Saturday, February 23, 2008

The New York International Toy Fair

From Dan: Millie and I just returned from two days at the NY Toy Fair, America's largest gathering of toy people, with about 35,000 attendees.

Walking Toy Fair, which takes place in Manhattan's Javits Center, takes all day. There's booth after booth of toys: new, old, weird, and familiar. As always, we were on the lookout for great new toys. This year, however, we also made a point of talking to our existing suppliers about toy safety. It was certainly a hot topic. Unlike years past, this Toy Fair had many booths of toy testing laboratories and XRF device manufacturers. We were impressed by several of the toymakers we talked to, including Dave Schylling at Schylling Toys, who has enhanced their testing and quality assurance processes. The responses we got from each company will definitely be guiding our buying decisions this year.

Also on the positive side, we saw many toy companies developing "green" toys, which is now apparently a new category. Quite a few amounted to little more than greenwashing, including one company that called its toys fair trade, but admitted upon being pressed that they have no Fair Trade certification but treated their Asian employees very well. A couple of other companies had organic stuffed animals that looked kind of like oatmeal-colored Happy Meal toys.

Several companies, however, were doing some cool stuff, including making toys in Canada or the US from recycled materials. We hope to have some of these to show you later in the year. Plan Toys and Haba have expanded their lines with some nice new stuff and we found a new source for some of the wooden toys we used to buy from Small World Toys before they crashed and burned last year.

We also observed a mushrooming trend of web-enabled toys similar to Webkins (which are, in our son Riley's opinion, dumb.) Look for a barrage of these to hit toy stores very soon. All of them offer your children the opportunity to connect with virtual friends via interactive websites and get a jump start on the Facebook generation. Go play outside!

All in all, it was a great trip. Millie and I had fun in New York--we even got to see Wicked on Broadway. (It turns out the wicked witch isn't so wicked after all!)
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