The Fall Toy Preview seemed a little…”off” this year. The mood seemed neither good nor bad, but somewhat flat. Traffic seemed to be down. I do understand that people were hidden away in showrooms and cubby holes and that there was what appeared to be a daily population surge around lunchtime. That said, the numbers did seem to be down a little. Some retailers, especially the larger ones, only sent partial teams and some buyers left early to head for Los Angeles.

Los Angeles was the source of many complaints. Most of the large, and now many second tier, toy manufacturers don’t support the Fall Toy Preview. Many, including Mattel, MGA, Jakks, Spin Master, Tomy and Funrise have their own October “show” in LA which means less retail buyers in Dallas as well as buyers leaving early. I understand the big boys wanting to monopolize buyers time without having them distracted by their smaller and often more innovative competitors. Unfortunately, the current situation hurts the toy industry as a whole.

In the last year or two the Toy Industry Association (TIA) has been able to twist the arms of the large companies into supporting New York Toy Fair in February. Now, it’s time to figure out a solution for the Fall Toy Preview. I am not going to be so presumptuous as to claim that I know what that solution is or where the show should be held if, indeed, it should be held at all. However, I think it’s a conflict of interest to sit on the TIA Board while at the same time passive aggressively undermining TIA initiatives which are meant to serve the toy industry as a whole. If a company is not going to support TIA/toy industry events let them be TIA members but not pretend to play a leadership role for the entire toy business.

September jobs data (nice segue, huh?) showed marginal improvement and the unemployment rate is now back to the same 7.8% that it was at when Obama took office. The details of the Bureau of Labor Statistics report were a little wonky showing that the US economy only created an anemic 114,000 jobs in September and that many of those were for part time workers.

I’m not going to go all Jack Welch on you here, but September jobs data is often a little funny. Every September, schools re-open and schools employ a large number of part time employees such as cafeteria workers, night cleaning crews, etc. So it should come as no surprise to see a spike in new part time hires for the month. Unfortunately these are not the types of jobs that are going to get our economy rolling again.

Anecdotally, the news is much better. Since mid august, Toyjobs has been providing our clients with top talent and our clients have been hiring them hand over fist (Toyjobs Success Stories). Also, the type of jobs that companies are looking for has started to shift from Sales, Sourcing and Safety (revenues, cost reduction, and regulation) toward the toy industry’s traditional focus on Marketing and Product Development (creativity and innovation). It seems as if companies have stopped just playing defense and are on the offensive once again.

We still face potential major problems in the European Economic crisis and the approaching fiscal cliff but if we can manage to avoid those, the US economy seems to finally be starting to pull out of its five year slump. While we can’t do much about Europe; it would be tremendously helpful if our politicians could get it together enough for a one year extension of the current taxation, spending and regulatory regime. This would give both business and consumers the confidence they need to start planning and spending and planning to spend. Maybe if our politicians can get their act together, European leadership will be able to pull it together over there, too…

Um, no I’m not holding my breath for either of these things to happen.

All the best,
Tom Keoughan