Jay Foreman, CEO of Basic Fun!, chatted with the Toy Book about the lack of trade shows, retail trend predictions, and more.
The Toy Book: With major trade shows canceled or on hold this year, how do you plan to connect with retailers?
Jay Foreman: One big thing on my mind today is when, if, and how we are going to be showing and previewing product lines to our customers face to face over the next 12 months and beyond. There is no doubt about two things: Zoom is going to be a big part of the sales process going forward, and people are sick of Zoom meetings! So, what that means is that buyers and sellers are going to look forward to key trade shows like Toy Fair New York and fall previews in LA and Dallas. However, it will be questionable how many of us will travel once or twice a year to Hong Kong, and if there will be as many in-person, on-site meetings at retailers’ locations or if more of those will move to Zoom.
My guess is that if you have a hot new product to show off during events, buyers will still see vendors in person. However, quick updates and less significant product meetings will move to Zoom. Eventually, there will still be in-person meetings and traveling, but sales execs flying weekly to see accounts will be greatly reduced, even when things get back to normal next year.
This year, the consensus is at best, that fall previews in LA and Dallas can and will happen. By then, which would be 19 months since Toy Fair New York 2020 when we last all gathered at the beginning of the pandemic, we should all be excited to get on the road and gather to see and show new product. Nineteen months! Basic Fun! will book back into the Dallas Toy Fair in October 2021 in a big way. We expect attendance by all our major accounts considering the vaccine is widely distributed by then, which we fully expect to be the case.
TB: Do you have any virtual showrooms or setups in place to show off new product over videoconferencing? What do they look like?
JF: To be able to present our lines properly from home via Zoom, we’ve converted a traditional workspace of 2,000 square feet within our office into a Zoom and social media studio. We have invested in cameras, lighting, editing boards, and green screening to accommodate the technical needs. There is an area set up like a TV news anchor desk and a set where a presenter would kick off the brand discussion, a separate demonstration area where we cut to show a live product demo, and we intersperse background images like a TV weather map behind the host for the main pitch production.
TB: What trends will have the biggest impact on the toy industry in 2021 and beyond?
JF: I believe that COVID-19 has supercharged the biggest trend in our industry: the move from traditional brick-and-mortar walk-in sales, to online sales and the new omnichannel activities taking place at retail. It’s clear that 50% or more of total retail sales will quickly be going online or pick up on-site. That means foot traffic at retail stores will decrease, while overall volume by each retailer might still increase. That is going to change the dynamics of marketing in-store dramatically, as well as price points and impulse purchasing.
This State of the Industry Q&A Response was originally published in the February 2021 edition of the Toy Book. Click here to read the full issue!