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5 MINUTES WITH… STEVE PASIERB, CEO AND PRESIDENT OF THE TOY ASSOCIATION

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Robyn Ellis

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Steve Pasierb, CEO and President of The Toy Association, talks to us about the global toy industry, the challenges faced by manufacturers, suppliers and retailers, and gives his thoughts on how UK brands can break into the US marketplace.

How would you describe the global toy industry at present?

There are points of great strength and signs for continued concern across the global toy marketplace. The Toy Association maintains close relationships with fellow associations around the world and our international advocacy work in support of U.S companies gives us clear insight into diverse toy markets. While total global toy industry sales through September grew 1.5 percent, which can be attributed to positive sales in Mexico, Russia, Spain, the United States, Germany, and Canada, sales in the U.K., some key European markets, and Australia were down, according to The NPD Group.

In terms of categories and products we are seeing similar trends to the U.S. – the global phenomenon of unboxing videos and digital influencers who continue to highlight new products are fueling toy sales around the world. Top properties including MGA Entertainment’s L.O.L. Surprise! and a range of other collectibles, playset dolls, miscellaneous toys such as squishies, games, and youth electronics are strong, with collectibles up 25 percent, Youth Electronics up 16 percent, and Dolls up 14 percent this year.

What are the main challenges to manufacturers, suppliers, and retailers?

Our team at The Toy Association is managing challenges aplenty including: the recovery process that continues for manufacturers looking to recoup actual monetary losses or replace lost sales from Toys“R”Us’ U.S. stores and other challenges as a result of struggling retailers like Sears/Kmart; the very real threat of a fourth tranche of Section 301 tariffs on China imports – which would likely include finished toys; potential safety risks from IP infringement and counterfeiting; and the quickening transformation of the retail landscape, omnichannel shopping, and consumer preferences.

The Toy Association works on these and other issues on behalf of the entire toy community all year long, providing our members and others in the business of toys and play with the protection, support, tools, and resources they need so they can focus on growing their businesses. It’s a continual process that saw us address issues across the U.S. and in over 40 countries around the world during the past year. The upcoming Toy Fair New York will highlight some of these efforts, as we host learning sessions featuring key government officials and regulators to help attendees understand and navigate any new safety and compliance requirements and hot-button issues facing the industry.

What would be your top recommendations for British toy brands wanting to break into the US toy market?

Come to Toy Fair New York! The annual show is the largest in the Western Hemisphere and helps toy companies and talented entrepreneurs get a foothold in the lucrative North American toy market as well in emerging global markets. Thousands of global buyers from more than 100 countries will be scouting unique and innovative toys and games and looking to make deals. Toy Fair New York designates an entire section exclusively to first-time exhibitors. Called the Launch Pad, it has proven an invaluable place for influential retail buyers to discover never-before-seen inventors, designers, and their products including some of the most cutting-edge playthings in the entire show.

We are excited to share that as part of the 2019 show the Creative Factor educational component – offering important and trending content exclusively for entrepreneurs, inventors, and designers is significantly expanding, thanks to a newly formed advisory board, including Billy Langsworthy, co-founder of Mojo Nation in the U.K. Creative Factor programming will feature engaging demonstrations and educational seminars presented by experts across a wide range of disciplines on topics like how to build your brand’s narrative, how the integration of AI, robotics, VR, and AR is driving innovation in the toy space, how to protect your IP, and so much more.

Additionally, Toy Fair New York is a great place for international brands to build awareness and network – and there will be plenty of opportunities to do so, including a special invite-only International Welcome Reception following the close of the show on Saturday, February 16.

Finally, all toy professionals are invited to attend the annual Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards gala, taking place on Friday, February 15, where we will announce the winners of the 17 TOTY categories, honor this year’s Toy Industry Hall of Fame inductees, and pay tribute to The Toy Foundation, which donates brand-new playthings to millions of underprivileged kids each year. The TOTY Awards gala is a great place to connect with industry peers while enjoying a fabulous evening at New York City’s famous Ziegfeld Ballroom. Tickets to the event will go on sale on December 3.

Steve Pasierb is president and CEO of The Toy Association based in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @StevePasierb and on LinkedIn. The 116th North American International Toy Fair will take place Saturday, February 16 to Tuesday, February 19 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. Visit www.ToyFairNY.com to learn more.

Over the last 15 years, we have helped the Toy Association boost the international profile of New York Toy Fair amongst exhibitors, retailers and buyers. Check out our latest video with details on how to encourage international guests and media to your trade show event.

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