Seventy Years of Spielwarenmesse And Toy Trends for 2019

by Tina Manzer

Nuremberg’s renowned international toy fair, scheduled for January 30 through February 3, 2019, will span nearly 2 million square feet of exhibit space sprawled across 12 exhibit halls. In 2018, the massive show featured 2,902 exhibitors and hosted 70,348 total visitors.

The immensity of the event could not have been imagined by representatives of the German toy industry who, in 1949, planned a much-needed trade fair exclusively for toys. It was a risky proposition then for German entrepreneurs who were rebuilding businesses after World War II.

The first German Toy Fair was held in Nuremberg in March of the following year. It featured 351 exhibitors and 4,321 buyers – 600 of them from abroad.

An obvious question arose: should international exhibitors be welcome as well, or should it remain German-manufacturers-only? The issue was hotly debated for years. It was resolved at the opening of the 1957 fair, when Germany’s Federal Minister of Economics declared, “I don’t want to see the word ‘German’ here next year!”

It wasn’t. The 1958 International Toy Fair Nürnberg featured 830 exhibitors, including 60 from abroad. The number doubled the following year and continued to rise. Seventy years later, about 75 percent come from 68 different countries, including the U.S. with about 150 exhibitors.

The fair’s rapid growth during the 1960s resulted in a move to a new location. For the first time, there was enough space to divide the exhibits into categories. Four years later, visitor numbers exceeded 30,000. Growth continued and the rest, as they say, is history.

For its 70th anniversary, Spielwarenmesse has reworked some if its categories – combining some, moving others, and introducing new ones. For 2019, the show’s category list looks like this.

• Lifestyle Products
• Wooden Toys (and others made from natural materials)
• Electronic Toys – making its debut
• Festival, Carnival and Fireworks (where “ground-breaking changes are afoot.”)
• Dolls and Soft Toys
• School, Stationery and Creative Supplies
• Model Railways and Construction
• Games, Books, Learning and Experimentation
• Baby & Infant
• Tech, Educational, and Action Toys
• Sports/Leisure/Outdoor
• The Multiproduct Area

Where the trends are

Each October, in anticipation of the 1 million or so playthings that will be presented at Spielwarenmesse, the show’s organizers and its International TrendCommittee announce a short, curated, toy trend list. Based on their most recent research, they have chosen three categories – “Ready, Steady, Play!” “The WOW Effect” and “Toys 4 Kidults.” Products that support these trends, along with other product innovations, will be highlighted in the fair’s TrendGallery.

Ready, Steady, Play highlights the kind of toys and games that get kids up, moving and having fun. They are especially important in today’s world where the profusion of “things” – from smart devices to escalators and elevators – tend to make us all more sedentary.

This trend is not new to the specialty toy industry. As active-play advocates, specialty toy retailers have always sold swings, scooters, sleds and sliders; balls and kites; ride-on and bouncy toys; balance skill-builders; Air Pogo; “Ninja” obstacle course components, and much more. Spielwarenmesse’s TrendGallery may surprise us with something new.

The WOW Effect is – surprise! – toys that provide a reveal. They’ve been entertaining adults and children for years. “Not knowing what’s inside adds to the excitement,” the Spielwarenmesse committee explains. “It may be packaging that conceals the collectible inside or a product that only reveals its functions and play options on closer inspection. More and more manufacturers are delighting children by adding an element of surprise to their products.”

The Toys for Kidults is a trend that’s been brewing for awhile. In 2016, Diverse Marketing’s Steve Starobinsky wrote in edplay, “I believe that a new customer has evolved and entered our galaxy – the Kidult. These consumers are 18- to 35-year-old males and females who are huge pop-culture enthusiasts. Kidults don’t shop out of necessity, but rather for amusement. And I believe they love neighborhood toy stores.”

Steve had just returned from the San Diego Comicon, where he spotted parents and their children in full theme cosplay. “It illustrates that fandom has transformed the traditional family-time experience.”

This trend reminds us that toys are not reserved for children only. “The Kidult possibilities are endless, ranging from decorative toys and sophisticated construction sets to rare collectibles and retro licenses,” says Spielwarenmesse.

Treasure hunting

Like the Launch Pad on Level 1 of New York’s Toy Fair, Spielwarenmesse’s New Exhibitor Center (NEC) is the place to discover first-time exhibiting companies and never-seen-before products. As booth locations go, the area is in high demand reports Speilwarenmesse. By October, nearly 40 companies from 19 countries had already booked a booth there.

“Trade visitors see the NEC in Hall 3A as a valuable destination in their search for inspiration and new ideas,” says the show’s Press Officer, Scarlett Wisotzki.

For travel information, or to find out about accommodations in and around Nuremberg during the fair, email, or call +49 911 99813-88.

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