Op-Ed: Don’t Mess with Texas

Why Toy Fair Dallas is Worth the Investment

As many toy companies consider their renewals for Toy Fair Dallas in 2020, Jay Foreman, CEO of Basic Fun! and a long-time show exhibitor, shares why he believes the opportunities are still bigger in Texas.

jayforeman-basicfunNovember 18, 2019 –Toy Fair Dallas 2019 may have just ended and Toy Fair New York may be only three months away, but it’s already time to decide whether to renew your booth space and put a deposit down for Toy Fair Dallas 2020.

For many companies, this is a big expense, a big decision, and, for some, a big debate. Each year companies debate over whether Toy Fair Dallas is still worth the time and money to attend, and each year, almost everyone I speak with ends the show on the same note: "It was worth it." This includes my own opinion.

The big debate for many exhibitors in recent years is whether to just do Toy Fair Dallas, skip Dallas and move all meetings to Los Angeles, do both, or skip all fall organized previews and take direct sales calls at each retailer.

First and foremost, if you are not one of the largest 20 or so companies based in, or have a major presence in, Los Angeles, you need to be in Dallas. It’s the buyers, led by the big three, Walmart, Target, and Amazon, among others, that make the show a success for almost everyone every year. These buyers continue to descend on Dallas in full force, and there is no reason to believe they won’t continue to support the show.

At one time, the toy industry descended on Dallas for one account, and one account only: Toys “R” Us (TRU). It was the destination to meet with the retailer over a two-week span as it made its fall selections. Eventually, other major retailers (Walmart and Target) moved in as well. My point is, we all started in Dallas because that one account, TRU, was important enough for all to warrant the trip. Certainly, the current big three warrant the same consideration today, if not more. I urge you to think Dallas first and fill in your gaps second. Nothing is better than setting up a full gallery to show your wares, and Dallas does the trick.

Where else can we see 30 to 40 of our best accounts in one self-contained location? It’s as close to the feeling of the old Toy Center as we can get these days. The fact is there is nowhere else you can do this, even and especially in Los Angeles. I imagine if it was possible to move the showrooms of Mattel, MGA, Jakks Pacific, and Playmates Toys, among others, to Dallas, the retailers would much certainly rather do the whole thing in Dallas in five days – I’d bet big on that!

For those also considering a move to Los Angeles, let’s also not forget a big factor: to show in Los Angeles, you need to be there for at least three consecutive weeks. I know many bleary-eyed executives that travel back and forth every weekend that time of year, not to mention the staffers that are sequestered there for three-plus weeks straight. If you are one of the handful of true Los Angeles-based companies, travel is not an issue. If not, it’s clearly less than optimal.

For those that exhibit, Toy Fair Dallas has certainly evolved. We might not get the quantity of appointments we used to have, but it’s the quality that keeps us coming back. With these and other major accounts still descending on one location, in one short window of time to see toy companies – unless you are based in Los Angeles – why wouldn’t you come to Dallas?

This is a question I ask myself every year at this time, when I have to commit to a deposit. The answer I come back to is the same one more than 200 companies land on at the conclusion of every show, "Yes, it’s worth it."

To renew your Toy Fair Dallas booth and for more information about exhibit space, contact Stacy Liebensohn. Next year’s show will be held October 6 to 8, 2020, at the Dallas Market Center in Dallas, TX.