German toy industry turnover may have dropped by 2 percent in 2004, but the International Toy Fair in Nuremberg, with over a million products on show, could bring relief if it sparks a trend.
Turn off the tube and get out and play!
"Fun, Games and Moves" is the focus of the world's biggest toy fair this year, and the point is to get children to buy things they'll play with outdoors. It's an idea whose time has come bearing in mind that 14 percent of German children are overweight. The toy industry aims to boost turnover with the trend, which includes products like inline skates and volleyball equipment.
"The retail toy trade, like others, is doing badly, but there's hope for the future thanks to new ideas," said Dorine Lattemann, who's in charge of marketing at the fair. "The outdoor business will increase business in the summer, which will be good because most of the toy trade takes place around Christmas."
Games and puzzles are also big business, with turnover of around €300 million ($386 million) a year. But aside from such conventional things, the fair showcases new products too.
Fun in the tub
Not that bad after all
Heidelberg Natural Colors, for example, has introduced a product to help in the endless struggle to get small children to enjoy washing. Tinti Flexible Soap can be formed into shapes and it colors water red, blue or yellow. And Tinti Fizzy Bath -- as its name suggests -- fizzes when you pour it in the tub.
"It's a new visual and auditory experience alongside the color," said marketing manager Jürgen Huber. "It's sugar with carbon dioxide inside it, so that when the sugar dissolves the carbon dioxide is released and it fizzes."
The 2,700 exhibitors come from 65 countries, though the majority hails from China, by far the world's number one toy producer. Some 63 percent of the exhibitors come from abroad, plus international companies represented by German subsidiaries, which bring the numbers to around 70 percent, Lattemann said.
Also at the fair, Silverlit Toys' "X-UFO" won the "Toyinnovation 2005" award
As luxury articles, toy sales are very sensitive to the economic situation. With consumers in Germany currently reluctant to buy anything, it's not surprising that turnover is down. The industry's only hope is good ideas.
Last Christmas, a good idea from France, Scoubidous, called the Boondoggle in the US, became a short-term trend in Germany. But the plastic strips that can be woven into decorative if useless objects -- usually keychain appendages -- were so cheap that overall turnover in the industry went down by 3 percent in December.
The fair runs until Feb. 15.