HoliDAY of Play 2015

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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Q&A, Erin Black, Founder of Lyla Tov Monsters

Lyla Tov Monsters is a line of plush dolls created by the mother-daughter team of Erin Black, and her daughter, Lyla Black. Recently, The Toy Book had a chance to sit down with Erin and talk to her about doll-making, launching a Kickstarter campaign, the future of the specialty doll space, and more.

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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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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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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.