Interview with Steve Pasierb, President & CEO, The Toy Association

Discover the most important fair dedicated to the toy market in America.

The 116th North American International Toy Fair will take place February 16 to 19 2019 in New York City. It will feature about 1,000 exhibiting toy companies from six continents that will showcase hundreds of thousands of playthings – including classic toys, tech toys, eco-friendly and educational toys, novelty products, party games, activity sets, and much more.

We interviewed Steve Pasierb, President & CEO of The Toy Association, the not-for-profit trade association that produced the fair.

  • What will be the main novelties at next the upcoming New York Toy Fair?

The 116th North American International Toy Fair (taking place February 16 to 19 in New York City) will again be sold-out and feature over 1,000 exhibiting toy companies from six continents that will showcase their toy lines to nearly 30,000 buyers and industry visitors. Buyers and licensors will be there to do business and strike lucrative deals, while global media will be on-site in search of the “toy story” of the year. Our show team has been working hard to schedule an array of special events and enriching seminars designed to help visitors build new contacts and learn about the future of play, youth trends, licensing, independent retailing, safety compliance, entrepreneurship, and more.

Creative Factor, NY Toy Fair’s program for entrepreneurs and inventors has experienced strong growth. Now entering its 16th year, Creative Factor was co-founded by Brett Klisch, creative director at Peru Meridian Studios, who passionately led the program over the years and continues to develop inspiring educational and experiential content for attendees. In 2019, Creative Factor will have an even more visible presence and feature an expanded line-up of content presented by experts across a wide range of disciplines, thanks to the expert guidance from the program’s advisory board, which includes Klisch, Robin Raskin (founder of Living in Digital Times), Warren Tuttle (president of the United Inventors Association Board of Directors), Billy Langsworthy (co-founder of Mojo Nation in the UK), and Matt Nuccio (owner of Design Edge).

In addition, the exceptionally popular Launch Pad area will exclusively feature first-time exhibitors new to Toy Fair, offering a rare glimpse at never-before-seen product. In total, the latest trends and most inspiring new toys, games, and youth entertainment products for spring, summer, and holiday ’19 will be unveiled across more than 40,000 net square meters at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

  • What trends from the toy industry, do you think, will be on display at the NY Toy Fair in February?

Looking ahead, some of 2018’s hottest toy trends might continue into 2019 with a few new twists and turns. Following a preview of exhibitors’ 2019 lines during our Dallas, TX show in October, I can say that we are seeing tons of innovative toys and games that will advance learning and foster creative and imaginative play for kids of all ages and with all types of interests. In addition, licensing will continue to dominate in the toy aisle, particularly with family-friendly movies releasing in 2019 such as Toy Story 4, The LEGO Movie 2, Captain Marvel, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, and Dumbo and Aladdin remakes, among others.

  • How many non-U.S. visitors/exhibitors do you expect to see at this year’s show?

Toy Fair New York helps toy companies and talented entrepreneurs get a foothold in the lucrative North American market and in emerging global markets, while providing buyers with direct access to bold inventions, veteran brands, and everything in between – all under one roof. It’s a world-renowned marketplace for spotting what’s new, next, and cutting edge in the world of toys and play – and truly unlike any other toy show in the world. Considered a “must attend” event by toy and play professionals the world over, the 2019 show will welcome an influx of international guests from more than 100 countries, making it one of the most dynamic Toy Fairs in recent history.  

In 2018, Toy Fair New York drew notable increases in attendees from outside the U.S., including international trade guests (up 26 percent year-over-year), as well as large delegations of attendees from outside the U.S., including 3,802 international visitors, of which 1,589 were global buyers. The top five countries represented at the show, not including the U.S. and Canada, were China, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Mexico, and Japan.

Our surging number of international attendees at Toy Fair will again enjoy a range of special resources to help make their time in New York City as productive and enjoyable as possible. An invite-only Welcome Reception at the end of opening day (February 16) will allow international Toy Fair exhibitors, press, trade officials, embassy representatives, and other attendees to meet and mingle. International buyers will also have access to the Toy Fair Buyers Lounge & International Business Center during the show. Located in Room 1B03, the lounge offers private meeting space and comfortable seating.

  • Which licensing initiatives do you organise in the frame of NY TOY FAIR?

New York Toy Fair continues to offer specialized programming for licensors and licensees. At the 2019 show, the Licensing Content Connection educational series will build on our success by offering free seminars on licensing fundamentals, how to negotiate a licensing deal, global licensing trends, how to evaluate whether a property is ready for licensing, and more. The success and growth of the Creative Factor programming means the design and inventor community is another force at the show where the licensing community can discover the next potential IP hit.  Our focus is on continually strengthening the show since it cannot grow physically larger until 2022 when expansion at the Javitz Center is complete.

  • According to you, what will be the future of toy retail?

All forms of retail are evolving, online is surging, yet it’s important to remember that the overwhelming majority of all retail sales – some 90 percent – still occur in brick-and-mortar stores.  Boring retail is dying. Poorly stocked and poorly staffed retail is dying. Retail not relentlessly focused on the needs, wants, and desires of consumers is dying. Low price alone is simply not enough as an enormous segment of consumers will pay more for quality, service, and shopping experiences that delight kids and adults.  The evolution of the entire retail sector and the advent of the omnichannel shopper all provide key lessons to the toy sector.

Perhaps paramount for me is the need for toy companies to build and nurture their own close relationship with their consumers.  Product, price, and shelf space are no longer enough. Trusting a retailer to be your emissary to the consumer will not suffice – there are too many options both in toy product, retail doors, and digital marketplaces to not fundamentally shift one’s mindset toward driving a powerful brand relationship directly with consumers.

Mark your calendar now for the 116th North American International Toy Fair, taking place Saturday, February 16 to Tuesday, February 19 in New York City, and count yourself among the 30,000 global guests who will preview the hottest new toys and games. Visit www.ToyFairNY.com to learn more.