This year marks the Independent Toy & Gift Show’s fourth event, and exhibitor-wise, it’s set to boast ‘the strongest line-up ever’. Jade Burke catches up with Miles Penhallow, head of toys and children’s gifts at plaY-room, to see what visitors heading to Cranmore Park can expect from next week' show.
Can you tell me a brief history of the show?
We formed in April 2008 and held our first show in June 2008, where we invited our first 40 suppliers to show upstairs.
We now have over 90 stands, which fills all our downstairs space here at Cranmore Park. It has grown, although we try and keep the number of suppliers to a reasonable level, and it’s fair to say this is by far our strongest line- up ever this year.
What can guests expect from this year’s show?
The first thing is they get a friendly welcome and they get a tasty, free hot lunch.
I think also the impressive line-up of suppliers. Given the clash of dates with Nuremberg this year, our show will actually be the first opportunity that UK buyers will be able to see Hasbro, LeapFrog and MGA here in the UK.
We’re also encouraging all the suppliers to offer special show deals on an actual showstopper item, which is a ‘while stocks last item’ for all buyers to take advantage of.
This year’s theme is games. Can you tell me more about this idea?
We thought that rather than have a fairly benign type of entrance area, it would be nice to have a different theme each year and work with suppliers around that theme.
We already had a conversation with Mattel who are going to sponsor our coffee lounge, and had the idea of having a Scrabble café, so from that we thought we’ll theme the whole show games.
We’ll have displays of different games, and even our evening party has a games theme because it’s a casino evening. I think each year we will try a different category, which helps to create a little bit of interest in areas that are strength areas for our members.
Are there any first-time exhibitors this year? LeapFrog is showing for the first time. We also have a lot of areas we are developing including gifts, as well as toys.
Other first time showers include Engino, Magformers, Wicked Vision, Stepping Stones and Big Potato, who will be holding games demonstrations in the entrance area.
Which exhibitors are returning this year?
Returning to the fold as they say are Wooky Entertainment, Spin Master and Peers Hardy.
Did you expect to receive such a positive response from exhibitors this year?
We had a great response last year, and it was last year where we saw people were booking really early This year, we even beat the record of selling out in 12 days, and we had to create more space for some of the new suppliers that we bought on.
We’re absolutely blown away by the support we get rom our suppliers, but we never take it for granted.
We like to think we work hard all year trying to work with suppliers, and it is a good value show for them compared to what they have to pay at some of the major exhibitions.
What’s the show’s biggest appeal to suppliers?
It gets suppliers in front of a more eclectic mix of buyers because we attract buyers from everywhere, spanning museums to garden centres, so they get in front of buyers that they wouldn’t normally be able to.
The appeal for them is that they just don’t know who’s going to walk through the door next. We’re really pleased with that response.
What aspect of this year’s show are you most looking forward to?
I think the buzz on the first day around 12 and three o’clock, which is when it’s at its busiest.
It does bring its headaches with car parking and coffee queues, but there’s this feeling of a busy, buzzy show. That means it’s a job well done.
What sets this year’s show apart from the previous Toy & Gift shows?
I think the biggest message I would put out is the fact that we have Hasbro and LeapFrog here, and maybe people haven’t had the chance to speak to them this year.
The main difference is that we have all the best, major key accounts for independent buyers here under one roof, and we’re situated in the middle of the country, so I think we have done as much as we can do to put on the best show.
Now it’s just getting the message out there that all independent toy retailers are welcome, you don’t have to be a member and we’ll be doing our utmost to do that. This year’s Independent Toy and Gift Show takes place on April 12th and 13th.