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.

ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy Biggest Yet

ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy, currently in progress in Anaheim, Calif., has posted a record number of attendees, according to the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association. While final counts will not be available until Marketplace & Academy is over, early indications are that this year’s crowd was 20 percent to 30 percent bigger than last year.

“Once again, independent toy retailers are showing that they are committed to learning, investing in new products, and finding the best deals in the industry,” says Kathleen McHugh, president of ASTRA. “Even in the midst of an extended economic downturn, ASTRA members continue to tend to the basics of their businesses. They work hard and they work smart, and taking full advantage of ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy is part of that equation.”

Next year’s ASTRA Marketplace & Academy—its 20th—will be held during June in
Baltimore. Dates will be announced.