On with the show…it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 19th August 2022

We’re in the depths of summer, a time when hot news stories tend to be relatively few and far between. Things will hopefully kick up a gear – or preferably several gears – in a few weeks’ time. In the meantime, there have been some quite interesting developments around trade shows this week, so I’ll run through a few of those and attempt to provide some context.

First up, the Toy Association has announced the dates of the 2023 New York Toy Fair. As had been broadly anticipated, the show will run from Saturday 30th September through to Tuesday 3rd October. Assuming the dates of the LA event remain similar to this year, it would appear that the New York show will start around one week after the LA preview finishes.

The timing of the New York event also has ramifications here in the UK: Brand Licensing Europe has taken the decision to move its dates back 24 hours to avoid overlapping with the New York Toy Fair. As a result, BLE 2023 will take place from 4th-6th October.

On the plus side, none of the three events run concurrently. Nevertheless, we have somehow managed to swap a congested January / February period for a congested September / October period. Some companies could potentially find themselves attending three trade shows in consecutive weeks. It will be interesting to see how that pans out…

If you’re the sort of person who is super-organised, the 2024 date for BLE will be 24th-26th September. While I understand this timeline avoids a clash with the New York Toy Fair again, it may potentially overlap with the dates of LA, as indeed BLE does this year. I truly sympathise with the BLE organiser, which has to find a date that works for a multitude of disparate industries, while avoiding religious holidays in the process. Regrettably though, it does mean that there will be a few toy people forced to miss BLE this year, although I am sure it is still going to be a fantastic event.

We’re looking forward to BLE more than ever this year, as the website will have relaunched on 1st September, three weeks before the show opens. You can now sign up to receive our regular email news alerts – register using the form below to get all the latest news from the world of licensing straight into your inbox.

Of course, we’ll still be bringing you licensing news via Toy World – our commitment to bringing you the latest information that is relevant to the toy market certainly won’t change. Indeed, we are currently putting the finishing touches to the largest-ever BLE preview section of Toy World, which will also land on desks in the first week of September.

However, will allow us to dive even deeper into the licensing arena with a more cross-category perspective. So, if you want to immerse yourself even further into the licensing market, sign up to receive our email newsletters and keep an eye on the all-new website in a few weeks’ time.

Back to trade shows and moving from the US to the other side of the globe, people are still trying to evaluate whether a trip to Hong Kong will be viable in January. The portents are certainly ominous: this week saw incredible scenes as customers fought to escape from a branch of Ikea in Shanghai, when city health officials ordered the store to lock down immediately due to a close contact of a Covid-19 case that was traced to the location. Footage was shared on social media of shoppers screaming and shoving each other in an attempt to flee as the building’s doors began to close. I am not sure I can think of a much worse fate than being locked down in a quarantined Ikea, although I suppose at least they have some beds handy.

Meanwhile in Hong Kong, a good friend of mine was alarmed to see a line of red tents suddenly spring up at the back of his building, set up by men in hazmat suits. Thankfully it turned out they were testing people in Block 6 and he lives in Block 5, so he dodged the proverbial bullet. Nevertheless, does this really sound like a place that everyone will feel comfortable visiting in just over four months’ time?

To complicate matters further, a story in the Hong Kong Standard quoted a local exhibition organizer who was unhappy that international visitors are not currently allowed to visit exhibitions during the extended four day medical surveillance period after their mandatory three day quarantine. However, that may change for specific trade events: the story went on to quote the Health Bureau, which stated that it was aware that some exhibitions only involve business activities and would not be open to the public. It was quoted as saying: “The government will consider the risk of virus transmission, economic needs and other factors to study whether there is room to further facilitate these activities.” So that’s a definitely maybe, then. But will that be enough to convince people a trip will be viable?

I also picked up a story from Germany, which talked about the reintroduction of mandatory mask-wearing this Winter (starting October). The rule would apply to air and long- distance public transport, and possible indoors at heavily attended events. In itself, I don’t see that as a problem; I think we have all got used to the minor inconvenience of wearing a mask now. But the article did also suggest that Federal States could potentially introduce a rule to keep a distance of 1.5m in public spaces and set attendance limits for events in publicly accessible interiors. I spoke to the Spielwarenmesse organisers, who told me this was “very unlikely and in any case should not pose a problem for B2B events.” I very much hope they’re right, as I am sure the toy community is looking forward to a return to Nuremberg in 2023, especially with the Hong Kong trip looking questionable and New York moving to September. One thing is for certain – Toy Fair Season 2023 is going to look very different to the way it used to pre-pandemic.

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