About 30 publishers are exhibiting at the 2012 New York International Toy Fair, which began yesterday at the Javits Center and continues through Wednesday. The aisles were full and the mood positive, despite the fact that retail sales of toys and games in the U.S. fell 2% last year to $21.18 billion, according to the NPD Group.

Exhibitors include coloring and activity publishers such as Bendon and the newly merged Kappa and Modern, educational workbook specialists such as School Zone, book-plus and novelty houses such as Klutz and InnovativeKids, and trade publishers such as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. In addition to publishers, many of the other 1,000 exhibitors at the show, including arts and crafts, doll, and plush makers, are showing books as part of their broader product lines.

Several representatives at publishers’ booths described the traffic as “pretty good” for an opening Sunday. Many are exhibiting in an aisle devoted to children’s books, and the crowds in this section have improved this year, thanks to the relocation of the area from its longtime position against an outside wall to a more central spot.

Among the companies exhibiting this year for the first time is Beaver Books, a Canadian publisher of educational activity and workbooks founded in 2004 that sells through crafting and home décor chains such as Jo-Ann and Garden Ridge, and in grocery and drug stores. This year it hired a former Bendon employee as a full-time U.S. rep. It is attending Toy Fair and BEA for the first time to support that effort, according to president George Papp, who noted he had met a number of potential new customers at the show.

Supplemental educational publisher Creative Teaching Press returned to Toy Fair this year, for the first time in many years, highlighting a new brand, Stick Kids. CTP’s core workbooks are sold largely through educational supply channels, but “this brings us back into specialty retail,” says Chris Campeau, international sales manager/new business development.

Around the show floor, "apps" and "augmented reality" are the buzzwords, with companies of all types introducing dolls, puzzles, blasters, and other playthings that work hand-in-hand with iPads or other handheld devices. The idea is that, by enhancing play, the app will drive purchases of the physical toy, rather than taking the toy’s place. Several toy companies launched entire product lines based on this concept, including Spin-Master’s Appfinity and Mattel’s Apptivity brands.

Check out next week’s PW for a wrap-up of Toy Fair, which is expected to attract 33,000 attendees from 110 countries over the four days of the show.