2019 Spielwarenmesse-Nuremberg Toyfair Review – Llama’s, Lizards and Electronics!


The 70th Spielwarenmesse-Nuremberg International Toy Fair has drawn to a close. As ever, this show offers the biggest and best opportunity to connect with toy people from all around the world. Just like usual, this equates to a massively stimulating and somewhat exhausting experience!

Whatever your business, if it is toy business this is the most amazing show to visit in terms of scale, breadth and array of international visitors.

There were some changes this time, some halls and some companies had changed or shuffled round – most people I spoke to found the new arrangements to be better, or at least no worse.

In terms of the mood, as I’ve written elsewhere, heading into 2019 there is a definite feeling of uncertainty, and of changing times. There are 3 major areas concerning the toy business which appear to be in flux:

1. The consumer – kids still love toys, but are playing with them less as they are ever more addicted to screen time. Parents are using toys to leverage kids off screens and kids are increasingly ‘collecting’ vs ‘playing’.

2. Kids are therefore watching more user generated/informal content and less formally produced programming/movies – this affects both our licensing path and our marketing approach (more on this in my next article, and yes, I will take the liberty of mentioning in the meantime our venture which creates compelling YouTube content for toy companies!).

3. Retail – retail has never been easy, but now things seem so uncertain. Where are our ‘anchor’ listings coming from, which retailers will commit to sufficient stock early enough to allow us to push the button on inventory production and marketing execution? More companies are working on direct to consumer initiatives in the face of increasing uncertainty post Toys R Us and forecasting/inventory management is ever more tricky.

Back to the show, on a personal note this was my 20th Spielwarenmesse and every year I have a few more friends to catch up with, and find myself giving out less and less business cards as I meet established contacts. The show itself has changed quite a lot in my 20 years of attending, for instance, 15 years ago we British toy people refered to ‘the smoky halls of  Nuremberg’ as smoking was still allowed inside in those days. Today that seems like a distant world away. The size of the show has grown significantly in this time, as has the international audience. So many things changed, but some things remain – thousands of companies featuring great products for instance! Also, the old adage that many of the best meetings are in passing definitely rings true. One year I really want to arrange no meetings and just stand in the aisle and compare productivity between the usual approach of shoehorning in as many meetings as possible and meeting people more casually in passing!

In terms of trends, I always find it hard to take a top level view among so much detail while rushing around to meet people. But there were some common themes:

Plant based plastic style materials

Many in the toy industry seem to be utilising the ‘ostrich head in the sand’ approach to the threat of plastic backlash to the toy industry. Thankfully some are working hard to use plant based ‘plastics’ and other materials. It is possible that we could see a plastic backlash against toys, and as the saying goes: ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’. I would like to see more companies tacking action on this.


I saw numerous iterations of STEM & pure fun Robots, seems like this is a growing category.

Non-tech STEM

Non-tech stem continues to be prominent & growing.

Llama’s & Lizards

I saw numerous Llama games & toys walking the halls. Also, I spoke to one leading industry sales guy who was adamant that Lizards are ‘the new unicorns’ for 2019. In fairness, the toy industry does tend to cycle through the animal kingdom looking for the next year’s trend, so between Llama’s & Lizards we may have the next big thing.

The B Word
Surprisingly for me as a British guy hardly anyone mentioned the looming doom of Brexit – looks like overall the toy world outside of the UK are not indulging in non-stop Brexit backstop navel gazing to the degree Britain is (thankfully). Speaking as a proud remainer, thinking about the days before the €uro when we had to calculate pricing in multiple currencies as one gives me a sharp pain akin to toothache! I have been fortunate enough to work across Europe since the beginnings of my toy career, and have many friends and much respect for the peoples of all nations in Europe. While the UK walks towards the edge of the unknown like an early explorer trying to see if the world was flat or round, I remain a proud European and look forward to a lifelong association with people across Europe & beyond.


The 70th Anniversary Spielwarenmessee did not disappoint. As ever the show was extremely well organised. Obviously there are some issues to address in setting up & running such a huge gathering of people, companies and product – but yet again the organisers delivered to the global toy industry a highly effective opportunity to do toy business…I’m already looking forward to the 71st Spielwarenmesse!

#2019trends #llamas #lizards #electronics