Visiting The Toy Fair London and Toy Trends for 2020

Last week I went to The Toy Fair at London Olympia. Taking place every January this is one of the events that my children and partner get pretty jealous about me going to. It’s a bit like going to the biggest toy shop you can imagine, although you can’t actually buy any thing (well not there and then anyway) because it's a trade show. During the fantastic, but pretty tiring visit I saw countless amazing toys, got to play with quite a few and I chatted with lots of people I knew too. I was lucky enough that G’s parents looked after my children for the day so I got to do it all without distractions.

Me posing for a photo with a giant gruffalo character at the Toy Fair London Olympia January 2020


What I love about The Toy Fair


The Toy Fair is a trade fair not a blogging event and it is not some where I go to expecting freebies. The main reason I go is because I love seeing all the new toys. Lots of the toys are still at prototype stage and won’t be available until later in the year, which sadly means you can’t take photos of everything, but I love seeing toys before everyone else. Every year I have visited I have seen toys that my children have later gone on to request for Christmas.

There are absolutely huge brands with really big stands under the same roof as some really new and interesting companies. Apparently there were over 260 companies, but I must have seen just a fraction of them because it is so big. If you love toys or gaming then it's a pretty amazing place to go if you are eligible for Press or Influencer entry.

Toy Trends for 2020


Eco-friendly 

This year was the first time I have noticed so many companies focused predominantly on wooden toys which shows just how much the toy industry is changing. In many of the conversations I had with brands there was talk about what they are doing to ensure their products and packaging are more eco friendly too. This has changed even in just a year, but as one distributer who specialises in British toys pointed out they really need to try harder. It’s not just using less plastic, but thinking about where the products come from and how long they will last. Even wooden products shipped from the other side of the world will result in a lot of carbon emissions, so buying locally (and buying less) can be more beneficial. I think it’s important that manufacturers are challenged more about their plans and the Toy Fair is one opportunity I have to do that.

A box showing the new packaging of GEOMAG Classic panels which will be made from recycled plastic going forwards
New GEOMAG products will be made from 100% recycled plastic

The Good Life board game aims to teach about sustainability  Image shows a board game a bit like monopoly, but covered in pictures of fruit and vegetables and with little wooden pieces to collect
The Good Life board game is a bit like monopoly, but you get to grow veg instead of a housing empire

Collectibles

There continued to be lots of collectable and “blind bag” style toys which have been so popular over the last 5 years, but there didn’t seem to be as many new launches of these as previous years.

A table covered in coloured plastic discs and targets. If you push the discs down they jump up
Power Pux has fun pieces which jump up in the air you can build your collection with different size packs

A display area showing assembled Eugy cardboard animals including a penguin, shark, dragon and dog
New animals have been added to the Eugy range where you can build a character by gluing the cardboard pieces together

Vets 

Vets seem to be a pretty popular toy theme with many of the big brands I visited having a new toy along this theme. Some of the most exciting ones were still at prototype stage, but I think we will definitely be purchasing some of them this year.

Family Games

Family games were also very popular on lots of stands. Many of the family games have evolved from the traditional boardgames with the current wave containing many 3D designs and plastic pieces. While I am excited about the idea of families playing together I am wondering about the sustainability of these games and also how well they will fit back in the boxes (don't you hate it when toys don't go back in the box for storage?).

STEM

STEM toys show no signs of becoming less popular in 2020. From coding robots, to telescopes there are age appropriate versions available for all. I saw some interesting new products in this area coming out from Learning Resources, Brainstorm toys and Geomag.

Licensed Products

It’s a big anniversary year for many toys and characters this year. Scooby Doo is 50, Eric Hill's Spot is 40 and there were more I can't remember (I never remember to take enough notes). The anniversaries (and new film in Scooby Doo's case) mean new product lines. Disney including Marvel toys are also continuing to be popular with lots more toys coming out.

An army of spooky looking Scooby Doo Playmobil characters with the mystery vehicle visible at the back
Collectible Scooby Doo characters coming out from PLAYMOBIL

YouTube

There are always a huge number of licensed toys from TV and Film, but this year is the first time I have been aware of several toy ranges based on YouTube only shows. What surprised me more was that I actually recognised some of the characters.

Nostalgia

It’s not surprising that companies have cottoned on to the idea that toys we played with as children we are likely to encourage our children to play with. Care bears and traditional style My Little Ponies were among the products I saw that will be hitting our shelves this year.

Attending London Toy Fair As A Blogger


I first went to the Toy Fair 4 years ago and it has been interesting to see how it has changed the way  it works with Bloggers over that time. The first year I went I found myself explaining to a lot of stands why I was visiting as a Blogger and how working with bloggers could benefit them. This year there was an Influencer Day with a series of talks for “influencers”. I haven’t heard how that day went, but they were expecting a high turn out including child influencers.

One of the changes I have noticed is that there are more “closed stands” now, particularly the bigger brands. This means that you are unable to have a look at the products unless you have an arranged appointment. I didn’t notice many of these the first time I went, but there were a lot this year. There are still a huge number of stands that are open to anyone looking around though.

I have always attended the Toy Fair on press day, this is the day brands PRs are most likely to be attending and available to talk to. The main reason companies come to the Toy Fair is to arrange business for the coming year with a large number of shops (big and small) coming to see what they want to stock. This means that some stalls may not be interested in talking to bloggers because they don’t want to miss out on potential business.

How To Get The Most Out Of The Toy Fair As A Blogger Or Influencer


Plan

Toy Fair is huge and you can’t possibly get round it all in one day. Decide which brands you would like to see and prioritise those (you can see the list on The Toy Fair website). Also think about what you want to get out of the day. I go to see the products and any work that I get as a result of conversations on the day is a bonus.

Book Meetings

If you want to make sure you are going to get to see the toys you are interested in then prebooking meetings is important, ideally with the PR. If you don’t know the PR company you can normally find it out pretty easily with a quick Google.

Bring Food and Drink

There are of course vendors in Olympia, although they aren’t cheap, and many stands will have drinks (and sweets), but if you are in back to back meetings it is very easy to forget to eat, drink or go to the toilet until you are desperate. If you have food and drink in your bag you are more likely to consume them. 

Go To The Toilet

Well duh you say, but it’s apparently common for people to get “Toy Fair cysitis” from ignoring the call of nature for too long. Toy Fair uses much more floor space of Olympia than other events I have been too like The Baby Show, but it’s funny how the toilets were very quiet at Toy Fair compared to queues out of the door at the Baby Show. When you are rushing around trying to see everything you might think you can ignore the call of nature, but don't.

Make Notes

I tend to take photographs to remind me of what I have seen at events, but there are lots of things at the Toy Fair you aren’t allowed to take photographs of. No matter how amazing the toy is by the time you get home it’s hard to remember a lot of what you have seen, so if there is something you want to remember make sure to take notes. Every year I realise I haven't taken enough notes when I get home.

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