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Indonesia Spurns Digital Distractions In Favour of Traditional Toys

Given their strong showing at the Indonesia International Toys & Kids Expo, traditional toys remain a firm favourite in Asia's third-most populous country, with construction sets, magic clay and animal puppets all wooing the punters.

Photo: Panda-ing to local tastes: Traditional toy animals on show at the IITE.
Panda-ing to local tastes: Traditional toy animals on show at the IITE.
Photo: Panda-ing to local tastes: Traditional toy animals on show at the IITE.
Panda-ing to local tastes: Traditional toy animals on show at the IITE.

Swimming somewhat against the digital tide, the recent Indonesia International Toys & Kids Expo (IITE) was notably awash with traditional toys and baby products, with electronic gadgets and the more high-tech diversions finding themselves, for once, pretty much relegated to the subs' bench. Indeed, it was the array of play clay, dolls, puppets and plastic building bricks on show that seemed most sought out by those who had made their way to the Jakarta International Expo for the three-day event.

At present, the Indonesian toys and baby supplies' sector is dominated by imported items from Japan, the US and China, with the latter by far the most significant player. According to Jason Chen Can Tao, the General Manager of Guangdong Chaoyu Exhibition, one of the co-organisers of the event, the make-up of the show clearly reflected this reality.

Outlining the thinking behind the event, he said: "One of the reasons for staging the IITE is to provide a platform for Chinese and Indonesian enterprises to make contact with one another, something that we hope will lead to heightened future co-operation."

If that was the intention, then, superficially at least, the show managed to fulfil some 50% of its mandate, with the showfloor clearly dominated by mainland businesses. Whether many of them made successful hook-ups with domestic businesses – or, indeed, actively sought out such affiliations – is, however, less clear.

Shanghai Mao Ying Trading, for one, seemed more than happy to plough its own furrow. This year, the company had chosen to showcase its non-toxic light clay and magic motion sands, believing – apparently, quite rightly – that they were certain to appeal to those Indonesian parents in search of educational/creative toys. Indeed, the two products – both sold under the LitoJoy brand – proved a major draw, with the company's stand permanently home to a throng of kids, all intent on exercising their imagination in the world of ceramics and silica.

Explaining the abiding appeal of the company's products, International Sales Manager Yuchen Lee said: "Parents want to buy these two ranges as they know they are good for their children. At heart, they are do-it-yourself toys and they really nurture a child's creativity. In many ways, electronic toys deprive children of the opportunity to use their creativity. With our products, though, they can feel the clay and the sand, then use their hands to make anything they can imagine."

Not every toy, however, was greeted with quite the same welcome, with every imported and locally produced child's plaything now required to secure SNI (Indonesian National Standard) certification prior to going on sale. The testing requirement – currently administered by Indonesia's Toy Industry Association – was first implemented in 2016 and followed growing concern over the risks represented by the country's then-unregulated toy trade.

One company that had got its compliance in order was Shantou-based LT Promotion Toys. Confirming the importance of meeting such standards, Isobel Chen, the company's Marketing Manager, said: "As well as Indonesia, we also fully comply with the safety requirements of Holland, Turkey and a number of other developed countries. At the end of the day, this reassures our clients and demonstrates just how safe our products are."

While shipping and logistics costs proved a little too prohibitive to bring the whole of its 60,000-strong range on the 7,000km round trip to Jakarta, the company had still managed to assemble an impressive selection of its output. For 20 years it has been producing a wide range of plastic toys and novelties – including model cars, tanks and clockwork animals – at its 2,400 sq m South China production facility, with the majority destined for the European and Middle East export markets.

Photo: Santa Clays: Festive fun from LitoJoy.
Santa Clays: Festive fun from LitoJoy.
Photo: Santa Clays: Festive fun from LitoJoy.
Santa Clays: Festive fun from LitoJoy.
Photo: Lego and its lookalikes.
Lego and its lookalikes.
Photo: Lego and its lookalikes.
Lego and its lookalikes.

For Tai Xing Yuan Toys, another Shantou-based business, product safety was again a priority. Highlighting this, Chein Chan, the company's Sales Manager, said: "Our toys are guaranteed to be environmentally-friendly, free from off-putting aromas and are even safe if a child accidentally places one in its mouth."

The company specialises in high-end polyvinyl chloride (PVC) animal toys and puppets, all designed to be educational and to help children get more in tune with nature. Among the range it currently has on offer are lions, tigers, giraffes, sharks and bears. Explaining their appeal, Chan said: "Unlike digital images, our range has an authentic texture and feel, allowing children to really connect."

Another manufacturer maintaining that its range offers something high-tech toys just can't deliver was Enlighten Bricks, a subsidiary of the Guangdong-based Concord Toys Group. Setting out the company's store, Foreign Trade Merchandiser Kelly Zhang said: "We don't feel at all threatened by the rising popularity of electronic/high-tech toys. Kids will always find the time to play with traditional toys and, with our bricks, they have the freedom to create their own designs or follow one of our templates. The only real limit is their imagination."

Fans of constructions toys may see more than a passing resemblance between the Enlighten Bricks' range and the kits produced by Lego, the Danish market leader in the sector. Maintaining that Lego is hardly a one-off, Zhang said: "While our sets are cheaper than those produced by Lego, we still adhere to the same international safety standards. Overall, though, competition is fierce and you will find any number of Lego lookalike products at this expo."

Indeed, another entrant to the building blocks/bricks sector was close to hand on the showfloor – Kaiyu Technologies. Based in the China Toys & Gifts City, set in the Chenghai district of Shantou, the company produces a range of construction set toys under its proprietary Kazi brand.

Maintaining that there was far more to the building-block market than just Lego clones, Wen Cai, the company's Head of Foreign Trade, said: "The market for building blocks and brick toys is huge and we believe there is still plenty of room for us to expand. While Lego is clearly the market leader, the quality and affordability of our range is still winning us orders at home and abroad."

Body – rather than rickety model house – building, meanwhile, was on offer from Jiangsu-headquartered Jiqiang Plastic, which had brought its range of gym equipment along to the expo, looking to appeal to parents who valued muscular development just as much as cranial stimulus. Clearly seeing the company as providing the antidote to all those sedentary hours spent online gaming and the like, General Manager Annie Leng said: "When kids are sat staring at a screen for hours at a time, it can make them genuinely unhealthy. Our equipment, though, helps remedy that, while also ensuring that children can have fun while they work out."

Photo: On track for success: Model cars at the 2017 Indonesia International Toys & Kids Expo.
On track for success: Model cars at the 2017 Indonesia International Toys & Kids Expo.
Photo: On track for success: Model cars at the 2017 Indonesia International Toys & Kids Expo.
On track for success: Model cars at the 2017 Indonesia International Toys & Kids Expo.

The Indonesia International Toys & Kids Expo 2017 was held from 23-25 August at the Jakarta International Expo.

Marilyn Balcita, Special Correspondent, Jakarta

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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