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.

ASTRA Welcomes 80 New Manufacturers to Its Marketplace & Academy

astra_logo_homeAs reported by the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA), more than 80 new toy manufacturers will be showing new products in the exhibit hall at the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy. Most of these products are not yet available online, which gives specialty retailers the opportunity to offer them in their communities before anyone else.

“Specialty toy retailers need innovative products with high play value that consumers cannot find elsewhere, and ASTRA is the place to discover them,” said Kathleen McHugh, President of ASTRA. “These products help retailers position themselves as a hands-on shopping experience that is more creative and more fun and more interesting than the competition.”

ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy will be held June 8 to 11 in Phoenix, Ariz. Admission to the ASTRA Marketplace exhibit hall is free to specialty toy retailers, with registration through ASTRA’s website.

ASTRA Announces 2014 Marketplace & Academy Theme and Dates

ASTRA logoThe American Specialty Toy Retailing Association‘s (ASTRA) theme of its 2014 Marketplace & Academy is “Where play means business.” The event will take place in Phoenix from June 8 to 11.

“Our theme underscores that the specialty toy industry is serious about our business and serious about working together to maximize our success,” said Kathleen McHugh, president of ASTRA. “We are planning a fun and productive event that will help specialty toy and children’s products retailers have an extraordinary fourth quarter in 2014.”

With more than 1,400 members, ASTRA is the largest association for companies in the toy and children’s products arenas.

ASTRA Breaks Attendance Record for Marketplace & Academy

astra_logo_homeASTRA’s 2013 Marketplace & Academy, held June 16 to 19 in Nashville, Tenn., broke all previous attendance records, according to the organization. This is the sixth year in a row that ASTRA has broken its own record for attendance.

The number of retail stores represented increased nearly 10 percent over 2012 to 450 stores. A total of 1,987 members of the specialty toy industry participated in the Nashville event, which represented an increase of nearly 15 percent.

Next year’s ASTRA Marketplace & Academy will be held June 8 to 11 in Phoenix. ASTRA will start selling exhibit space for this event in September.

Skullduggery Introduces Tracer Racers

Skullduggery introduced Tracer Racers at the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy in Nashville, Tenn. Toy retailers were able to see the debut of Tracer Racers Light Trail Technology as they raced down Skullduggery’s patented glow-in-the-dark track. Each Tracer Racer beams down purple light rays from its undercarriage onto track that is specially engineered to emit glow remnants after the racer has passed.

A 10-foot single lane set, including one racer; an 8-foot double lane set, including two racers; a 12-foot double lane loop set with light up finish gate, including two racers; and individual racers will be available in stores in late August.

Check out the Tracer Racers in action:

Toys ‘n Tales Launches New Brand Strategy at ASTRA

UntitledShyness, obesity and healthy eating, family dynamics, daily routines, and effective communication are just some of the challenges today’s children and families face. However, Toys ‘n Tales is helping kids discover their own “super powers” for conquering them.

Toys ‘n Tales creates books, games, and toys that are designed to teach kids how to face tough issues by using strategies such as communicating their needs and feelings in productive ways, understanding the reasons behind their behaviors, realizing their role within the family unit, and feeling more secure and in control of their day-to-day lives.

Toys ‘n Tales made its debut appearance at the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy in Nashville, Tenn. With a rebranded look, updated website, and new products, Toys ‘n Tales will feature Ask a Doctor sessions for attendees to get expert advice on kids, the issues they face, and the power of play.

Monkeez Makes a Difference to Give Away Charity Event Kits During ASTRA

Monkeez Makes a DifferenceMonkeez Makes a Difference, the educational, charitable program for children from MVP Brands, will give away more than 100 charity event kits to retailers during the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy in Nashville from June 17 to 18. Event kits include ideas and materials to plan and host communitybuilding events to benefit three nationally renowned charities the program partners with, including how to set up a lemonade stand to benefit Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, collecting dog toys to benefit Best Friends Animal Society and local animal shelters, and hosting Operation Christmas Child shoe box packing parties to benefit Samaritan’s Purse. The event kits are free of charge and available on a first come, first served basis.

In addition, all Monkeez Makes a Difference backtoschool merchandise will feature a 25 percent discount during the ASTRA show, including backpacks, lunch boxes, water bottles, pencil boxes, and backpack clips. For retailers purchasing Monkeez Makes a Difference backto-school merchandise and other products, free freight is available on orders of $300 or more. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Moby Dick, or, The Card Game Brings an American Classic to Life

MobyDickBox

Moby Dick is considered one of the greatest American novels ever written. But more than just a classic tale, Herman Melville’s masterpiece leaves quite an impression on its readers, examining existentialism and obsession in a truly captivating way. Literary lovers of the classic tale can venture on the high seas in search of the White Whale in a new way.

King Post has launched a Kickstarter campaign for Moby Dick, or, The Card Game, a dynamic, action-packed adventure for two to four players ages 12 and up. The game is adapted from Melville’s classic novel, and is brought to life with three decks of unique cards featuring original compositions, period portraits, and classic illustrations.

The strategy-based game lets players live out the voyage of the Pequod, commanded by Captain Ahab. The Sea Deck contains adventures, creatures, and chapters adapted directly from the novel, including whales, giant squid, foreign ports-of-call, and pirate attacks. The Sailor Deck features characters including Ishmael, Starbuck, Queequeg, and Captain Ahab. The Whale Deck contains actions, defenses, and attacks of the hunted whales. In addition to the iconic imagery featured on each card, a quote from the novel ties the action of the game directly to the classic tale. The game also includes two dice and 40 oil markers. [Read more...]

ASTRA Adding New Resources for Children with Disabilities

The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) will present updated information on toys and play for children with disabilities for specialty toy retailers and manufacturers at the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy in Nashville, Tenn. An educational session, Connect Children with Special Needs to Toys and Games on Your Shelves, will be offered on June 16 from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and a new publication titled ASTRA Guide to Toys for Children with Disabilities will be available at no charge for ASTRA members at the Marketplace & Academy. Non-members may purchase the publication.

Ellen Metrick of the National Lekotek Center will present the Connect Children with Special Needs session at Marketplace & Academy. The session will focus on helping parents, grandparents, occupational therapists, and teachers select toys and games for the special children in their lives. It will include a basic understanding of some common disabilities and specific features of play that children with these challenges can enjoy. Retailers will learn what questions to ask customers and how to train store employees to serve this very special niche.

The ASTRA Guide to Toys for Children with Disabilities is designed as a handbook for manufacturers, sales reps, and store staff. It summarizes characteristics of common disabilities and types of toys that work well for children who have those disabilities. It also includes ideas that ASTRA retailers can give to parents for adapting toys and play activities to fit the needs and abilities of their children.

ASTRA Addresses Internet Sales Issues

Research commissioned by the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) on the implications of Internet retailing for the specialty toy industry was presented at ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy. Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, conducted the study.

Key findings showed that online toy sales have grown by 22 percent over the past year, making toys one of the fastest growing categories in online shopping, which grew 13 percent overall during the same period. It also found that shoppers are increasingly using smartphones to compare prices and check product availability while shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. It also showed that state and federal policies tilt the competitive playing field in favor of online retailers by exempting remote sellers from collecting the sales taxes that brick-and-mortar stores are required to collect.

All-in-all, the research showed that Internet retailers present a significant competitive challenge for independent brick-and-mortar stores—in many respects, a challenge that is more severe than that of big-box and other chain retailers.

ASTRA members can find a complete copy of the Internet sales white paper on ASTRA’s newly updated website at www.astratoy.org.