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.

ASTRA’s Neighborhood Toy Store Day Supports Increased Sales for Retailers

ASTRAlogoAccording to the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA), nearly two-thirds of ASTRA stores participating in Neighborhood Toy Store Day on Saturday, November 8, reported an increase in their year-over-year same store sales. An estimated 25 percent posted growth of 20 percent or more.

ASTRA retailers reached out to several hundred media outlets around the country and across multiple platforms, including print, radio, broadcast, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Of the ASTRA retailers who reached out to the media in their markets, 82 percent reported that they were successful in using the event to secure local media and blogger coverage.

ASTRA supports participation of its retailer members in Neighborhood Toy Store Day by offering free planning guides, templates for media outreach, Best Toys for Kids award program flyers, and more.

Kevin Bacon Visit a Highlight of Neighborhood Toy Store Day

kevin baconShoppers at Kidding Around! toy store in Greenwich Village weren’t kidding last Saturday when they rushed home to tell friends and family they were one degree closer to actor Kevin Bacon.

To mark the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association’s Neighborhood Toy Store Day, Bacon stopped by Kidding Around! and took a turn as a cashier and a gift wrapper. Bacon’s charity, sixdegrees.org, connects celebrities with socially-conscious causes that can use a boost from celebrity events or drop-ins.

 

IN THEIR OWN WORDS: Neighborhood Toy Store Day Lets Independent Retailers Shine!

by Phil Guie and Deanna Atkins

ExteriorofKaleidoscope(Editor’s note: This article was updated on November 11, 2014)

This past weekend, playtime was definitely on at mom-and-pop toy stores located throughout the U.S.

Saturday marked the fifth annual Neighborhood Toy Store Day (NTSD), an event started by the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association to support locally owned toy retailers. Community members were encouraged to visit the independent toy store in their midst, and in return, participating retailers hosted in-store arts and crafts, games, and other activities that appealed to families.

In honor of NTSD, The Toy Book’s editorial staff interviewed owners of several neighborhood toy stores in their home communities. In their responses below, the store owners touched on their NTSD plans, the support they give and receive from their neighborhoods, the reasons why shopping at a locally owned toy store is a great experience, and more.
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ASTRA Retailers Set to Promote Specialty Toys on Neighborhood Toy Store Day

ASTRAlogoHundreds of independent toy retailers in the U.S. and Canada will mark Neighborhood Toy Store Day with special in-store events and activities on Saturday, November 8.

Neighborhood Toy Store Day is an annual American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) event that occurs on the second Saturday in November. It is designed to help independent toy retailers spotlight attention on the quality and play value of specialty toys, plus the advantages of shopping at locally owned toy stores.

ASTRA retailers create activities around Neighborhood Toy Store Day that will engage their customers and communities. Meanwhile, ASTRA supports retailers by providing professionally designed, downloadable posters; post cards; ad slicks; and other images along with draft emails; social media posts; and press releases that retailers can use to promote their store.

To find an ASTRA store to visit on Neighborhood Toy Store Day, visit www.neighborhoodtoystoreday.com.

Ted Kiesewetter to Receive ASTRA’s Top Honor

ASTRAlogoToy industry legend Ted Kiesewetter will be honored at the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association’s (ASTRA) Marketplace & Academy with ASTRA’s coveted Lifetime Achievement Award. A veteran of nearly forty years in the toy industry, Kiesewetter founded International Playthings Inc. (IPI), now a division of Epoch Company Ltd.

He also supported the industry through his co-founding of Playing for Keeps, which promoted healthy play with products that focus on the features of the child’s play rather than the features of the toy. Kiesewetter was an early and consistent supporter of ASTRA and its efforts to promote collaboration and cooperation among manufacturers, retailers, and sales representatives.

ASTRA will present Kiesewetter with the award at its annual awards breakfast and business meeting, which will be held June 9 from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. PT at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix.

ASTRA Convention to Host Special Session on Succession

ASTRAlogoThe American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) is featuring a special session at its annual ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy that will focus on helping specialty toy retailers build succession plans for their businesses. The key takeaways will include: critical factors in determining the value of an independent toy store; how to get stores ready for a sale or transfer of ownership; and establishing a timeline for an independent retailer to make a smooth exit.

Lynn Switanowski of the Creative Business Consulting Group will lead this session. ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy will be held on June 8 to 11 in Phoenix, Ariz.  Following the convention, the succession topic will be continued in member-only discussion groups on ASTRA’s website.