Toy Fair Leaving New York After 100-Plus-Years Run

A Peppa Pig character getting ready to ready for to parade at the 2023 New York Toy Fair on … [+] September 30. The fair is moving to New Orleans in 2026.

Joan Verdon

The North American International Toy Fair, an annual fixture that brought fun, games, and nearly everyone in the toy industry to Manhattan for more than 100 years, is leaving the Big Apple for the Big Easy.

The Toy Association, the trade group that hosts the fair, announced today that the fair will move to New Orleans starting in 2026.

The next, and last – at least for now – New York Toy Fair will be held in March of 2025.

The Toy Association, however, has changed its mind before, and could do so again, as trends change in the evolving toy industry.

For now, though, the association is committed to hosting the toy show at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans in mid January in 2026, 2027, and 2028.

The show will be held January 17-20 in 2026, January 9-12 in 2027, and January 15-18 in 2028, all in New Orleans.

This year the association shifted the fair to the fall, saying it wanted to accommodate the needs of manufacturers and retailers for longer lead times for toy orders. In recent decades the New York Toy Fair traditionally has been held in February, at the Javits Convention Center.

For some time though, toy manufacturers have grumbled about the timing of the fair, saying the February dates are months after retailers already have seen the new toy lines for the upcoming holiday. Some had suggested that a fall Toy Fair date would put media attention on toys at a crucial time of year and help drive holiday toy sales.

A giant version of the Pokemon character Pikachu welcomes visitors to the start of Toy Fair 2023 in … [+] New York City on Saturday, September 30, 2023.

Joan Verdon

But when this year’s dates of September 30 to Oct. 3 were announced, there were complaints that the fall dates were too close to the showroom previews held in August and September in Los Angeles by the big LA-based toymakers, such as MattelMAT and MGA Entertainment.

The event at the Javits Center this week is the 118th New York Toy Fair, but the New York Fair has been derailed several times by the pandemic.

After hosting the 2020 fair one month before New York shut down due to Covid, the 2021 New York fair was virtual, with Zoom rooms replacing showroom visits. The February 2022 show was cancelled due to the surge of the Omicron variant.

The fair became a post-holiday tradition in the pre-internet (and pre-television) days when retailers would visit toy showrooms – nearly all of which were in New York City – and start thinking about the next Christmas. It was a time when manufacturers would present their best offerings for holiday hits and retail buyers would place orders.

Most of the activity centered around the building at 200 Fifth Avenue where the major toy companies had showrooms. Starting in the 1960s the building’s owners began renting exclusively to toy companies.

But as toy companies needed larger spaces to show off their product lines at the fair, and as more companies moved their headquarters outside of New York and gave up their New York showrooms, the event moved to the Javits Center.

In a statement accompanying the announcement of the New Orleans shift, Aaron Muderick, chairman of The Toy Association, said Toy Fair was shifted to the fall this year because before the pandemic, retailers and manufacturers had been asking for a fall show, instead of the usual February time.

The Playmates booth at Toy Fair 2023 at the Javits Center.

Joan Verdon

Now, however, Muderick said, industry thinking has switched back to the view that “Toy Fair’s key audiences find the most value in a North American trade event taking place in the first quarter of the year, ideally mid-January.”

In explaining the selection of New Orleans, Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of The Toy Association, said the city has “state of the air facilities including a brand-new airport, renowned restaurants, museums, music, an array of event spaces, and a strong collaborative partnership between the convention center, New Orleans & Company, and the business community,”

In an interview before this year’s Toy Fair, Pasierb said the switch to the fall event this year was a signal that going forward the association would be nimble in deciding where and when to have the event.

“The idea that Toy Fair is always in February and it’s always been in February for 117 years, that pattern is now broken,” he said in mid-September.

And now, the idea that is always is in New York is done, as well.