Kids Time 2017 was held in Kielce, Poland, from Feb. 23 to 25. The eighth annual international fair featured toys and products for babies and children, and recorded double-digit growth in key measurements, including more than 7,000 professional trade visitors and 474 exhibitors.

The event organizers, Targi Kielce, filled a total of seven exhibit halls, covering 16,292 square meters, and had a wait list of nearly 100 manufacturers. Next year, the show organizers plan to add an eighth temporary hall in order to accommodate more exhibitors.

Why a Central and Eastern European Trade Show Matters

Importers and distributors looking for international brands can reach into the Polish industry and the manufacturers of the 17 other countries that exhibit at this fair, including Belgium, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, the UK, and the U.S.

Buyers from more than 33 countries, including Russia, China and South Korea, attended the fair. Some exhibitors still sell exclusively to the Polish marketplace, while many others have strategic goals to expand their exports into other markets, including the North American and Western European markets.

Poland’s annual number of births is approximately 400,000, making it a thriving market for children’s products. The Polish government instituted a program to encourage families to have more children. They provide a monthly stipend of 500 złoty for the second child in the family and provide additional funding for additional children. Wages in Poland were 4,065 złoty per month last year in average, so this stipend is a significant amount for Polish families.

The original intent was for families to spend that money on the children. In the policy’s first year, the assumption is that families have spent the money on other, more basic, needs. Toy and babystores have not yet seen an increase in sales, but the nursery and toy retailers are optimistic that in the future some of these funds will be used for buying toys and other products for kids.

Kids Time Trade Show Happenings

The Kids’ Time trade show program included workshops, trend presentations, and more. Some highlights from this year included Reyne Rice, global trend hunter and CEO of ToyTrends, from New York, who provided the keynote speech on trends across toys, games and kids’ technology, and Maria Costa, director of children, education and the leisure market at the AIJU Institute in Valencia, Spain, who presented the latest worldwide retailer trends.

Speaking with Kids Time Exhibitors

Smily Play is a family-run manufacturer and distributor that has been in the market for more than 30 years. Stanislaw Wawer began the company as a toy manufacturer during the period when Poland was still run by Russia. Introductory products included baby pacifiers, card games, and basic role-play items, all manufactured in Poland. In the early 2000s, the company began producing its own branded items, under the umbrella brand name Smily Play, with a target age range of birth to 4 years. Smily Play is now also a distributor for other manufacturers, such as Mattel and Hasbro.

As one of the largest distributors and manufacturers in Poland of toys for small children, Smily Play has chosen to concentrate its sales only on the specialty market, which is appreciated by its retailer base. It also exports to some European markets.

Katarzyna Wawer (Smily Play)

Whisbear is a recently established Polish manufacturer that has garnered multiple awards from the UK and Germany, and within Poland. Its distribution has expanded to 16 countries, launching in the U.S. market in April 2017. The company’s Whisbear product uses a patented sound technology and creative design patent for soft plush products. The internal safe magnets and external long legs of this contemporary teddy bear ensure that new parents can position and attach the product to the crib to serve as a playtime companion. The Whisbear patented cry sensor is one of the most popular features because it soothes baby to sleep. The new 2017 line extends the cry-sensor time feature to 40 minutes. It also adds an app that allows parents to turn on the soothing sounds remotely.

Whisbear new 2017 Holiday line features a soft sloth character.

“While the Polish baby care products market is growing, we notice that parents are more and more looking for high quality articles and that price is no longer a big problem”, says Igor Waletko, Key Account Manager of Mini-Maxi, Polish distributor of ABC Design, Concord, Be Cool, Okbaby, Shadez and Rastar. “Consumers can spend more for quality products and the ‘made in Europe’ tag is privileged. Furthermore, there is support from the State in the form of a social program which assists parents with more than one child with a monthly aid up until 18 years of age. Demand focuses on good design and practicality, benefitting articles that are smart and clever, transformable, multifunctional”.

Giulia Erli of OKbaby and Igor Waletko (Mini-Maxi)

According to Gianluca Migliorisi, Country Manager of Artsana Poland (Chicco brand), “the Polish market is ever more dynamic and active, particularly in specialized product categories such as car seats: competition is high and growth is constant. Many local manufacturers have once more concentrated upon the domestic market due to the crisis in Russia, which however has been felt less in the last twelve months. The Polish consumers’ education is getting deeper and deeper, thanks to the information they receive from the specialist media. However, price remains an important consideration, together with the after sales service which must be taken care of seriously by manufacturers, distributors and retailers”.

Gianluca Migliorisi (Artsana Poland)

Canpol, with its brands Lovi (premium range) and Canpol Babies (mainstream range), is the leading Polish company for feeding, soothing, hygiene baby care articles: its main manufacturing site lies 20 km from Warsaw and its lines are exported to 50 countries. Łukasz Różycki, Canpol’s Export Manager for Southern Europe and Middle East, observes that “at the start Kids’ Time was intended for the Polish marketplace but now it has become really international. This year we have been even visited at our booth by people from South Korea. The event will surely go on growing. All our products are certified for the different countries we reach, where we are represented by distributors (except in Slovakia, where we have our own company) that we support with our know-how and marketing material. Thanks to our specific solutions we are doing well against strong competitors”.

Łukasz Różycki (Canpol)

Authors: Lena Hedö, Leks & Babyrevyn, Sweden; Reyne Rice, The Toy Book, USA; Daniele Caroli, Il Giornale dell’Infanzia, Italy