Not so fun for some at Asia's biggest toy fair

But industry players see better times ahead for sales in the US as economy turns the corner

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 January, 2013, 4:08am

While some Hong Kong and US toy executives see a better outlook for the industry this year, exhibitors at Asia's largest toy fair feel are feeling gloomy.

"This is not a good year. I can feel it. The booths are quiet," said Herman Chan, an exhibitor at the Hong Kong Toys and Games Fair.

"This year won't be better than last year," said Chan, an executive with Parkfield Industries, a Hong Kong toymaker with factories in Fujian province.

European and US orders at another Hong Kong toymaker, Wange Toys Industrial, had halved, general manager Cai Li-he said. "I'm definitely not optimistic," Cai said. But Wange had expanded sales to mainland China and Southeast Asia, so its total sales should be on par with last year, Cai said.

But, Samson Chan, honorary president of the Toy Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong, predicted toy exports would be slightly better in 2013 than 2012. "Last year, there were no hits, but this year, there will be some big hits," Samson Chan said.

A hit is a wildly popular toy that takes the market by storm.

Neil Friedman, a US toy consultant, and Tim Kimber, of PlaSmart, a US toy sales and marketing firm, said toy sales in the US would be better this year. The United States is the world's biggest toy market, with annual sales of US$22 billion. "The US economy has turned the corner. We're seeing positive signs in employment and consumer sentiment [in the US]. That will add to a great year for the US toy business," Kimber said.

US toy sales fell 2 per cent in the fourth quarter last year, according to Christopher Byrne, content director of US toy website TimetoPlayMag.com. "There were slow sales, an election year in the US, concern over the economy. People were afraid to spend money," Byrne said.

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