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.

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Kathleen McHugh to Resign as President of ASTRA

KathleenMcHughEffective October 6, Kathleen McHugh will resign her position as president of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA).

“It is bittersweet to be moving on at a time when ASTRA is stronger, more financially stable, and more of a force in the toy industry than it has ever been,” says McHugh. “It will be difficult to leave an organization with such an important mission and so full of many valued friends, colleagues, and mentors.

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Toy Advocacy Groups Come Out in Favor of Safe to Play Coalition Lawsuit

A number of advocacy groups representing manufacturers and sellers throughout the toy industry favor a lawsuit filed in Federal District Court against Albany County. The lawsuit, filed by the Safe to Play Coalition, alleges that by passing Albany County Local Law No. J, the county acted with gross disregard of extensive federal laws regulating the safety of toys and children’s products.

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ASTRA Increases Play Time at Marketplace & Academy

ASTRAlogoThe American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) is giving independent toy retailers registered for ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy up to five hours over the course of the event to play with new-to-market games and kits.

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ASTRA’s Record-Breaking Marketplace to Feature 89 First-Time Exhibitors

ASTRAlogoAccording to the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA), 89 toy manufacturers will be participating for the first time in its exhibit hall at ASTRA’s upcoming Marketplace & Academy. The exhibit hall, which will represent ASTRA’s largest ever, includes a total of 15 percent more exhibitors than last year.

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Greg Choyke Joins ASTRA Staff as Director of Education

AstraLogoProfessional education specialist Greg Choyke has joined the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) as its director of education. In the newly created position, Choyke will lead ASTRA’s effort to increase access to and participation in innovative professional educational programs that will help ASTRA members strengthen their business.

ASTRA will be introducing a new education initiative for independent toy retailers at its annual Marketplace & Academy, to be held June 7 to 10.

Q&A with Kathleen McHugh, President, American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA)

ASTRA.KathleenMcHughThe Toy Book (TTB): How can specialty retailers compete in 2015?

Kathleen McHugh (KM): ASTRA is launching an exciting new program that is designed to help independent specialty retailers position their stores as destinations. The program will offer exclusive products for ASTRA member retailers that will not be available elsewhere.

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ASTRA Survey Says Independent Retailers Saw Strong 2014 Sales Growth

astra_logo_smallLocally-owned retail stores beat the 2014 holiday performance of many national chains, according to the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association’s (ASTRA) annual post-holiday national survey of independent businesses.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance, in partnership with the Advocates for Independent Business, surveyed 3,000 locally-owned businesses for the data. Among independent retailers, which made up roughly half of the sample, revenue increased overall by 5.1 percent in 2014, versus 2.3 percent in 2013. Holiday sales at specialty stores grew by an average of 4.8 percent, ahead of the 0.9 percent decline in December retail sales reported by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

However, nearly three-quarters of the local retailers surveyed said that online retailers not needing to collect sales tax has negatively impacted their sales. In addition, difficulty accessing credit continues to be a barrier for new and growing small businesses.

ASTRA Announces Keynote Speakers for 2015 Marketplace & Academy

PrintNetworking guru Sarah Michel and innovative retailer Bob Negen will headline the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association’s 2015 Marketplace & Academy. This year’s event will take place from June 7 to 10 in Charlotte.

Michel will open Marketplace & Academy with an interactive keynote on Where Community and Connections Intersect, which will show the ASTRA community how to connect effectively in their neighborhoods. Participants will learn how to communicate and increase their access and influence within their communities.

Negen’s closing keynote, Retail Success: How to Create a Store that People Love, Runs Like a Dream and Makes Lots of Money, will show retailers how their stories can boost business and other skills critical for toy retailers to know. Participants will learn how to stress less and have more fun in their business.