David Potter is a classic Englishman – under stated and with a dry sense of humor about himself and the world in general. His interview below reflects his tenacity and is both a great story of success mixed with some personal history that was fascinating to me a fellow Brit! Perhaps we should send a few more youngsters to work in the steel plant to learn some humility and how hard work can and does pay off!
How and why did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
My first introduction to the international toy arena was when I made a significant career change and moved from the Steel Industry to the fledgling Denys Fisher Toys Ltd (makers of award-winning Spirograph) in 1968. The ensuing decade was an unbelievably exciting and rewarding experience. Our pioneering involvement with the TV advertising of toys led to the most amazing sales levels of Spirograph and its successors.
In the late 70’s I moved to Antwerp, Belgium to run the European operations for Dakin – a US plush manufacturer headquartered in San Francisco. Another exciting and challenging decade or so working with both the Gift and Toy sectors of the market. I moved back to the UK in the early nineties.
After 7 or 8 years running my own sourcing business I retired but was soon coaxed back into the toy business by my good friend Colin Lisle at Intertoy on a part-time basis Amongst other things I was responsible for organising Intertoy’s large booth at the Nuremberg Toy Fair each year until I retired (again !!) last year.
Jumping to the present - how did DISTOY come about? how big has it grown and what does the future look like?
In 2007, during my time with Colin I was asked to organise a venue for a small group of 6 or 7 Toymakers with whom Colin was working and who were keen to present their Spring lines in London just before the US Licensing Show. By the time I was searching for a venue the number reached double figures.
It was never intended to be a major event – indeed my brief was to keep it small and exclusive, but this was patently a short-sighted attitude and as time went by I distanced myself from that philosophy and set about developing the show and giving it a real international presence according to my own ideas.
I decided that the show needed an identity and came up with the DISTOY name -. it has now become a firm fixture in the international toy trade calendar and yet another reason for me not staying retired!
So from 15 or so in 2007 the number in 2014 exceeds 120 exhibiting brands !! Distoy is now here to stay!
What trends do you see in toys / games?
The technological explosion continues to dominate the toy trade in many categories and a significant part of the Consumer Electronics market is taken up by the Toy Industry.
Other than that licensed character-related toys continue to be a vital part of the Toy Market but there is still a solid “back to basics” feeling about many of the newly developing ranges.
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
What musical instruments and music do you play - if any - or a fun hobby :-)
I have been known to play second fiddle on occasions during my 46 years in the toy business !! Only one hobby – my wonderful football team – Liverpool F.C. who were worthy runners-up at the end of the 2013-14 season.
What does your typical day look like leading up to DISTOY?
Keeping on top of a mountain of emails.
Reviewing the on-line registrations from distributors and other visitors, fielding last minute requests from Exhibitors, checking that they are all ready to go. Helping visitors with visa applications, hotel bookings. Scheduling meeting after meeting at the show – with would-be exhibitors, toy trade press, existing exhibitors who want alternative showroom accommodation etc…..Constant liaison with the Events management at both venue hotels dealing with exhibitors’ late requests…..
What is the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
As a graduate apprentice working on night shift in melting shops and rolling mills of a major steel producer. Unbelievably hard, hot and unsociable work but what a way to be taught humility.
What inspires you?
Where did you grow up and how did that influence who you are today?
North-West England. Hometown Lancaster and University in Liverpool – both shaped my personality and philosophy.
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
Too many to mention and I’ve learned from all of them !!
What do you read every day, and why?
Daily Telegraph – great sport coverage, good business section, first class reporting and a good crossword.
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
i-Pad & i-Phone equally revered it’s like having a permanent PA, news & communication medium & entertainment source.
When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Just now….reading about myself !!
David – glad you had some fun with it and my thanks!!