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China Toy Expo: steady growth and important developments

The Shanghai event is becoming one of the most relevant to the toy industry worldwide. We visited the exhibition held from October 12th to 14th, 2010, which next year will be divided into three events focused on toys, licensing and childcare


by Daniele Caroli

A constant growth characterizes the China Toy Expo event, organized by the China Toy Association in collaboration with Goalmark International Exhibition Co., in Shanghai. Held from October 12th to 14th, 2010, at the New International Expo Center, the 9th edition of the International Trade Fair for Toys, Hobby & Baby Articles hosted, on an exhibition area of 43,500 square meters, about 800 exhibitors from 14 countries (one important fact is that, among the Chinese companies participating, 86 percent were producers), for a total of 2,100 stands, and has attracted more than 50,700 trade visitors from 104 countries and regions.

Regarding turnout, the organization reports a significant increase in visitors from Russia, Korea, Japan, Indonesia and Vietnam, and notes that Chinese players in the toy business, buyers and retailers, representing more than 200 major cities in the country, could be divided not only in importers and exporters, distributors and wholesalers, but also included regional managers of shopping malls and chain stores and specialty retailers.

A huge structure
The China Toy Expo is held in the enormous structure of the Shanghai New International Expo Center, Pudong area, which in the same days in October 2010 hosted a large show addressed to professionals in the music industry.
On the left of the vast central courtyard, on the edge of which stand dozens of buildings, the exhibition of toys and products for young children occupied three halls (W3, W4 and W5) and three smaller prefabricated structures (W6, W7 and W8).
If the vast majority of exhibitors were companies producing toys and baby articles, including the most popular brands from mainland China and Hong Kong, there were also importers, trade organizations controlling chains of stores and certification institutes. Many collective exhibitions - ten - involved companies grouped by region in mainland China: for example, Chenghai (Guangdong Province) with a specialization in modeling and electronic toys, Yongjia (Zhejiang Province), specialized in the outdoor segment, companies in Dongguan and Shenzhen (Guangdong cities) and, for the first time, the area of Fujian Jinjiang, where mainly mechanical and electronic toys are produced.

Foreign participation
Foreign companies represent a very small percentage of the exhibitors at the show; however, we noted the presence of a number of European brands, present through local distributors or agents. In some cases these activities are managed in partnership by Western and Chinese operators. Harm Beishuizen, director of the Dutch New Classic Toys, has created with partners from Beijing a company to import toys from Europe, Jollyland, whose stand at China Toy Expo showed the lines of brands such as Berg, Eitech, Lena, Reig, Teifoc. Historical German brands, such as Siku and Schleich or those of the Simba-Dickie-Group, were exhibited elsewhere.
The stand of Cute-Q included instead three Italian brands: Peg Perego, TT Toys Toys and Italtrike. «In China there is a growing interest in “Made in Italy”, thanks to the prestige of its brands and high quality products», said May Wong, Cute-Q Trading (Shanghai). «It is an offer segment positioned in the high end of the Chinese market, but in our country family incomes are increasing in parallel with the development of a strong middle class, and consumers travel more, get information through the Internet and look for new products and famous brands.»

Growth of licensing

While Hall W3 housed the most successful companies in mainland China and Hong Kong, in W4 a large area was reserved for licensing, with the presence of many well known brands in the West: among them, those managed by Warner Bros Consumer Products, Disney (including Marvel brands) and Sanrio, as well as Miffy & Friends, Teletubbies, In the Night Garden, etc. Once at pavilion W5, we were a bit annoyed by the proliferation of packages of models based on the classic LEGO-type brick and helicopters clearly derived from the intuitions of Silverlit.

In the smaller spaces of temporary structures W6, W7 and W8 were smaller companies, some able to present innovative products, and service providers.

An appointment with a strong appeal
The China Toy Expo has greatly expanded over the past five years: the largest toy fair in mainland China is well organized and full of high quality proposals (even in the field of childcare, with the presence of all major players in the Chinese market), but does not have an international flavour, addressing mainly the domestic market. Precisely what makes it very attractive to Western operators: those interested in acquiring products for import and those wishing to insert their range in the distribution channels of the great Asian country.

On October 11th, at the Wyndham Grand Plaza Royale Oriental was held the 5th China Toy Conference: there were speeches of Chinese managers and experts, but also of representatives of the sector worldwide, including Christian Ewert (ICTI Care Foundation), Carter Keithley (TIA), Charles Riotto (LIMA), Jane Zimmy (NPD Group). The day ended with a gala dinner, during which prizes were awarded to several companies, including the Western Yummy Dough in the educational games section. On the fair grounds, on October 12th and 13th, was then scheduled a number of seminars on topics such as licensing, regulations on product safety and marketing.

Great news are announced for October 2011: the 10th China Toy Expo will combine two separate exhibitions, one dedicated to licensing (with the collaboration of LIMA) and one focused on childcare articles, China Baby Carrier and Baby Articles Fair.
It was later announced that next year the event will be held on October 18th-20th and will move to a new location, World Expo Theme Pavilion, in Shanghai.

Advantages and evolution of the Shanghai fair
At the end of the gala evening devoted to the 9th edition of the China Toy Expo, we asked May Liang, vice president of the China Toy Association, to tell us about the exhibition in Shanghai: «We recorded a steady growth, between 20 and 30 percent year on year», she states. «In 2009, the stands amounted to about 1,600; this year they are 2,100 and this represents an increase of 30 percent. In 2009 we had filled three halls, W3, W4 and W5; this year we had to add three temporary structures. Over time, exhibitors have become representative of all the production areas of China and that is why, a few years ago, we changed the name of the event from Shanghai Toy Expo to China Toy Expo. In the meantime, several international brands entering the Chinese market have joined the fair, presenting themselves directly or through their agents or distributors: exciting opportunities for their products are opening up. Important aspects of our event include the fact that the majority of the exhibitors are manufacturers, prepared to supply both the domestic and foreign market, and that the largest Chinese companies of the involved sectors attend the show. Moreover, there are not only companies associated with the China Toy Association, but also firms which are part of regional industrial organizations through group exhibitions supported by local governments, oriented to the toy industry as an healthy, environmentally and socially useful activity. This is one of the factors contributing to the success of the China Toy Expo. Finally, we introduced the Licensing Pavilion, that has now reached its fourth edition and has continued to expand year on year, presenting very strong licenses on domestic market, as Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, but also world-renowned brands».

In view of the close synergy between toy and licensing and the strong growth of that sector within the exhibition, it is time to create an independent trade fair for licensing, according to May Liang: «In 2011 we will launch the first China Licensing Show in conjunction with the China Toy Fair; having different exhibitors in the childcare sector participating with satisfaction to our show, we will collect them for the first time in a special event in itself, confident that this solution will be appreciated by both producers and visitors. Such project requires the availability of a pavilion or two more, and we are committed to get it. We offer international buyers the opportunity to meet many high quality exhibitors: at present, their presence is limited because our event is still relatively new compared to Canton and Hong Kong fairs; but we are rapidly reaching up to the same size of those exhibitions. On another front, the Chinese domestic market is growing fast and it is time for international brands to approach and seize the opportunity offered by our event».

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