes public knowledge at New York Toy Fair!

Some of the hottest trends in toys for 2018 have been slapstick and gross-out toys and games, toys based on mythical pets, and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) toys that have kids creating and exploring the world around them. 

RM: Fall Toy Preview 2018 reported a 23 percent surge in registered retailers. What does this bode for Toy Fair 2019? How do the two shows benefit each other?

SP: The big jump in retailer interest and their diversity validates that the discovery and deal-making done in Dallas is crucial for their businesses – and proves that the toy industry is alive and well and looking to forge new opportunities in the wake of recent disruptions. Fall Toy Preview is more than just a trade event – it’s where buyers and companies work together to shape the toys of tomorrow. 

It’s a crucial process of discovery, debate, refinement, networking and connections between buyers and manufacturers that happens each fall and has a tremendous impact on the types of toys and games shown at New York Toy Fair and offered for sale the following year. 

RM: What are some challenges ahead for the industry (for ex., tariffs) and how will Toy Fair help industry professionals prepare for them?

SP: Even with strong first-half sales results, our team at The Toy Association is managing challenges aplenty – from the recovery process that continues for manufacturers looking to recoup actual monetary losses or replace lost sales from Toys“R”Us’ U.S. stores, to the constant threat of tariffs on China imports, to safety and financial risks from IP infringement and counterfeiting, to the quickening transformation of the retail landscape, omnichannel shopping and consumer preferences.

The Toy Association works on these and other issues at the local, state, federal and international levels on behalf of the toy community all year long – providing our members with the protection, support, tools and resources they need so they can focus on growing their businesses. It’s a continual process that saw us address issues across the nation and in over 40 countries around the world during the past year. 

To be certain, Toy Fair will include a component of these efforts, as we host information sessions with key government officials and regulators to help attendees understand and navigate any new safety and compliance requirements and hot-button issues facing the industry. 

For more information on Toy Fair, visit


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