Becky Anderson, the co-owner of Anderson’s Bookshops and ABA vice president, recently attended Germany’s Nürnberg Toy Fair,or Spielwarenmesse, an international event featuring 2,600 exhibitors, nearly 80,000 attendees, and one million products. Anderson said she was “blown away” by the scope of the show, which she left with several new toy lines for her stores and ideas about how indie booksellers can share information about favorite products.
“I spent three days walking 12 gigantic exhibit halls,” Anderson told BTW. “Each hall was themed: wooden toys, infant and baby toys, party supplies, technology, education, international. And there was a huge entryway that included toys that are sustainable in packaging, materials, and transporting.”
Anderson was invited to the fair by Jerry Kallman of Kallman Associates, the U.S. representative for numerous international trade show organizers. Kallman suggested the fair as a venue for American bookstores to find new toy lines.
Anderson’s main takeaway from the fair was the need for indie booksellers to share notes about toys, since not every bookseller can attend every fair. “We can share with each other some of the best toys. It’s about finding the right products … about diversifying, increasing margins,” she explained.
Anderson considers the Nürnberg Toy Fair, along with the with American Specialty Toy Retailing Association Marketplace & Academy and the American International Toy Fair in New York City, an excellent hunting ground for the kind of items that set indie bookstores apart. “One of the top 10 things customers come to independent bookstores for is uniqueness,” she said, “and that uniqueness is in the products we carry.”
Children’s books are a perennial “bright spot” for so many indie bookstores, said Anderson. “Toys are perfect to sell along with them.”
One of her discoveries at the fair was “Deaddy Bears,” a teddy bear collection that looks like Tim Burton meets Ugly Dolls (another line Anderson loves). “They’re funky and fun,” she said. “It’s a Belgian company. Each comes with different stories, and I think they’d appeal as much to adults as children.”
Anderson loved some “great looking, foam rubber swords and crowns for kids to do role playing” from Danish company Liontouch. She’s working to get these products, which she said are not yet distributed in the U.S., in her store.
Anderson placed an order from the German company Bärenpresse, which sells cards and puzzles. “They’re unique, like a changing-picture greeting card,” she said.
The fair also got Anderson thinking about fine-tuning her bookstores’ buying strategy for toys. She said that Anderson’s currently does an excellent job with toy buying, featuring more toys from companies offering minimum retail pricing, like Playmobil. When the economy improves, she’d also like to stock more beautiful wooden toys. “There is also great opportunity to carry lines of well-established trademark toys, like Lego,” she said, stressing that indie booksellers need to “pick and choose the right pieces – we don’t have to compete on selection or price with the big online retailers or chains. With the merger of ABC and ABA, toys can become an education piece for sharing and an opportunity for all stores that wish to expand their children’s market.”
Booksellers are already “always sharing great new gift lines,” Anderson said. “I think we should also share toy lines. I think selling toys goes hand in hand with selling children’s books. You can’t do one without the other. If it’s moving and it’s hot, let’s share it.”