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’s Neighborhood Toy Store Day Celebrates Fourth Year

ASTRAtoystoredayOn November 9, independent toy stores across the U.S. will participate in the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association’s (ASTRA) fourth annual Neighborhood Toy Store Day. The initiative raises consumer and media awareness about the positive influence that specialty and independent toy retailers have on the local community and economy.

Local toy stores will mark the occasion with special in-store events, including crafts, entertainers, scavenger hunts, and more. Participating ASTRA store owners can download banners and graphics and access sample promotional language on ASTRA’s website for members. For more information about Neighborhood Toy Store day, visit YourNeighborhoodToyStore.org.

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.

Smart Toys and Games’ Bunny Peek A Boo Wins Four Awards

bunnySmart Toys and Games Inc. has earned four awards from multiple toy and parenting awards programs for its game Bunny Peek A Boo. Recent awards include ASTRA Best Toys for Kids, Dr. Toy’s Best Green Toys, Parents’ Choice Awards, and the Tillywig Toy & Media Awards.

Bunny Peek A Boo’s wooden blocks and character rabbit allow children to develop spatial perception, logic, and problem solving skills as they “pull a rabbit out of the box” with this 3-D puzzle. The game offers 60 challenges designed to prepare children ages 2 to 5 for more difficult single player logic games. The game’s ability to be engaging, open-ended, fun, and safe were factors that influenced the judging. Bunny Peek A Boo is available at toy stores everywhere and on Smart’s website.

Uglydoll Collaborates with Universal Monsters for New Plush

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Pretty Ugly, the official licensors of the Uglydoll brand, has partnered with Universal Partnerships and Licensing to develop a new series of Uglydoll plush dolls based on the Universal Monsters. The Universal Monsters series of dolls will make its retail debut Halloween this year.

Gund, a division of Enesco, will offer these co-branded characters, including Wedgehead as Frankenstein, Ice-Bat as Dracula, Ox as Wolfman, Tray as Bride of Frankenstein, Big Toe as Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Babo as Mummy.

The first series of plush dolls will launch this fall and will be available at retailers nationwide. Gund previewed these collaborative plush characters at the ASTRA show and will show them at the upcoming summer Gift Shows.

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.

Chicago Toy & Game Group Expands Events in the U.S. and Abroad

The Chicago Toy & Game Group (ChiTAG) expanded its toy industry networking events to cities around the U.S., Canada, and the UK.

ChiTAG Networking Events were recently held in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Toronto with upcoming events planned for London on June 5, Chicago on June 11, and Nashville on June 18 during ASTRA Marketplace & Academy, as well as events slated for New York, Seattle, Boston, Indianapolis, Sarasota, Montreal, and more.

ChiTAG advocates toy and game inventors, and its Networking Events are one of the many ways the organization carries out its mission to bring the industry together to share information, foster collaborative opportunities, and promote the power of play and the toy industry as a whole.

Events attract professionals from all areas of the business including manufacturers, inventors, designers, sales reps, independent consultants, and more, who come together to share experiences and develop new business relationships.

Past and future events are co-sponsored and held in collaboration with companies including Spin Master, Mind Candy, ThinkFun, Mayfair Games, PlaSmart, Bananagrams, Endless Games, RoosterFin, DesignEdge, Patch Products, Educational Insights, Top Trumps, Joyce Johnson Designs, Peaceable Kingdom, Jukem Football, Dynamic Designworks/DDW Inc., OtherdoorEntertainment, Snakes & Lattes, and toy/game retailers across the country.

Admission to ChiTAG Networking Events is free, and RSVP’s are required. For more information on upcoming events, please visit www.chitag.com/us/networking-events or email the Chicago Toy & Game Group at info@chitag.com, or phone (847) 677-8277.

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...]