top of page

Which Toy Trade Shows Should You Attend?

The following is the script for Episode 107 of our PLAYING AT BUSINESS podcast.

It's written to make the podcast work as best as it can, so it doesn't read like a typical article, but some of our followers have asked for the script to be shared so they can access the information without having to listen to a full podcast episode.

To listen to this & other podcast episodes, just click here:


·       Hello, and welcome to The Playing At Business podcast.

I’m your host Steve Reece

·       For today’s podcast We’re going to take a look at the major Toy trade shows & discuss the factors for you to consider in deciding which shows to visit and exhibit at.

·       Before getting into that, just a couple of up-front bits and bobs:

1.       I have a series of Linked In Newsletters offering long form report style analysis & commentary on the Global toy & game business – just search on Linked In for Steve Reece toys or Toy Industry Journal Newsletter & you should find the newsletter. Please feel free also to send me a Linked In connection request, and then you should see everything I post on Linked In in your feed (algorithm allowing!). At the time of recording we have 36 editions of that newsletter you can check out, and with more than 5,500 subscribers from across the Toy & Games business this is a Free resource you would be crazy not to tap into!

·       Now a quick plug for our Consultancy business services:

1.       Would you like to ask me about your business and your challenges in the Toy & Games industry? I have an entry level Consultancy service which helps companies of all sizes and budgets to ask me about anything which they need to know more about – whether it’s reviewing a product concept, discussing how to grow your business, how to get export sales or anything else about this industry. I have conducted so many of these Consultancy calls now that I feel like the value we can get you for a relatively small sum invested is better than it has ever been. To find out more about this Consultancy service, just go to

2.       Thirdly & finally in terms of our services alongside helping companies with their export sales we also work as head-hunters or recruitment consultants to help you find the right senior people to power your growth. As we speak I am finalising recruitment for a major Asian company for a senior international role. For more details just get in touch via:


·       Anyway, that’s quite enough up front rambling, let’s get into the topic of today’s podcast:

·       Probably the question I get asked most by my clients who often come from outside the Toy & Game industry, is there are so many trade shows, which ones should we attend?

·       Today’s podcast seeks to answer that question.

·       But I’m not going to tell you exactly which shows you should lock in for your business, because I have listeners who are start ups in one country or another through to people who are high up in major Global players.

·       There is no one answer, no one size fits all decision here.

·       Instead what I want to do is to look at some of the key trade show events on the calendar, describe their characteristics & opportunities and try to outline which type of company is most likely to benefit most from each show.

·       Of all the areas of the Toy & Game business that have been most discussed through and after the Covid-19 pandemic it is trade shows.

·       Needless to say we encountered significant disruption during the pandemic, and physical trade shows were largely cancelled for a time.

·       What happened then was a lot of industry navel gazing arguing and disagreeing about which shows we needed and which we didn’t.

·       Things were up in the air for quite a while, but now it looks like things have settled down & now the place of each show in the calendar looks like being fixed into place for the foreseeable future, and actually things are not all that different overall, with just a few key changes which we’ll run through.

·       So the way I’m going to do this is to run through a typical selling cycle, from the earliest trade show in the selling cycle through to the end of the cycle.




One selling event which doesn’t get enough discussion are the thousands of previews which take place in Toy & Game co showrooms from September onwards each year. The benefits of these previews are that you get focused buyer time, and the buyer knows you have all products and data available to answer all their questions.

·       I don’t remember visiting an established company which didn’t have an in house product show room on site.

·       The challenge of course is persuading buyers to leave their offices & to spend a probably inefficient amount of time with just one supplier. Needless to say you are going to have to be an established supplier with sufficient new news and breadth of product line to merit the buyer’s time to visit you.

·       Sometimes for smaller companies, you may do a roughly equivalent visit to the Buyer in their offices to do a quick i.e. 30-60 min presentation of your new lines for the following peak season.


·       Which is where the newest established or at least newly formalised LA PREVIEWS events come in (April & Sept).


·       Historically, the major Toy companies of Los Angeles would run their own preview events in their show rooms in and around the beach districts of LA.


·       Mattel & MGA have been major drivers but also buyer magnets to L.A. for previews around September and October for peak season (as well as an earlier time period around April for spring-summer season).


·       At a similar time as the autumn previews, the Toy Association historically ran the Dallas previews event, which was a formal gathering of North American Toy & Game companies in one place and time to maximise efficiency for buyers and their suppliers.


·       The shakeout post Covid is that the Dallas show is now gone, and instead, both the Toy Association, but also international Toy & Game companies have formalised a gathering in LA in September, with many companies having an extended preview season in L.A. of c. 8 weeks or so.


·       So, the bottom line on the LA previews is this: if you are an established company, with established retail customers in North America, as well as international distributors who are now visiting this event, and you can book in a lot of appointments in advance with existing contacts and partners, then you should benefit from this extended event – although it is expensive & time consuming based on an extended presence of multiple weeks.


·       I think now this show has been more or less cemented into the annual calendar & supported by the Toy Association it is now a fixture, and if you want to sell into the North American market, at the right time in your company’s development it will become must attend.


·       If you are newer to the industry or don’t have many existing contacts though, then I think this show is going to be a tough show for you to gain traction from. That’s just my opinion, but this is not like one hall or exhibition centre you can hang around at, it’s several buildings with private closed showrooms. OK there will be some social and networking events, but if you don’t have a show room you won’t get much opportunity, and if you book a show room speculatively it can be quite hard to get enough traffic to your showroom to merit the costs & time invested.


·       Ok, so after the LA show there are some national shows. I’m going to quickly skip by these as there are a lot of them, most countries have one. In the UK we have the BTHA UK Toyfair in January, France has the Deauville ‘Preshow’ event in November, India has two shows – etc.


·       Now there are some shows which act as both international gatherings and also national shows, and some shows which are more focused on Sourcing products, but we’ll cover that as we go through.




·       Aside from the Dallas show, I think the main loser from the Covid-19 shakeout is the January gathering in Hong Kong.

·       Visitor numbers to that gathering have been down considerably post pandemic so far.

·       Before the pandemic, the January gathering in Hong Kong (as well as another gathering around October for the Mega show) was a major destination for international buyers making their FOB purchases.

·       Originally HK was the trading hub from where buyers could easily buy from agents to factories in China.

·       Eventually as China opened up commercially, many buyers would meet both factory suppliers & international Toy companies in HK before heading over to the mainland to visit factories and buy direct for some lines.

·       In the end this became just another trade show really, and many companies felt they had to be there in order to get Buyer time and not lose out to competitors.

·       Going forward, I think this show will revert to more of an FOB show, with far fewer retail buyers attending – so you are likely to still get buyers from major retailers attending but rather than the entire buying team spending 2 weeks out of the office, it’s more likely to be one or two of the buying team with a focus on buying direct from factories and buying from the HK based product development companies.

·       So again, you can work out from that whether it makes sense for your business.

·       For newer companies, I would tend to say it doesn’t really make sense for you to attend unless you can see something I have missed!


·       This show held in Nuremberg, Bavaria in Germany, held in late Jan/early Feb each year has been the biggest Toy trade show with somewhere between 2,000 to 3,000 exhibitors.

·       The show acts as Germany’s national Toy & Games trade show, but also is THE major European/International Toy show.

·       I’ve visited this show 20+ times, and it’s the number one show for me & my business.

·       The show attracts something like 60,000-80,000 people.

·       So if you attend this massive show will only ever meet a fraction of the people there and only ever get to exploit a tiny sliver of a percent of all the opportunity there at that show.

·       European retail buyers attend in their droves. There are some US buyers as well, along with retailers from across international markets.

·       There are literally thousands of distributors in attendance, and so if you are trying to get export distribution this is probably as good a place as you can be.

·       It’s not the cheapest show to exhibit at, but if you are a relatively new company and you want to grow your international sales, you WILL get a lot of walk by traffic at this show.

·       The format is a mix of a few private exhibition booths, along with most which are semi or fully open stands.

·       Accommodation is notoriously hard to find & expensive for the show, but nevertheless for most companies I would put this show as number one.




·       Of all the uncertainty and grumbling about the show schedule through and after the pandemic, the NY toyfair received the most unjust speculation and turbulence.

·       Let me try to briefly explain what the issue is with the show for some people:

§  The show was traditionally in mid-February (for a LONG time).

§  The issue with that timing is that many of the big companies are more focused on mass market retailers like Walmart & Target driving volume. And mid-February is too late for the buying cycle of those major giants.

§  To me though this is a failure to understand and appreciate the NY show for what it is. It’s an opportunity for the US’s massive Specialty & mid tier market to preview products and buy late enough for how they work, but early enough for suppliers to manufacture & ship stock in time for Fall.

§  So the bottom line to me is this – there are previews in September/October – now in LA, as was in Dallas. The NYC show is different, and there is clearly financially a place for both.

§  My attitude is if you don’t want to sell to specialty or mid-tier accounts, don’t take part in the NYC show.

§  But for smaller and newer companies the NYC show is an incredible opportunity to access the world’s biggest Toy & Game market and buyers who can springboard small companies into much bigger companies.



·       This show is comparatively new. It started in the noughties when a few of the UK’s established Toy & Game companies got together to organise a selling event to their international distributors to be timed at the point in the development cycle when they had finished products instead of mock ups and prototypes.

·       It was originally a small show & was fairly exclusive. AS the Managing Director of an up and coming company, I remember skulking around outside the event trying to find international distributors in passing.

·       Eventually the show grew and grew as a mid year event for international distribution, with no focus on retailers.

·       The show is literally running as I am recording this podcast, so I’m going to reserve comment on this show largely, and will post my thoughts elsewhere eon this show.


·       As we come to the end of this episode now, I just want to emphasise that there are other smaller, more specialist or more local shows. I have just tried to summarise the main shows, explain what they are about/how they work and to suggest what kind of companies will benefit more from each show.




·       So, that’s all we have time for this time, thanks for listening to Episode 107 of The Playing At Business podcast.

·       If you’d like to ask me direct questions to address your Toy & Game industry questions and your business challenges, you could take a look at our Consultancy video call service just check out

·       That’s all for now, I’ve been your host Steve Reece, this has been the Playing At Business podcast and we’ll see you next time. Thanks and bye.



Recent Posts

See All


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page