Resized.EMILIALSINAby Emili Alsina

Over 50,000 professionals of the toy, baby, and licensing industries visited the trade shows organized by the China Toy & Juvenile Products Association (CTJPA) in Shanghai from October 14 to 16: China Toy Expo, China Kids Expo, and China Licensing Expo. This attendance represents a 26 percent increase compared to the previous year. Alsina, editor of the Spanish magazine Juguetes B2B (specializing in the toy industry in Spain) and member of the International Toy Magazine Association (ITMA), attended these three trade shows to witness the latest trends and developments of the industry in China.

The toy market is very dynamic in China, and has a consumer (the parents) increasingly interested in products that provide educational value to their children. The kids, in turn, are increasingly interested in licensed products. China Toy Fair, which has been held for the last 12 years–and is the largest international toy fair in mainland China and the third largest worldwide–was celebrated simultaneously with the China Kids Expo (childcare sector) and the China Licensing Expo (licensing sector).

Resized.LEGOJuguetes B2B, a professional communication magazine specializing in the toy industry in Spain, attended the three trade shows to give informational coverage of the latest trends in the industry that will shape the Chinese market next year. The strategy of holding the three exhibitions simultaneously makes perfect sense, given the synergies that occur between the three different sectors. For instance, the licensing business has a large influence in the toy industry, with licenses for baby care products as well. Therefore, celebrating the events at the same time is an interesting opportunity for the professionals.

A Complete Offer

Resized.HAPEAround 700 exhibitors located in five pavilions presented a wide range of products. Especially relevant was the large number of manufacturers in the preschool and wood constructions product categories. The world leader in the toy sector specializing in construction, Lego, had its own stand, and there were also Chinese companies with recognized brands such as Intex, Collecta, Bestway, Maisto, Blue Box, Silverlit, Canal Toys, and Bburago, among others. International brands such as Hape–established in China–Safari, Goula, Step2, and VTech completed the international offering. Although there was an international presence, most companies were local producers specializing in specific categories without recognizable brands.

The brand is a highly-valued aspect for a middle and upper-class Chinese consumer, who appreciates the values of trust, quality, and safety. Likewise, Chinese consumers prefer brands associated with products linked to educational values, which is why Lego is growing precipitously in China.

The Business of Licensing

Resized.DORAEMONLicenses are also important in China, and in absence of their own brands, companies bet on international licenses. Thus, we observed a significant presence of Disney licenses such as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, as well as a wide range of Disney Princesses, Marvel heroes, and iconic characters such as Doraemon. The Japanese child icon was present in various stands and has a great reception among Chinese young audiences, while for girls, the star was Hello Kitty.

The next editions of China Toy Expo, China Kids Expo, and China Licensing Expo will take place October 20 to 22 at the Shanghai New International Expo Center, which will feature an exhibition space of up to 140,000 square meters.

Information and Industry Knowledge

The day before the three trade shows, CTJPA organized a series of lectures focusing on the toy, childcare, and licensing industries. The event was co-organized with BabyChina, a professional magazine focusing on the Chinese baby care market that shares the directive team with Juguetes B2B. Some of the interesting conclusions extracted were:

  • Chinese consumers have a preference for global brands and educational toys. The learning toy concept is highly valued.
  • Quality, safety, and authenticity in toys are also key success factors. Social media play a key role for reaching the consumer.
  • The toy market in China is a business of 12 months, with no prominent peaks on sales. The Chinese New Year is more important than Christmas or Halloween.
  • Film releases are big drivers of consumption. As an example, the recent Transformers movie was released in China at the same time that it was broadcasted in the rest of the world.
  • In terms of products, dark colours do not succeed in the Chinese market, while bright color schemes are more in demand. Moreover, any product with wheels is welcome.