English. Mandarin. Japanese. What I think was German. Languages from all around the world all together for one purpose: toys.
At the New York Toy Fair, you see the grand scope of an industry built on supplying the kids we know (and the ones in our hearts) with every kind of toy made, from stuffed animals to anime action figures, board games to outdoor pool toys.
The fair is held annually for 4 days in mid-February. I attended the past fair to assist in selecting new inventory for ExtraordinaryED. Which is no easy task since we have a vast customer base to supply for. So that means not just picking puzzles for toddlers but also harder 2,000-piece jigsaw puzzles for adults seeking a challenge.
If you want to know what it’s like to go to a Toy Fair, think of a science fair only open to those in the toy business. Each game company or distributer has their own booth. Vendors pay for the booths to show off their products in hopes that clients will place an order. Some booths are the size of just a table in length. Bigger companies pay more to have space as big as store fronts, or in Melissa and Doug’s case, the size of a small city block.
As Play Professionals for ExtraordinaryED, Henry and I visit every vendor. We especially make a point to visit the startup companies showcasing their first games. We want to get new product no one has seen while maintaining the great constancy of our current inventory.
We hear about the product, try the demos, ask for a catalog, and then move on to the next booth. There are show specials (like free shipping) that make it more of an incentive to buy the product while at the fair.
This year we collected close to 40lbs of game catalogs. We go through them and decide what would be good for the store. Later in the year, we break them out to decide what to carry for Christmas time.
I don’t want to understate the work aspect, my pedometer did record I walked slightly under 10 miles on the first day, all while we carried the catalogs… BUT, it is a lot of fun.
It’s rewarding. We meet people so passionate about their product. All wanting to make a difference by adding more play to the world.
It’s super knowledgeable. We get to learn about the games and how to play them from the people who made them! So back at ExtraordinaryED when someone asks me how to play, I know how because I did it at the Toy Fair.
It’s stressful. Our choices will ultimately be the birthday presents kids receive. They’ll be the board games families create memories with. I work in a toy store. I see kid’s eyes light up from excitement all the time. That’s the goal, to inspire. We see hundreds of companies, thousands of different games, toys, and puzzles over the course of two days. Toy Fair gives us the chance to hand pick the best product for our customers.
Doug Lang Play Professional, ExtraordinaryED