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West Coast Toy Industry to Play at Its Own Trade Expo


Anybody who's anybody in the toy business flocks to New York City every February for the gigantic American International Toy Fair. Now local toy entrepreneurs are trying to percolate interest in the West Coast industry by establishing their own trade show.

The Los Angeles Toy Trade Expo (LATTE) will debut in August 2002 at the Los Angeles Convention Center in what local industry folks hope will become an annual event.

"We're trying to energize the local toy industry," said Leeton Lee, president of the Toy Assn. of Southern California, which is organizing the show. "Our mission is to promote our own."

El Segundo-based Mattel Inc., the world's largest toy maker, certainly has put Southern California on the map in toy circles. But Lee says what most folks don't realize is that the local industry is teeming with small wholesalers, distributors, importers and manufacturers. More than 850 firms make up the local industry with combined annual sales exceeding $6.6 billion.

LATTE organizers say they have no illusions of becoming the West Coast version of Toy Fair, which boasts more than 2,000 exhibitors and attracts 30,000 visitors to the Big Apple. Lee says the Southern California toy association is looking to attract a few hundred exhibitors in its inaugural year and go from there.

"We're not trying to compete with Toy Fair," Lee said.

Good thing too, says David Miller, president of the Toy Manufacturers of America Inc., organizers of the New York show. He says LATTE will have to do more than build awareness of the West Coast industry.

"Spotlights don't make for successful toy shows. Business does," he said. "It will succeed if retailers come to buy products. . . . We wish them well."

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