Majen Immink, head of operations and sales for Toy Fair, on growing an historic event and organising for an association – The British Toy and Hobby Association.
Toy Fair has been evolving ever since the very first fair, which was organised by Jack Watkins in February, 1954. The inaugural Toy Fair took place across a string of locations in Brighton, and since then the show has moved around the country – to the NEC in Birmingham, back down to Brighton again and then to London and its current home at Olympia. In the early 60s we welcomed European manufacturers for the very first time, as the retail industry boomed to an estimated worth of £85 million. Today, the UK toy market is valued at £3.5bn.
Toy Fair has grown and evolved alongside our industry, recognising trends and innovations that would come to change the business. We saw the enormous success of licensed toy lines change Hollywood in the 70s and 80s, and more recently we’ve seen collectibles become a genuine phenomenon. Toy Fair is where our industry gets a first look at these emerging trends and it’s where we’ll find them in 2019 and in the years ahead.
How does organising an event for an association differ from running an event as a standalone organiser?
Toy Fair is the flagship event for the toy industry, where all aspects of the toy and games sector are represented. All profits made from the show go straight back into the work we do for our members, including promoting the value of play through our Make Time 2 Play campaign, various industry events throughout the year and the administering of the industry charity, The Toy Trust.
What are the responsibilities to association members and has that changed over the years?
As a benefit of membership of the BTHA, we give BTHA members a 24 per cent discount off their stand at Toy Fair. However, Toy Fair isn’t just exclusive to our members; we welcome all manufacturers from around the world, whether they’re small or large, members or not. Our chief responsibility is to ensure that all exhibitors and visitors have a successful show!
How do you approach creating fresh content and features for the show each year?
When it comes to developing new ideas for Toy Fair, we always start with feedback from our exhibiting companies and those visiting Toy Fair. But we also look to broader wants and needs in the industry, and where Toy Fair can help support with new initiatives.
For example, in 2004 we introduced the Greenhouse Area, which shines a spotlight on small businesses and the innovations they’re bringing to the industry. The Greenhouse has been an enormous success and expanded to its largest ever size last year – 80sqm! This year we’re sticking with the expansion to ensure it continues to offer such a diverse spread of up-and-coming companies and their inventions.
There’s also Toy Fair TV, which has given us an amazing channel for highlighting the best the show has to offer over the past seven years. Toy Fair TV is broadcast to attendees across all three days, with presenters Gavin Inskip and Anna Williamson rushing about the show floor to ensure no one misses out on the biggest launches and news.
What sets the show apart from the competition?
Toy Fair presents a unique opportunity to meet and network with the UK toy industry, from the companies presenting major new product lines to the inventors and innovators behind the next big thing. There’s really no better place to see so much of what the industry has to offer. The feel of the show is very important to this as well. Toy Fair is huge and vibrant – everything the toy industry is as well.
Is there anything coming up at the 2019 event that you’d like to highlight?
This year we’ll be introducing the Content Creator Zone, a dedicated space for attending influencers and vloggers to go hands-on with toys and produce amazing content, live or recorded, set back from the hustle and bustle of the show floor. It’s incredibly important that we support these channels, which are so vital in reaching the industry’s widest possible audience.
We will also have the Toy Fair’s Hero Toys awards, which we introduced last year and is set to return. It’s an award we hand out to the most exciting and innovative toys at the show. The winners are announced on the first day of Toy Fair, and you can see them for yourself outside the press office on the Upper Gallery.