Today marks the end of Toy Fair 2023, and, with that, comes my reflections on the highs and lows of the event. Overall, this year struck me as…strange. It was the first Toy Fair back in-person after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, I felt some uncertainty around expectations. The optimist in me predicted full aisles of eager vendors and exciting reveals, and, while this Toy Fair certainly wasn’t without that, it wasn’t exactly brimming with it, either.
A lot of press coverage I read, beyond that which I wrote, came from my favorite YouTube and Instagram accounts, which speaks to a shift in the way the public consumes toy reporting. In fact, I noticed lots of small shops come through Toy Fair this year, perhaps more so than previous years. All of those folks that I encountered were deeply inspiring. I met the granddaughter of a founder of Nylint, who is making significant strides toward brand revival. It was a freshman Toy Fair for DGA Colectibles (Homies) and Nacelle, two companies that have made and are making important impressions on the toy industry. When I asked, during my panel on mom-and-pop toy shops, how many people in the audience were there representing small stores, at least ten hands went into the air. Moments like these give me hope, as I put lots of hope into grassroots efforts, generally.
Meanwhile, Mattel skipped this year entirely, and Hasbro’s off-site event was significantly smaller than previous years, perhaps owing to the reveals the company did one week prior in their online PulseCon. In fact, while a lot of the smaller companies showed off innovation, the larger ones showcased a limited number of sure-fire hits that may not necessarily need Toy Fair to sell. There were exceptions to this, though. Bandai and Ty, massive companies, dominated the show floor with multi-area spaces displaying everything from small-scale items to gigantic statues.
All of this makes me consider the most important news of the day: in 2025, Toy Fair will have its last New York City year since it’s inception 100 years ago before moving to New Orleans for 2026 (with no 2024 show, as it would be too close to this one or the one following). As a New Yorker, I see this as unfortunate. So much toy history has happened both at the International Toy Center in the Flatiron and then, now, the Javits Center. I get that moving it is a business decision, but I feel possessive. This is our event. I do wonder, though, about the logic behind New Orleans instead of, say, a location in southern California, which would be closer to at least some major toy companies. Perhaps New Orleans is meant to be a compromise location between those on the East and West Coasts. Having been to conferences in New Orleans, I can at least say it will be a fun time, if not exactly the choice I would have made.
Ultimately, I think Toy Fair 2023 was a testament to the resiliency of smaller and start-up brands. The products I’m most excited about are coming from folks like the mid-size Loyal Subjects and smaller shops like YuMe, Nacelle, and DGA Collectibles. I’m also eager to see how the entrepreneurs I met grow, and the ways in which new media press continues to expand their share of the reporting on industry news. Onward to 2024!
Jonathan Alexandratos is a NYC-based toy writer. They study toys, pop culture, and the intersection of both.