Right on Track for 2018 - Australia’s Toy Trade Fair

March has always been a favourite time of year for me. The weather is close to perfect here in Mackay, the threat of cyclones is waning, the nights start cooling down, it’s time to start preparing the vege garden and thinking about what to plant, it’s mid semester at school and not too stressful on the family. These things have always been true for me but since owning a toyshop, March has come to mean so much more!

It would be easy to think that Christmas is the best time in a toyshop and believe me, Christmas is exciting, fast and fun but it’s also really hard work, long hours, very full days and late late nights. When the new year comes around, I immediately start looking forward to March because in March I get to visit Melbourne for the Australian Toy Trade Fair. This is truly a highlight of my job in the toyshop.

The trade fair is where I go to select our key products for the year ahead, choosing stock to introduce now and looking ahead to what we will preorder for later in the year and, yes, Christmas. While I watch social media for trends, talk to my customers and research all year long, there is nothing like having everything in one place, meeting our suppliers in person and actually playing with and testing the toys on offer.

Most years I go on my own. Sometimes I take Sabine, my daughter, and my husband Bill. When Bill comes he is great at finding things for boys and especially those in the 7-12 years age group. It was Bill who selected the Matador wooden building kits and the hot air balloon mobiles for example. One year we took along his friend Russell and his input was fantastic, spotting things I wouldn’t have noticed and bringing a fresh point of view.

This year -2018- was super-amazing! For the first time, I took the whole family. My boys Liam and Edward are teenagers and know the store and our customers really well, so it was both fun and interesting to have them along. I’m not sure how much “work” they did but their insights were curious and worthwhile. The other member of our toyshop family to attend her first trade fair was our Rosalyn and what a joy it was to have her with me.

One night, Ros, Sabine and I stayed up until 2am pouring over lists of what we had seen and filling out our orders to give to our suppliers the next day. At midnight, I suggested they go to bed and that I could continue on my own but in true toy fair spirit, they laughed off their weariness assuring me that this was fun, and they wouldn’t miss it for the world!

So, I set out to tell you what we found and that is what I shall now do!

A hot item on my list was Brio train sets. I have admired this brand for many years, watching as it came down in price while other brands rose and yet with no decline in quality and craftsmanship. It is time to bring Brio to Mackay! Meeting the team at Childsmart, the Brio supplier, was so much fun. The passion of Rhonda, Mark and their team as they showed us the range was wonderful. When someone shows you’re their product with such passion and joy you know you are on to a good thing. Our first Brio sets arrived in store this week and we look forward to holding a Brio Play Event in the coming months.

Puzzles and Games are key items that customers having been asking for more of and I think that’s wonderful and am happy to oblige. Although my kids are quite grown up now, we still love a games night and there are always games scattered around the living room ready to go – Banagrams, Spot it, Cluedo, Monopoly and Tenzi are always close at hand. Since opening the shop 5 years ago, we have been delighted to see the popularity of game playing and jigsaws skyrocket…and it’s not just from adults! Kids are seeking out games and requesting them as gifts. We tested out the new Orchard Toys games for under 5’s and were captivated by the Café game. It follows on from their famous Shopping List game. So good is the Café game, Bill pulled me aside and said, “You are getting that aren’t you!”   Yes Bill, we are!

Ravensburger puzzles will be arriving in droves over the next few months and we have already received many puzzles in the XXL 500 piece and up category! Expect Disney and more variety from now on. And if you loved Bugs in the Kitchen game by Ravensburger then checkout our new games by them as well.

A real treat was found by following up a little article I read prior to heading to Melbourne… and so we discovered QPeas.

Designed by the lovely Andrew Bedford who has worked in the industry for many years, QPeas are an exciting mini doll range that comes with it’s own loves, likes and needs helping children to connect to character. They stand 5.5cm tall, are articulated and live in a unique little squishy pod allowing the QPea to be carried safely anywhere the child goes. Sabine, Ros and I each received our own little QPea and found ourselves immediately enchanted. QPeas will be released about mid year and we can’t wait!

Then there was the Playmobil display at which point I totally lost my work colleagues to play and had to labour on alone. I believe Sabine and Ros spent about 2 hours playing with and exploring every Playmobil set – so if they didn’t deserve the title Playmobil experts before then they most certainly do now! The new Playmobil Aquarium replaces the zoo set and it was my favourite! Think Sealife Aquarium centre (with clear tanks that you really fill with water), colour changing octopuses, penguin enclosures and seal shows. The new Playmobil range and catalogues are already here with more to follow through the year.

Another brand I was particularly keen to check over was UK company Plum who specialise in outdoor play including wooden and metal frame swing sets, sand pits, the most amazing wooden teepees, mud kitchens and outdoor easels. Well I wasn’t disappointed, and I have added the Plumplay range to our store. The catalogue is bursting with sunny goodness.

There is so much more I could add but just wanted to share with you some of the excitement and buzz of choosing new goodies to bring to Mackay. We really had a great time and I managed to wear out the whole team to a state of near exhaustion, but you know what… I didn’t hear any complaining.

 

PS  I didn’t tell you about Gravitrax – Oh wow! Taking marble runs to a new level. These amazing sets will be arriving in Australia and our store later in the year in time for Christmas. This is one that stopped us all in our marble tracks – teen boys, hubby, big girls and middle-aged mother alike. Now that’s the sort of play we love at Let the Children Play Toyshop.