China Toy Fair


ASTRA Retailers Set to Promote Specialty Toys on Neighborhood Toy Store Day

ASTRAlogoHundreds of independent toy retailers in the U.S. and Canada will mark Neighborhood Toy Store Day with special in-store events and activities on Saturday, November 8.

Neighborhood Toy Store Day is an annual American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) event that occurs on the second Saturday in November. It is designed to help independent toy retailers spotlight attention on the quality and play value of specialty toys, plus the advantages of shopping at locally owned toy stores.

ASTRA retailers create activities around Neighborhood Toy Store Day that will engage their customers and communities. Meanwhile, ASTRA supports retailers by providing professionally designed, downloadable posters; post cards; ad slicks; and other images along with draft emails; social media posts; and press releases that retailers can use to promote their store.

To find an ASTRA store to visit on Neighborhood Toy Store Day, visit www.neighborhoodtoystoreday.com.

Mattel Launches New Direct-to-Consumer Strategy for Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway

Thomas_Hero_CGI_ApprovedMattel is bringing a new shopping experience to Thomas & Friends fans nationwide, through a cross-company collaboration that began this month. Anchored by the Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway product line, the new experience includes the first ever Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway direct-to-consumer catalogue, e-commerce website, and partnerships with 20 independent specialty retail stores, which will serve as official Thomas & Friends Specialty Stations in the U.S.

Thomas & Friends will also introduce a limited-release wooden engine, Logan, a Shunter that works at the coal plant, and is only available in the U.S. through the new catalogue, e-commerce website, and official specialty stations. Logan will also be the first of a series of limited-release engines to be introduced by the new program annually.

The e-commerce website, thomaswoodenrailway.com, launches in August, and the Logan wooden engine will be available through December 31 of next year.

In addition, moving forward, Toys “R” Us will become the exclusive national chain retailer of Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway.

PopStar Club Launches New Custom Sales Program for Independent Specialty Stores

The Beatrix Girls BandPopStar Club, makers of the collectible pop star line, The Beatrix Girls, has introduced a specialty retailer program in support of independent retailers nationwide. The custom sales program offers both economic and marketing incentives designed to help specialty retailers drive revenue, increase cash flow, and provide customers with unique gifts.

Highlights of the program include promotional items such as in-store posters and custom three-song CDs, favorable economic terms including extended dating, and free freight and certain order sizes.

EDITOR’S VIEWPOINT: Reaching Consumers at Home

photoConsumers want to shop local. They want to support their communities and their neighbors’ businesses. Moms and dads truly want to keep their hard-earned dollars in their hometowns whenever possible. Small Business Saturday has 3.3 million likes on Facebook. At the very least, people like the concept of supporting their local retailers.

“Sure, Jackie, easy for you to say. Show me the business.” Of course there are obstacles. If you’re not seeing the sales levels you’d like, ask yourself why. I believe one of the main reasons has to do with awareness and remaining top of mind with your community. Even if you are doing the mailings, coupon booklets, and Penny Saver ads, that may not be enough. You need to reach moms where they are spending their precious free moments of the day and, for many, that place is online, on social media.

My community has a group for local moms on Facebook (dads are welcome, but remain in the minority). It has more than 5,000 members who live in my town and actively seek advice from the group on everything from parenting to what to do with kids locally to where to eat and shop for various things. I’ve noticed that when the topic turns to toys, the first place group members recommend is Fun Stuff Toys, a local toy retailer in Seaford, N.Y. that caters to the community. If your community has a group like this, I urge you to join—not to constantly promote your shop (no one will appreciate that), but to be an active member of your community and a trusted source of information when the conversation naturally (and no doubt frequently) turns to “What toy should I buy for a child’s birthday party?” and “What should I do with my kids this Saturday?” You will remain top of mind for busy parents who may just need that frequent reminder that you are the best source for toys in your community. Once you have their support and awareness, loyalty to your store and all that you offer should come easy.

This column was published in the February issue of The Toy Book. Check back regularly for more toy industry commentary from Jackie. Views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Toy Book as a whole. We hope that you will share your comments and feedback below. Until next time!