Damien Crocker Appointed HABA USA Sales Manager

Damien Crocker joined HABA USA as the company’s new sales manager.

Crocker has more than 10 years of sales experience with toys. Before HABA, he worked at ORB Toys as its national sales manager. During Crocker’s tenure at ORB Toys, he helped win several industry vendor awards including: Learning Express Vendor Of The Year (2015 and 2016), Learning Express Exclusive Product Development Award (2016), Learning Express Store Support Award (2016), ASTRA Manufacturer’s Excellence Award (2011 and 2016), Learning Express Best Vendor Partner (2012 and 2014), Learning Express Industry Leader Award (2011), and Toy Collection Vendor Of The Year (2010).

Crocker also currently serves as board director of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA), where he works closely with other board directors and staff members to develop strategic plans and programs to aid the continued viability of the specialty toy industry.

Toy Manufacturers Support Scholarship Fund for ASTRA Retailers

logoSeveral toy manufacturers have contributed to a scholarship fund to help American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) retailers facing financial hardship attend ASTRA’s 2017 Marketplace & Academy event in Philadelphia. This event will take place from June 25 through 28.

Those who contribute $1,000 or more to the scholarship fund will be featured in an article of the ASTRA Toy Times Magazine September issue. They will also receive recognition at the annual business meeting in the ASTRA Digest.

ASTRA Certifies 28 New Play Experts

Play_EXPERTThe American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) has chosen 28 specialty toy retailers, sales representatives, and manufacturers to earn the ASTRA Certified Play Expert credential during ASTRA’s first in-person certification workshop held from Sept. 10 to 11 in Chicago, Ill.

The CPE Workshop provides networking opportunities, dynamic discussions, and hands-on activities to further support the message on the value of play. ASTRA also offers the option of becoming a Certified Play Expert with an online course with 10 modules followed by tests to confirm the candidate’s learning that can be completed at a pace that works best for the candidate. Click here for more information.

ASTRA to Honor Steven Aarons at Annual Awards Breakfast

PrintThe American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) will honor specialty toy retailer and industry leader Steven Aarons, owner of the Barstons Child’s Play toy stores in the Washington, DC area at Marketplace & Academy with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

A veteran of more than 30 years in the toy industry, Aarons was involved in several ASTRA initiatives that positioned the specialty side for the industry for increased visibility among consumers—including the Best Toys for Kids awards program and Neighborhood Toy Store Day. He also provided leadership to the trade with supporting growth of ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy and encouraging ASTRA’s efforts on sales tax fairness and toy safety issues. Aarons also chaired the ASTRA Board of Directors from 2010 to 2011. [Read more...]

ASTRA’s Certified Play Expert Program Open for Enrollment

PrintThe American Specialty Toy Retailing Association’s (ASTRA’s) Certified Play Expert program is now open for enrollment. The program is a new education initiative to help specialty toy professionals strengthen their businesses.

The Certified Play Expert program provides research-based instruction in several core areas, including theories of child development, characteristics of major developmental stages, play for children with disabilities, types of play and their benefits, toy safety, choosing toys and play activities, advocating for play, and making sense of play. [Read more...]

ASTRA Names Kimberly Mosley Its New President

Kimberly MosleyKimberly Mosley, MBA, CAE has been appointed president of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA), its board of directors announced today.

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COMMENTARY: Everybody’s Game at ASTRA Game Night

A version of this commentary first appeared in the July/August issue of The Toy Book.

ASTRA Game Night Pic 1

ASTRA Game Night took place in Ballroom CD of the Charlotte Convention Center.

Game nights are a terrific way to unwind, and the one hosted by the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) during its Marketplace & Academy in Charlotte, N.C., this past June was no exception.

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GUEST COMMENTARY: Game Stores versus Toy Stores: There’s More than Enough Fun to Go Around

by Sara Erickson, owner, Rook’s Comics and Games

Rook's InteriorSitting in my game store on a warm Saturday afternoon, I watch as customers stream in with tote bags full of games they plan on playing during the next three or four hours. I know most of them by name and would consider many of them my friends. They’ve been shopping and playing at my store for the past nine years, and I’ve seen them grow from awkward teenagers into professional adults. Many have even outgrown my store and are now shopping at the local toy store across the street for their own kids. Eventually, the cycle will repeat and I’ll be selling the newest hot game to the next generation.

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ASTRA Names 2015 Best Toys for Kids

ASTRAlogoThe American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) unveiled its 2015 Best Toys for Kids award winners. This year’s list includes 18 winning toys in 14 categories.

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COMMENTARY: ASTRA Marketplace & Academy: It’s All Fun and Games

Mollie Thonneson, the creator of Tag the Art Game, at ASTRA Marketplace & Academy with Alan Walker, aka The Art Cowboy

Mollie Thonneson, the creator of Tag the Art Game, at ASTRA Marketplace & Academy with Alan Walker, aka The Art Cowboy

So I recently attended the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) Marketplace & Academy, which took place in Charlotte earlier this month. While it wasn’t nearly as overwhelming as its northeastern counterpart, February’s North American International Toy Fair, it was still a great place to spot new developments in toys and games, especially the latter.

[Read more...]