ARCHIVED  March 11, 2011

Local buyers, sellers hit Toy Fair in NYC

FORT COLLINS – Toys, toys, toys.

For some local businesses, the recent New York International Toy Fair was a highlight of the year when it comes to selling and buying those items kids and parents can’t resist.

For Matt Hannifin, owner of Science Toy Magic in Old Town Fort Collins, the toy fair is a major source of his inventory and he treats his visits to the fair like a military operation.

“I make up a map (of vendors) in advance so I can strike more effectively,” he said. “I go through the entire show end-to-end at least two times.”

This year’s show was held Feb. 12-16 at the 675,000-square-foot Javits Center in Manhattan, the largest exhibition hall in New York City. Even though Hannifin was there for all four days of the fair, he found himself moving constantly to see everything. And it’s something he had to get in shape to do.

“On the last day I was literally running through the aisles,” he said. “It’s a marathon that I make sure I’m hydrated for and pacing myself.”

This year was Hannifin’s eighth visit to the fair, where he finds many of the odd and out-of-the-ordinary items that fulfill the mission of his toy shop – to entertain while teaching scientific principles.

Hannifin said he placed dozens of orders for new toys at this year’s fair and claims he will ultimately be the first in the nation to offer more than 40 new toys.

Hannifin said “hundreds of thousands” of toy-world people (the public not allowed) attended this year’s fair, where thousands of vendors gathered to display their latest and most popular selections.

The Toy Industry Association, which puts on the fair every year, reported that Toy Fair 2011 attracted more than 25,000 attendees, including more than 10,000 buyers, including licensors, entertainment executives and advertising/marketing executives, and more than 100,000 products. The industry reported $21.9 billion in traditional toy sales in 2010, with an additional $18.6 billion in video game sales, approaching pre-recession levels.

One of the sellers at this year’s fair was Fort Collins-based Sprig Toys, which specializes in simply designed, eco-friendly toys for younger kids. Founded four years ago, the homegrown company was acquired by industry giant Wham-O last year. Company founder Justin Discoe said that gave Sprig a higher-level presence at this year’s fair.

“This year was great,” he said. “We were in kind of a transition with the acquisition. Our focus this year was on getting the packaging down and getting our ducks in a row.”

People see we get it

Discoe said this year’s International Toy Fair – where Sprig won a prestigious “Toy of the Year” award last year – brought the company greater notice in the toy industry.

“Sprig has always been a small-town kind of company,” he said of prior years at the fair. “We had a great presence, but not the packaging to show what we could be. There was always the psychology of ‘OK, but can you guys ship?’ Now people see that we get it. It’s been great.”

In addition to being acquired by Wham-O, Sprig has joined with toy distributing giant Schilling and recently signed a contract to have its toys carried by Costco, one of the nation’s biggest membership warehouse clubs with more than 55 million members in 2009.

Discoe said Sprig is also talking to Walmart, Kmart and Target stores but “we’re still waiting to pull the trigger” on the stores agreeing to carry the company’s toys.

Discoe said the toy fair – and other recent developments – are demonstrating that Sprig is a company that’s quickly moving up.

“We had to show guys like Matt (Hannifin) that we were a together company,” he said. “We’re showing we’re here to stay. The brand that came out of Fort Collins is on the verge of a global presence.”

Clothes Pony and Dandelion Toys owner Becca Bramhall is another local purveyor who traveled to New York City for the toy fair, along with her sister and co-owner, Jenny Bramhall, and store manager Joanne Bailey.

Becca Bramhall said attending the annual toy fair is considered a must for their store at 111 N. College Ave. in Fort Collins. “We’ve gone several years in a row,” she said. “It’s just a must for the store. We have to stay on top of what’s fresh and new.”

Bramhall said the store sells just about everything a child would want or need, including toys, clothes, books, shoes and diapers. “We are everything,” she said. “We’re a regional draw.”

Bramhall said she was a little disappointed to not see anything dramatically new at this year’s toy fair. “There were a lot of great vendors with some new items but no really new companies,” she said.

Still, Bramhall said even though she goes to other fairs throughout the year, she wouldn’t miss the International Toy Fair. “It’s the only exclusively toy fair we go to,” she said. “Nowhere is there such a plethora of toys. Almost every toy vendor goes there.”

FORT COLLINS – Toys, toys, toys.

For some local businesses, the recent New York International Toy Fair was a highlight of the year when it comes to selling and buying those items kids and parents can’t resist.

For Matt Hannifin, owner of Science Toy Magic in Old Town Fort Collins, the toy fair is a major source of his inventory and he treats his visits to the fair like a military operation.

“I make up a map (of vendors) in advance so I can strike more effectively,” he said. “I go through the entire show end-to-end at least two times.”

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