Toy Fair loses major retailers over Omicron fears — but still slated for Javits Center

Cue a crying Care Bear and a sad Peppa Pig: The Western Hemisphere’s biggest trade show for toys is the latest victim of the Omicron virus, with some of the biggest retail buyers – including Walmart, Target and Amazon – pulling out of the in-person event, On the Money has learned.

They join Hasbro, Jazwares and MGA Entertainment among others in ditching plans to attend the fair, still set to take place at the Javits Center in Manhattan from Feb. 19-22. Others, including Tonka Truck maker Basic Fun, are on the fence about attending, sources say.

“It’s a fluid situation,” said one toymaker, Albert Maslaton, chief operating officer of Brooklyn Lollipops, who’s booked to attend, but said he’d rather not go — and is trying to get his money back.

The show was canceled in 2021 for the first time in 117 years, but this year’s show is set to go on — and organizer The Toy Association pointed out that biggies Lego and Mattel are still attending.

“There is still a strong core,” TIA spokeswoman, Adrienne Appell told On the Money. “It is fluid, but more driven by rumor mill.” Amazon, she added, is registered to attend. But industry insiders tell On the Money Amazon reps have told them they will not be there.

Some big buyers and sellers of toys, including Walmart, Target and Hasbro, are bowing out of this year’s Toy Fair.
A collection of Barbie dolls set up on stands.
Barbie maker Mattel is said to be attending Toy Fair in February.

TIA is requiring masks and vaccinations for everyone entering the building.

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Whether the show is canceled or takes place with fewer attendees and exhibitors, toy companies are still finding ways to connect with sellers.

“Last year when we didn’t have a Toy Fair, we had our best year ever with sales up 20 percent over 2020 and 40 percent from 2019,” Maslaton told The Post. “We still believe in Toy Fair but the industry is not so dependent on fairs anymore.”

Action figures set up in a booth at ToyFair.
Toy Fair in NYC is one of the biggest toy trade shows in the world.

Amazon pulled out of the tech-focsed CES conference in Las Vegas in December along with some of the biggest tech companies, including Twitter, Pinterest along with JPMorgan PepsiCo and iHeartmedia.

Amazon, Hasbro, Walmart, Target and Jazwares did not immediately respond for comment.

MGA announced its decision to attend Toy Fair “virtually” on Monday, citing a “rampant COVID spike.”

Mennonite shoppers in a toy booth.
Vendors from across the country and world typically attend Toy Fair.

“The sad part is that the decision of whether to go or not is happening now, during the Omicron peak,” said Basic Fun chief executive, Jay Foreman, who is still on the fence about attending. “But likely later next month Omicron will have subsided.”

Foreman is waffling because his largest retail accounts are the ones that have pulled out and he’s concerned about his staff traveling safely.

“In many cases the [big companies] haven’t even brought staff back to the office at all or full time and are having problems sending their staff on the road to a city like NY and through the big airports,” Foreman added.

A chess set.
Toy Fair will take place at the Javits Center starting on Feb. 19.

But for smaller toy companies, the hardship of losing their deposit — made in June — is irksome. Maslaton estimates Brooklyn Lollipops, a licensee of Nickelodeon brands, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, is investing $50,000 to attend the show.

“If the big suppliers and retailers won’t be there, what are we going for?” Maslaton said.

Artmotion U.S.A

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