HK toy sellers bemoan loss of best spots at fair
Angry Hong Kong exhibitors at Asia's largest toy and games fair say they have been left playing with their dolls and train sets after prime spots at the Convention and Exhibition Centre were taken up by mainland rivals.
Despite a 25 per cent growth in visitor numbers at the Hong Kong Toys and Games Fair, more than 30 Hong Kong toy companies claim they were relegated to a 'dead hall' while mainland exhibitors were given spots in high-traffic areas.
The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC), the fair's organiser, denied it was favouring mainland exhibitors.
A TDC spokesman said more signs had been added yesterday to draw more traffic to the Hong Kong booths.
The incensed Hong Kong exhibitors, who have participated at the four-day show for the past decade, said they were among 100 Hong Kong toy companies tucked away on a remote mezzanine floor nearly 100 metres away from the heart of the show in Halls 1, 3 and 5. They complain the location is so remote that even their regular buyers, not to mention first-time visitors, have failed to notice they are at the fair.
The 36th annual toy fair, which has attracted 1,891 exhibitors this year, opened on Monday and ends tomorrow.
The TDC charges up to US$8,383 for an exhibition booth, although fees are determined by the size of booths and the nationality of exhibitors, not by their location.
A TDC spokesman conceded Hong Kong exhibitors pay less than mainland exhibitors.
Bob Cheung, the boss of Green Horse Toys, said Hong Kong exhibitors effectively made way for mainland exhibitors in busy Halls 3 and 5.
'Why should overseas exhibitors, especially those from the mainland, be offered prime locations?' said Cheung, as he and other local exhibitors jeered at nearby TDC officials and security guards. 'We are small and medium-sized businesses, and [Chief Executive] Donald Tsang [Yam-kuen] said he supported SMEs. So why were we left in a so-called exhibition hall that has virtually no visitors?'
Edwin Yu, boss of Hong Kong-based Super Products, agreed that the TDC has favoured mainland firms. 'The TDC is supposed to promote Hong Kong trade, but it has become the China Trade Development Council,' said Yu, who has been a toy manufacturer for more than three decades.
Until the renovation of the exhibition centre last year, the toy exhibitors had been located in the same booths and the same halls every year.
After the revamp, exhibitors said, they were invited either to 'choose space' within the convention hall and the theatres or accept a refund.
'We were not offered any other halls at all,' Yu said. 'But I had to show up here, otherwise my customers might think we were in trouble or even went under.'
The disgruntled exhibitors said regular buyers had become used to the location of their booths every year, but the new arrangement meant buyers were attracted to their rivals in the mainland halls.
The TDC spokesman said exhibition booths had been grouped under product categories this year to make the fair 'more buyer-friendly'.
But that was disputed by Hans-Peter Hohn, the head of Toys & Premiums (HK), who said he and other exhibitors were clustered under 'multiple products and general merchandise', a category of products that is shown in all halls. He described the fair as 'a disaster'.
'I'm down here to do business, not to wait for visitors,' said Hohn. 'We are downgraded to a hall to nowhere, and have suffered losses in terms of time, resources and chances to meet buyers.'
Tony Yeung from toymaker Kai Jal Industrial said the traffic had been so slow for the past two days that he only obtained five name cards of potential customers, compared with about 80 a year ago.
'I still have a pile of catalogues with me, which should have all gone by now,' said Yeung. 'I was in Hall 5 for the past six years, and traffic was so busy last year that a lunch box took four hours to finish.'
Galey Toys, which has participated at the fair for more than 20 years, added an extra booth this year, bringing the total number to five and the cost to HK$165,000, excluding logistics, decorations and labour.
'It's hopeless this year,' said manager Frankie Cheng, whose booth was relocated from the most popular Hall 1. 'You can see how quiet and remote this dead hall is.'
Mainland exhibitors at Hall 1 told a different story.
Bob Yu, the boss of a Shantou-based maker of toy cars, was taking part for the first time at the show. He said: 'We met many potential customers from Europe and existing customers.'
Yu, who had used up dozens of his name cards by noon yesterday, said the fair was a window to the West for his company, which suffered a 40 per cent slide in business last year, following the global financial crisis.