Our toy-finding missions in Sydney and Melbourne are complete and we have returned to Elf HQ with plenty of inspiration. Here we chat to our travelling elves to find out about their trips and what their treasure-hunting adventures have yielded.
What was the most ‘wow’-inducing product for you across the Toy Fair and the Sydney gift fairs?
Deb: We found hand-felted items (puppets, play food, room décor) that are fashioned in small villages in Nepal. I have a love for handmade items with a great story, and these tick both of these boxes.
Grace: Djeco’s new construction toys with the metal diggers and interchangeable heads. Also I love Theatrix’s Hippie Sticks – they let me take one home and I’m obsessed with it!
Bec: Definitely the Fairy Doors – I got just a little bit excited! I’ll be setting one of these up in our craft area as soon as they come in.
Carly: Oooh that’s so hard! Really liked Seedling’s Spy Glasses though – avert your eyes sideways and you can see behind you. Also loved Petitcollin’s new dolls – they are so beautiful and stylish.
What are the top three things you learned from the recent trade show trips?
Elf Deb – Chief Poobah
1. It’s vitally important for suppliers to ensure that the staff who attend their stands are knowledgeable and enthusiastic: On occasions fantastic product can be ‘let down’ by a rep or staff member that does not have the knowledge or personality to do it justice.
2. No matter how far you have walked, or how many people you have spoken to, you still need to pay attention to each and every stand as the hidden gem could be there.
3. The more I do trade shows and the better my knowledge, the longer it takes me to get through. I think you assess items with a different level of detail.
Elf Grace – Operations Manager
1. Stands that have the best lollies/choccies are always ones that you’re more willing to spend more time on.
2. You forget you’re wearing the elf ears until you start attracting lots of very curious looks.
3. The confirmation that we really do have the best toy selections – the absolute cream of the crop, especially when you are faced with so many plastics, licences and throwaways to sift through.
Elf Bec – Retail Store Manager
1. The reminder that there’s a lot of hard work and strategy that goes into selecting our toys, puzzles and games.
2. Building relationships with suppliers is vitally important, as well as taking note of the way they have merchandised their stands.
3. The realisation that there’s nothing better than comfortable shoes, a wheelie bag and a soft bed at night!
Elf Carly – Publicist and Senior Writer
1. Understanding the ‘back story’ of each product and supplier was valuable for me in order to appreciate the context and the particular strengths of various brands/ranges.
2. Walking while Facebooking/Instagramming without crashing into moving and stationary obstacles is truly an art.
3. Realising that we are already investing quite significantly in our social media/communications and are on the right track (perhaps compared to other retailers who are just starting to dip their toes in the water) – there are so many opportunities!
You’ve most recently returned from Toy Fair 2013 – how did it compare to previous events?
There was more new and interesting product at this fair than there has been in the past five years, and a team of three of us battled to get through it in three days. We have a very established range, but the time was in meeting with existing suppliers and seeing what fab new additions they had, plus visiting each stall to see if there was anything that would really add to our current line-up. Now we’re back, we are going to have a brainstorming session to see where we are doubling-up and where there are opportunities for new brands and products. Once we have decided what our customers will love the most, we will start introducing the treasures over the coming year. If you’ve told us you love something, we’ll let you know when it arrives!
Was there a particularly memorable experience out of the whole trip?
Elf Deb: Sometimes it’s good to go to these shows to reinforce the fact that we are doing a good job in bringing our customers great items across the whole spectrum of age groups we work within.
Elf Grace: I won’t forget the amount of Redskins, Minties, and lollies consumed, as well as the number of Noah’s Arks we saw (we have a running joke with our Chief Poobah about her attraction to this toy – we currently have five in stock!).
Elf Bec: Spending time with our Elf team outside normal working hours – it was still work, but a lot of fun too.
Elf Carly: Getting our elves to pose in all sorts of situations for the sake of reporting back to our customers. They got their revenge on me on the last day though by insisting I crawled into a tiny tent. Twice.