Toy Advocacy Groups Come Out in Favor of Safe to Play Coalition Lawsuit

A number of advocacy groups representing manufacturers and sellers throughout the toy industry favor a lawsuit filed in Federal District Court against Albany County. The lawsuit, filed by the Safe to Play Coalition, alleges that by passing Albany County Local Law No. J, the county acted with gross disregard of extensive federal laws regulating the safety of toys and children’s products.

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ASTRA Increases Play Time at Marketplace & Academy

ASTRAlogoThe American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) is giving independent toy retailers registered for ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy up to five hours over the course of the event to play with new-to-market games and kits.

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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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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.

ASTRA Sees Growth Continuing for Independent Retailers this Holiday Season

AstraLogoThe American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) is optimistic about growth in customer traffic and sales for independent businesses during the upcoming holiday season—with hopes of matching or exceeding the 5.3 percent growth posted last year.

According to a consumer survey conducted during the second quarter of this year, six out of ten customers say they go out of their way to shop at small, locally-owned businesses. The U.S. Department of Commerce predicts that over 90 percent of fourth quarter shopping will take place in brick-and-mortar stores.

Advocates for Independent Business (AIB), a coalition of trade associations and other organizations concerned with the success of locally-owned, independent businesses, documents that locally-owned retailers have a far greater impact on their communities than national brands. For every $10 million in customer spending at amazon.com, for example, amazon.com creates 14 jobs. Meanwhile, the same amount spent at local brick-and-mortar stores creates 57 jobs, or 75 percent more. ASTRA is a founding member of AIB.

An infographic for retailers to use in their stores and around their communities to reinforce the value added aspects of shopping locally can be downloaded and printed here.

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.