• (L to R): Gabby Anderson, Daniel Bloom and Imogen Bailey. Toymate - Winner of Large Retailer of the Year and Most Innovative Shop Display.
    (L to R): Gabby Anderson, Daniel Bloom and Imogen Bailey. Toymate - Winner of Large Retailer of the Year and Most Innovative Shop Display.
  • (L to R): Vincent Jones, Gabby Anderson, Gail Mitchell and Imogen Bailey. Centa IP - Winners of Most Innovative Licensing Partnership.
    (L to R): Vincent Jones, Gabby Anderson, Gail Mitchell and Imogen Bailey. Centa IP - Winners of Most Innovative Licensing Partnership.
  • (L to R): Rene Gibb, Gabby Anderson, Jono Ladmore and Imogen Bailey. Crayons - Winners of Online Retailer of the Year.
    (L to R): Rene Gibb, Gabby Anderson, Jono Ladmore and Imogen Bailey. Crayons - Winners of Online Retailer of the Year.
  • (L to R): Helen Davies, Gabby Anderson, Craig and Kate Aitken. Knock on Wood Toys - Winners of Small Retailer of the Year.
    (L to R): Helen Davies, Gabby Anderson, Craig and Kate Aitken. Knock on Wood Toys - Winners of Small Retailer of the Year.
  • (L to R): Gabby Anderson, Claire and Steve Ball and Imogen Bailey. Johnco - Winners of Technology Initiative Award.
    (L to R): Gabby Anderson, Claire and Steve Ball and Imogen Bailey. Johnco - Winners of Technology Initiative Award.
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For the in-depth wrap up of the Melbourne Toy Fair, as well as the Hong Kong, Nuremburg, New York and London toy fairs, be sure to pick-up the May-June edition of Toy & Hobby Retailer, available mid-May.

 

Arriving at my first Australian Toy, Hobby and Licensing Fair, I had a slight idea of what to expect – based off of my experience at the international toy fairs – but wasn't entirely sure of what was to come.

 

The 2019 fair was the first show post-all Australian Toys R Us stores closing, so it wouldn't be unusual to expect some gloomy attitudes about the state of the industry, present at the show.

 

However, what I found was the complete opposite.

 

The industry was out in force, jubilant and buoyant as ever, with new products, innovations and ideas to show attendees.

 

Running from stand to stand, meeting to meeting, I was able to put faces to names, reconnect with people I've previously met and see and learn about hundreds of products.

 

Finishing off the first day, the ATA held its glamorous Gala Dinner, where it announced the winners of its Licensing and Product of the Year awards.

 

After dinner, the Australian toy industry took to the dance floor and showed off their moves, which is something that I had not seen at any of the international shows. Any competitiveness between businesses was left behind and everyone danced and sang together to the songs sung by Stereo Stars. This is a great trait of the industry and something that seems to be unique to Australia.

Beginning the second day, Toy & Hobby Retailer presented the Business Excellence Award winners with their award at the Toy & Hobby Retailer stand. Congratulating the winners of the awards in person was a fantastic way to once again, highlight the passion and innovation the winners have in and for their businesses. Flick through the gallery above!

 

The rest of the day I spent running from stand to stand, which you can read about in in the May-June edition of Toy & Hobby Retailer, available mid-May.

 

The third day started bright and early with the LIMA licensing breakfast, which was well attended by licensing and toy industry professionals alike. Although slightly hampered by technical difficulties in the beginning, both presenters, Gisela Abrams, SVP global partnerships at LIMA and Kenton Elliot, marketing director at Target, gave great insights into licensing and how it extends a brand not only in the retail space, but also how it strengthens a brand beyond toys.

 

Trends noticed

 

From my interactions with exhibitors, I was able to deduce the popular trends and play patterns that are coming in 2019.

 

Firstly, as Fiona – the previous Toy & Hobby Retailer editor – predicted in early 2018, the llama motif has well and truly taken over unicorns and mermaids, so much so that it was unusual to come across a stand without a llama. This was further proven by the winner of the Toy of the Year, Boppi the Booty Shakin Llama.

 

Next, it seems that a nurturing play-pattern will be popular in 2019, with many toy businesses showcasing a pet, baby or animal that requires loving and attentive behaviour from children. These products encourage children to feed, clothe, rock-to-sleep, play-with and change and clean nappies and/or a potty to teach both boys and girls how to care for something other than themselves – a skill that will no doubt come in handy as they grow older.

 

Sensory play is not going anywhere, with toy businesses investing further beyond slime, introducing compounds such as kinetic sand, marshmallow-like compounds, compounds that feel like small rocks and dry-slime. Squishy things are accounted for in sensory play, with plush-squishies, squishies with glitter and customisable squishies coming to the shelves in 2019.

 

In terms of unboxing and surprise, toy businesses are getting creative with how they employ these elements. Combining the use of sensory compounds, unboxing is getting more and more sophisticated, with kids able to uncover their toy after mining through slime, sand or other elements. Unboxing has also become a part of the toy experience, with one surprise toy requiring kids to squeeze and pop the container that houses the toy.

 

Food play seems to be back in a big way too, with kitchens, barbeques and mini-food sets primed to hit the shelves in 2019.

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