China Toy Fair


ASTRA Takes Up New Strategic Goals

The board of directors for the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) has adopted four key goals to guide the organization’s work over the next few years. They include:

  • Building the viability of the specialty toy industry by developing a plan to increase and stabilize the number of independent toy stores over the next three to five years
  • Promoting stronger cooperation and collaboration among ASTRA’s manufacturers, retailers, and sales reps to increase information flow, innovation, and efficiency among member segments
  • Increasing the professionalism of the specialty toy industry by developing new educational and certification programs that address technology, marketing, child development, healthy play, and other issues that contribute to the success of specialty toy businesses
  • Providing tools that can help ASTRA members adopt technology to strengthen their businesses

Members of the ASTRA board of directors evaluated the emerging needs of all segments of the specialty toy industry. They will present the key goals to the full ASTRA membership during the annual ASTRA business meeting on Monday, June 9, at its Marketplace & Academy in Phoenix, Ariz.

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!

Creatures of Delight Fuse Fangs and Fun

There is a softer side to all kinds of fictitious creatures: from Yetis, aliens, and trolls, to dragons, human-devouring plants, and purple dinosaurs.

Tom Kopian, artist and creator behind Creatures of Delight, a line of specialty, handcrafted monster toys, works with a small team and his 11-year partner, Stewart Buffaloe, to make one-of-a-kind creatures using a variety of molds and his patented latex-fiber blend material.

Large Feed Me Creature

The creatures are a combination of creepy and cute and appeal to a broad demographic. Though the line is composed mostly of traditionally scary, fictional monsters, their vibrant color palettes and bright-white smiles make them appeal to girls as much as boys. “I think essentially the toys are gender neutral. They are rough and tough monsters, so it can be a boy thing, but girls like some of the cuter pieces like Snarl, Floyd, and the Grudges. It is not definitively a boy or girl thing,” Kopian explains. [Read more...]