The Toy Association announced plans to launch Toy Fair Everywhere, a series of virtual market weeks aimed at helping toy companies connect with consumers, suppliers and others now that the COVID-19 outbreak has prevented in-person meetings and events.
Virtual attendees can check out exhibitors based on category, book demos and chats, and watch online educational sessions, as well as other live and pre-recorded events, the group said.
The series begins the week of July 13, with more planned for the weeks of Aug. 17 and Sept. 14, the association said in a press release. The association also noted the events series was enabled through the use of its own tech and partners, like Balluun. The company did not provide further details about its technology platform.
Recognizing the need for social distancing due to the coronavirus outbreak, Marian Bossard, executive vice president of global market events at The Toy Association, noted that the organization is putting together the series to try to virtually bridge the gap within the toy industry, but it's not meant to replace the Toy Fair New York and Toy Fair Dallas.
"Our aim is that Toy Fair Everywhere provides the industry with the much-needed opportunity to connect and engage from afar while continuing to make essential headway for their businesses to forge ahead in the current climate," Bossard said in a statement. "We all know Christmas, birthdays, and gift-giving holidays are still coming, and the toy industry's steadfast optimism and resilience must be met with the ability to prepare."
The Toy Association isn't the only organization turning to tech platforms to help connect industry professionals. Shoptalk said April 16 that it is launching a virtual events series to supplement its in-person events. Shoptalk Virtual Events will focus on COVID-19 impacts on the retail industry in their first series of virtual gatherings. In March, Shoptalk rescheduled its annual retail conference as the coronavirus pandemic ramped up.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the toy retail category was trying to find its footing. The sector hasn't quite recovered after Toys R Us' bankruptcy and subsequent liquidation.
In mid-February, Moody's lead analyst called Walmart's fourth-quarter earnings "tepid overall," as toys, apparel, and media and gaming categories delivered underwhelming sales.
Tru Kids, which owns the Toys R Us brand property, late last year turned to Target for help with online sales. It also forged a joint venture with b8ta in which it launched two new, smaller-format stores.
Of course, as states and the federal government impose shelter-in-place orders, people have found more time to play. A report from App Annie found an increase in gaming and non-gaming app downloads. Plus, the pandemic has sparked GameStop's resurgence now that consumers seek out games and remote learning equipment.