Dieter Hahne: There was a tremendously euphoric mood at that time; nothing was perfect, but that just often made it all the more charming. There was, for example, no catering; every stand had to organise its own food and drink. Our stand neighbour, the Trix company from Nuremberg, had a big pot with some wonderful stew in it every lunch time. All the neighbouring stands were invited to tuck in. In the afternoon, the Trix people came over to us, because we were the first stand at the fair to serve coffee – the Dallmayr brand of coffee. That always went down well.
What role did the exhibition and the presentation of your goods at the fair play for you as a Managing Director?
D.H.: Well, the Spielwarenmesse in Nuremberg was THE sales event of the industry and also of our company, Schmidt Spiele. In the past, just as today, you had to be represented there; this was the best podium to present your new products; this was the place where you met customers in person, customers you only otherwise knew from phone calls or letters, which is why Nuremberg was and still is tremendously important.
What was special about the Spielwarenmesse in the early years?
D.H.: The industry had found a home again here in Nuremberg, because the original fair platform for toys had been part of the Leipzig Trade Fair and that was no longer available. People were very glad that brave entrepreneurs, many of them Nuremberg-based toy companies, launched this cooperative as trade fair organisers by providing, in part, personal guarantees. And this is the legal form under which we still exist today. And it continues to be the world's leading trade fair for toys.
Every cooperative has a supervisory board. At Spielwarenmesse eG, the members of the Supervisory Board have, on average, been in office for a relatively long time and are often re-elected at the general meetings. Where does this stability come from?
D.H.: In my view, there are two things behind this stability. One is formal: our legal form of organisation is the cooperative. I still find it an up-to-date form – if it is applied sensibly. There is more solidarity, and the rule is "one member, one vote" – no matter how big or small the company is. That unites people. But the key reason is that the Spielwarenmesse is a success story. Companies that are successful no longer feel any urge for change.
There were other fairs in England and Paris. What advantages of the Nuremberg venue did and do the international visitors appreciate?
D.H.: The people liked and like coming to Nuremberg. In my active period, I heard a conversation when I was standing with a French business friend. An Englishman came by, greeted us and said, "I'm not going to Paris this year." The Frenchman replied: "You don't need to; we're here after all!" and they agreed to meet later. In short, the marketplace for the toys of the world is here in Nuremberg. What is on offer here has a breadth and depth that you simply won't find anywhere else. They knew that when they went to the Spielwarenmesse, they had done the right thing.
How did you treat the competition at the Spielwarenmesse?
D.H.: Well, in the best case scenario, we were friendly but distant, or even just aloof. At the beginning of the 60s, I attended a meeting of the specialist game section of the Toy Association for the very first time. In the meeting room, I greeted the gentlemen and pressed our catalogue and a price list into their hands. Some people looked at me as though I had made some indecent proposal to them: it was absolutely unusual. On the first day of the fair, a colleague, preferably an unknown one, used to be sent to get the price lists from the competition. I encouraged everyone to exchange all their documents in advance. During the course of the years, this competitive relationship improved and resulted in good, friendly relations.
How did you spend the evenings after the fair
D.H.: People partied more then, sometimes even until quite late into the night. Back then, we were a small circle of Monopoly licensees from various countries. We all got on with each other very well. At the Spielwarenmesse, we met up and went out for a drink together in the evenings. We often ended up in a place selling rotisserie chicken in the centre of Nuremberg very late at night. A Swedish friend always proposed that everyone should sing a folk song from their home country, whereupon he'd climb onto the table and sing. I still recall very clearly that I sang the traditional German song "Am Brunnen vor dem Tore".
What else do you find most important – for the fair or for yourself personally in this toy industry?
D.H.: What I treasured in the 36 years of my work in the toy sector – and still do today – is the very good human interaction in the industry. You knew everything and everyone, and very good interpersonal contacts with colleagues and customers alike developed from this basis. That was a tremendously positive experience. The friendships made during this period have lasted until today.
Mr Hahne, thank you very much for the little journey back in time.
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