The headline, FBTB Will Not Be Attending Toy Fair This Year, pretty much sums it up, as headlines should do, and I guess this is where I should write down why. There’s a couple of reasons to this, some business, some personal.
The previous two years, The LEGO Group purposefully chose not to show products releasing the second half of the year. So anything “new” that was shown would be released for the first half, and out of that group, there are themes/products that are restricted, meaning you can see them but you can’t photograph them. And sometimes, whole themes would be removed from the floor so we wouldn’t be able to see them at all, only for those items to be pulled out for retailers. Avengers Infinity War sets from 2018 come to mind.
And when I say they show “new” things, it’s a bit misleading since they show everything coming out in the first half of the year, including stuff with a release date of January. Since the show takes place in mid-February, it always kind of baffled me why the booth dedicated so much space for products that are already on store shelves. This goes against what I always thought Toy Fair was for: a preview of things to come so that retailers can meet with distributors, manufacturers, and toy makers to place orders and consider what the future landscape would be like. So why show current product? Is there no means for retailers to see what they can order to stock their shelves ahead of January? I suppose LEGO has their reasons for doing so but if not showing second-half product is due to space, then I don’t see why the current, on-sale stuff can’t be sacrificed to make way for new stuff.
I’ve lamented this decision to show only first-half product before and always questioned the value of attending. That first year it happened, LEGO held a second social media event later in the year specifically showing off select products for the second half. I actually enjoyed that party a lot more for various reasons and wished they did it again last year. But alas, they did not and I doubt they would do it again.
A new change for this year that they communicated to invitees was that the format was going to be completely different. Before, invitees to the Collector’s Party were allowed into the booth two hours ahead of the regular Toy Fair show opening. At 7am, there would be a group of us gathered in the Javitz Center lobby and we’d be escorted in. Light refreshments would be served, and we’d be able to wander the booth and take pictures. This year’s changes eliminates the Collector’s Party and instead LEGO outlined a one-hour guided group tour of its booth later in the day. One hour is probably enough time to take pictures. I’ve always skipped any current, on-shelf product that had a release date of January and just focused on the new stuff and the past two years, had enough time leftover to actually chitchat with others and just hang out. Prior to that, it was always a mad rush to try and snap everything.
So with the confirmation of only showing first-half product coupled with the change in format, attending the show seemed less appealing. I also had to look at the return on investment: was it worth spending the money for flights and accommodations to attend the show to see less new product? It was leaning towards the answer being ‘no’. Site income wasn’t what it used to be and now that I have three kids to provide for, I have a different set of priorities now. This trip to New York was something I just couldn’t justify, really afford, and feel good about going on.
And do I even have to mention the threat of coronavirus? Call me paranoid but I’d rather not take the risk.
This was not an easy decision to make. FBTB has been attending Toy Fair as a private guest long before they turned it into marketing opportunity, invited other outlets, and rebranded the whole thing as a “Collector’s Party”. I personally looked forward to the annual trip. It was a tradition. And as such, when a tradition can’t be experienced, there is a slight feeling of loss. I’m trying to fight that off. From the outside looking in, for all the reasons I outlined above, it makes perfect logical sense to not go. But I still cant help but feel a little bit sad, and a little FOMO too. There’s also a part of me that feels like I’m letting you, the readers of this site, down. That might be the toughest feeling to get past: disappointing others.
I’ve always believed that when facing a tough decision to make, the harder choice is the right choice. It would have been super easy to just book my flight, make my hotel reservation, and go, all out of habit. Like I said, it was tradition. Deciding to not go was the harder choice to make. The wife and I want to take our kids on a family trip this summer, first time ever, and I’d much rather save money for that. If I can just focus on that, then it makes the decision slightly easier to accept.
In the past, The LEGO Group emailed assets and product info of the new stuff on the day of the event. So while we won’t physically be there, we’ll be there in spirit and be able to share with you the official announcements if and when we get them. And if they don’t I’m sure other sites and blogs will have them. In any case, we will of course, always have an opinion.