Bright Lights, Big Shows - Toyfest & GTS April 06 2016
Hundreds or maybe thousands of vendors, manufacturers, publishers, distributors, sales representatives and designers, all in a big room, all of them vying for the attention of retailers and each other, hoping to make sales, deals, partnerships, relationships, or just a great big splash ...
That's a trade show, and pretty much every industry has them. The toy, hobby and game industries are no different, and there are two of these shows that Games of Berkeley regularly attends every March: TOYFEST WEST and the GAMA TRADE SHOW (GTS). For the past several years these shows have taken place about a week apart from each other, in the big, bold, brassy town of Las Vegas. This year may have seen the Evil Overlord's third outing to each, but it was the first trip to GTS for our chief buyer, Wailin' Walter and event coordinator Angel (who doesn't yet have a nickname -- check out her personal thoughts on GTS, "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly," at the bottom of this page).
How did we fare? Who did we meet? What will you be seeing soon here at the store?
Toyfest West is produced each year by the Western Toy & Hobby Representatives Association (WTHRA), and currently takes place at the South Point Casino, Hotel & Spa (home to one of the premier equestrian centers in the nation). The show includes three days of a huge exhibit hall full of sales organizations and the toy/hobby publishers or manufacturers they represent, as well as booths occupied by companies without outside sales representation, or those offering services meant to help make a business run more smoothly.
Everyone brings a range of samples of the toys, games and activities that they produce, including prototypes or production copies of any brand-new items not yet on the market.
Individual retailers such as GoB walk the floor and chat with sales reps, try out products, place orders, and compare notes with each other.
The first morning of GTS typically includes a marketing seminar (this year's was about the importance of social media), but most everyone wants to get onto the floor right away. TO SEE THE COOLNESS!
We usually prepare plenty of orders ahead of time (often 50 or more), but there will always be things added when we see what's coming up, or when we meet new manufacturers.
And there's always something new that we're not allowed to show you right away, no matter how exciting it looks.
Other functions include the Award Banquet (celebrating excellence in the retail toy industry) and the ever-popular Game Night (a kind of speed dating -- 16 publishers with 20 minutes each to show off however many games they can).
Dinner and drinks are provided, there's a raffle drawing, and by the end of the evening everyone's gotten raucous AND exhausted.
Above all else, though, Toyfest can be a place to build relationships.
GAMA TRADE SHOW
GTS is produced annually by the Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA, a non-profit organization serving the tabletop game industry). It currently takes place at Bally's Hotel & Casino, smack dab in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip. This show is a monster, with a two-day exhibition hall similar to the one at Toyfest, but also three days jammed full of seminars and presentations on separate tracks for retailers, publishers, and designers, as well as sponsored meals featuring Big Announcements.
It was nice seeing friendly faces from the get-go -- like being on a plane with Ben from D20 Games in Alameda!
The trip began and ended for us with retailer seminars on things like inventory management, store design, community outreach, and figuring out one's bottom line.
The publisher presentations were next, an opportunity for them to give updates on current product, get us hyped up for new items, and gather feedback from retailers.
Most nights there were also sponsored functions by publishers or service providers.
The exhibit floor is similar to Toyfest, a place to check out new product, write orders, and make deals.
GAME. NIGHT. (DUN DUN DUN!!!) Game Night at GTS is the stuff of legends. 4+ hours of approximately 65 tables, each with one or more games to try. The ultimate beer & pizza game party.
The next day, it was back to the exhibit floor for more previews, promos and meetin' up!
Above all else, though, GTS can be a place to test relationships. ;-P
All too soon, it was time to head back home. But we'll be back next year, with more to show off, and plenty to bring back home!