For the longest time, two of the toy industry’s largest trade shows — Toy Fair and ToyFest West — were held in February and March. With Toy Fair’s major move from February to September next year, it was time for ToyFest West to take center stage. Now known solely as ToyFest, the more than 60-year history of the show is transitioning from regional to national.
The Toy Book chatted with Carrie Scanlan, ToyFest show director, and members of the Western Toy and Hobby Representatives Association (WTHRA) to learn more about the first show under the new moniker, taking place Feb. 27-March 3 in Las Vegas’ World Market Center.
The Toy Book: What was the thinking behind the major move? Was it to fill in the gap left behind by Toy Fair’s move to September?
Carrie Scanlan: The move was contracted a few months before Toy Fair New York made its announcement and was made to improve upon the established ToyFest show … ToyFest was the last show before COVID-19 shut everything down … Mixing permanent showrooms and an exhibition hall offers attendees additional toy products, as well as crossover gift and accessory lines, which created the best show to date. The gap left behind by Toy Fair moving to September was a plus, but it was not part of the initial thought.
TB: What did it take to transform the show and programming from a regional show into a national show? What were the most important things that needed to be updated?
CS: Because of the long history, ToyFest has grown from the WTHRA Show to the Pomona Show to ToyFest West and to now just ToyFest. Because ToyFest was a regional show, “West” was used to market to the 13 Western states. Once Toy Fair made its move, the organization decided to drop “West” from the name and market to a national audience.
TB: What is ToyFest specifically offering to accommodate retail stores across the U.S.? How does that include sales representatives and manufacturers?
CS: The WTHRA board understands it’s expensive to travel and realizes retailers attend more than just ToyFest. In an effort to keep costs low for retailers attending, several offers are made throughout the week. 1. There is no fee to attend the show for buyers and their guests or media. 2. Great rates are offered at Resort World. 3. ToyFest offers meals at certain events throughout the show, including the Hall of Fame Gala, where retailers are welcome to a free dinner combined with awards for retailers, vendors, and representatives. 4. The ToyFest Raffle gives away $2,400 cash and products for the three days of the show to retailers.
TB: How will ToyFest complement Toy Fair? Is it aiming to compete or truly complement it?
CS: Each of the major toy shows offer the retailers something different in each part of the year. ToyFest does not promote itself as the replacement for Toy Fair, but it does market the show as a destination show at a relevant time of the year and opens its doors to those who would like to see products and place orders after the holiday season.
TB: What does the slogan “Where Specialty is the Best” mean for ToyFest attendees?
CS: The old slogan was “Best Toy Show in the West.” It was changed because it’s important to let retailers know how much they are valued across the U.S., not just in the West. ToyFest has always catered to the specialty industry and retailers find lines at ToyFest that they often don’t find at other shows. The slogan is really a statement that says ToyFest supports the specialty retailer, not just toy stores, but all specialty stores, such as gift shops, museums, candy stores, comic book shops, book stores, and others.
TB: Will the success of 2023’s show determine what will be in store for 2024 and 2025?
CS: Registration and booth sales are going well for 2023, with vendors, representatives, and showrooms taking space on the floor. New this year, ToyFest opened up the floor to sales representatives from around the country to get their own booth. The ToyFest customer loves being in a fun town with so many options for entertainment.
Parties interested in attending or exhibiting at ToyFest can find full details at toyfestus.com.