A Spotlight on Electronic Toys, Licensing, Models, & More

The global toy industry is buzzing in preparation for the annual pilgrimage to the Spielwarenmesse. Everyone from hopeful start-ups to prestigious brands is heading over to the 71st international toy fair in Nuremberg, Germany, to get the pulse on the latest trends, innovations, and forecasts in the trade. The Toy Book spoke with Spielwarenmesse eG CEO Ernst Kick about what to expect from the show this year.

Toy Book: Following the fair’s 70th anniversary last year, what are the most exciting changes or additions to this year’s Spielwarenmesse?
Ernst Kick: At the 70th Spielwarenmesse, we made some major changes to our product groups. We responded, for example, to the rising demand for electronic toys by creating an eponymous product group. We also generated synergies by merging the Model Construction segment with Model Railways. This enabled us to offer similar target groups the full breadth of choice all in one place, reducing mileage for visitors. We launched a new special area known as Showtime, giving exhibitors from the product groups Festive Articles, Carnival, and Fireworks a fantastic opportunity to present their latest fancy-dress costumes on the catwalk. Last but not least, we expanded our activities in the licensing segment by introducing the License Talks at the Toy Business Forum.

TB: Was there any specific feedback last year that resulted in changes to this year’s show? How did last year’s new additions turn out? Did you make any further adjustments to Electronic Toys or Showtime this year to make them even better?
EK: The changes were all warmly received by our trade visitors, prompting us to add several enhanced features to the new product groups and special areas in time for the 71st Spielwarenmesse. The Tech2Play activity area, for example, which is embedded in the product group Electronic Toys, will incorporate a new exhibition format. Start-ups or newcomers that specialize in electronic toys and want to try out the Spielwarenmesse for the first time can book small presentation areas to showcase their products.

TB: One of this year’s trends is “Toys for Future.” Why is sustainability in play so important? How can the toy industry contribute to helping the environment?
EK: Sustainability is extremely important in all aspects of our lives and should likewise be treated as a given for toys — not least because consumer demand for sustainable toys is on the rise. Having said that, awareness in many parts of the world is unfortunately not as strong as it could be. Although sustainability starts in the selection of materials, it doesn’t end there. Companies also need to operate sustainably; this includes everything from the production processes to the final product and even the distribution channels.

TB: Looking at the “Be You!” trend, in what ways do you think the toy industry can be more inclusive?
EK: The “Be You!” trend stands for tolerance. Young children don’t generally make judgments based on outer appearances, ethnicity, or religion. Playing together breaks down barriers and increases empathy. This trend also embraces products that support people with special needs. Patients with diseases such as dementia or Parkinson’s, for example, often respond well to games used in therapy. We don’t want to be in any way prescriptive here, so we’re just putting a few ideas and possibilities out there. The Trend Gallery at the Spielwarenmesse showcases all three trends, which are brought to life with relevant products.

TB: What are the can’t-miss highlights at this year’s show?
EK: As the world’s leading toy fair with 18 halls and 1 million products, the entire Spielwarenmesse is one huge highlight. Our activity zones and special areas are additional sources of inspiration. Retailers and buyers can deepen their industry knowledge at the Toy Business Forum, which features talks by experts on a different topic area every day. The events organized by us and the exhibitors themselves will create the best experiences and lasting memories. After closing hours, the party continues in Nuremberg, otherwise known as Toy City. In fact, often the most fruitful conversations between industry members take place after hours in a relaxed atmosphere, be it at the Irish pub or a bar.

TB: How can attendees make the most of the show?
EK: Good preparation is key. Visitors are supported in their planning by our social media activities and the Spielwarenmesse app, which features the hall plans. Visitors can also use it to search for exhibitors, licensed products, or trends. It’s definitely a good idea to book your hotel accommodation well in advance. Like last year, we’re expecting around 2,900 exhibitors and 70,000 visitors from all over the world. I’d also like to invite your readers to the fair so that they too can experience the spirit of play.

This article originally appeared in the December/January 2020 issue of the Toy Book.