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Omicron Takes Fun Out of Licensing As Spielwarenmesse Toy Fair Cancelled

By Gary Symons

TLL Editor in Chief

The world’s largest toy fair has been cancelled, due to increasing cancellations related to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

“The rapid growth of the Omicron variant in recent days … and the resultant increasing number of cancellations to stands, has left the organizer, Spielwarenmesse eG, with no alternative,” the organizers said in a press release. “With a heavy heart it has to cancel Spielwarenmesse 2022 in Nuremberg. As an alternative, exhibitors, specialist retailers and media representatives can meet up on the Spielwarenmesse Digital platform.”

The physical trade show in Nuremberg is the latest among several industry trade shows to fall to the COVID-19 pandemic. Just days ago, organizers of the Toy Fair New York also announced the postponement of their physical trade show, although the online event will continue as planned. Thus far the Toy Fair at the Olympia trade show venue in London is going ahead.

“We have fought hard to be able to hold the live event and we received strong support initially from toy markets worldwide,” says Christian Ulrich, spokesperson of the Executive Board at Spielwarenmesse eG. Ulrich says a large number of suppliers without international distribution networks appealed to the organizers even in December to continue with the fair, which is so important to international business.

In the last few days, however, Ulrich says conditions have been deteriorating. Due to the rapid growth of the Omicron variant, the situation with the pandemic is now markedly different. In response to this a large number of exhibitors, out of concern for the health of their teams, cancelled their stands.

The Spielwarenmesse, the leading global industry event, thus no longer looked capable of providing its customary broad overview of the international toy market, Ulrich explained. A further complication was that it was no longer possible to plan ahead with any certainty because it was possible at any time that the event could be cancelled by the authorities in Germany, where the event is held every year.

“We regret having to make this decision and are grateful to everyone who remained committed to a physical trade fair to the very end,” Ulrich said. “A multifunctional platform is available both for exhibitors and for visitors: thanks to Spielwarenmesse Digital, they still have networking opportunities and the facility to discover the latest trends, within the original timetable of the trade fair.”

Richard Gottlieb, CEO at Global Toy Experts, lamented the cancellation of live, in-person trade shows for the industry. Gottlieb says he used to complain about making the long treks to conferences around the world, but now he is unable to attend, he feels like he’s missing out on both the latest information and trends, and on the human relations that are built at these events.

“Some of those trips were hard and long,” Gottlieb said. “Yet, complaints aside, I established relationships and enduring friendships with so many interesting people. And I got smarter. Each time I visited a factory in China, a showroom in Hong Kong, an office in Tokyo, or a booth in Nuremberg, I learned more about business in general and the toy business in particular.

“The toy highway has been good to me, (but) for the time being, it is closed,” Gottlieb added. “Coronavirus has seen to that. The toy highway will reopen, hopefully in 2023. But I miss it. I do miss it.”