Hi-tech toys take the spotlight in Hong Kong as makers seek to overcome sales decline

A record 2,100 exhibitors from 42 countries and regions are displaying their wares at the annual toy fair in a bid to overcome market uncertainties

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 January, 2017, 7:45pm
UPDATED : Monday, 09 January, 2017, 10:57pm

Hi-tech wares stole the limelight at the kickoff of Asia’s largest show for the sector, the 43rd annual Toy and Games Fair, which Hong Kong manufacturers want to use to revive their struggling industry.

The four-day fair, organised by the Trade Development Council, opened in Wan Chai on Monday with a record of more than 2,100 exhibitors from 42 countries and regions

Hong Kong toy makers hope Asia’s largest toy fair will help boost flagging sales

Hong Kong – the world’s second biggest toy exporter – saw the sector falter last year, with exports dropping 24.2 per cent in the first 11 months of last year.

But the industry is looking to capitalise on augmented reality, virtual reality, educational products and licensed toys, the Trade Development Council said.

Hong Kong-based Soap Studio is optimistic about its new smart products, such as a Batman combat game controlled by players’ brainwaves, allowing them to blink and think their way through a game.

“Sales are pretty good for high-technology things,” assistant marketing manager Hung Wing-wing said. “You have to do what the market wants.”

Hong Kong startup Plato, which produces educational training games to help children focus, also sees hope in the new year.

“Children’s training products in particular are probably a little more resistant to economic downturns,” the company’s co-founder and chief executive officer Vernee Ho told the Post. “Everyone wants to invest in their kids.”

The toy industry’s focus has been on smart toys and electronics, benefitting Hong Kong companies able to make high-quality and safe products, according to Samson Chan Ming-yiu, chairman and chief executive officer of Manley Toys.

“The toy business remains optimistic about this season, as long as you have innovation,” Chan said. “There is always Christmas every year. Kids – they’ve got to have toys.”

Hong Kong’s market has “huge potential” in light of mainland China’s two-child policy and the increasing purchasing power of emerging Asian markets, according to commerce minister Greg So Kam-leung.

But headwinds remain in the industry, particularly on the manufacturing front. They include rising labour costs and a volatile yuan , Chan said.

Traditional toy exporters such as Tat Kei Electronic Industrial Company, which sells products like toy cannons, said sales were “not very good” last year, and a pickup this year was unlikely, according to Kelly Wong, senior sales and operation manager.

An additional concern for toy makers is what will happen in overseas markets such as the United States, where exporters have to contend with potential protectionist policies and taxes from president-elect Donald Trump.