by SUE WARFIELD, interim president, American Specialty Toy Retailing Association

At the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA), we have weathered the storm of the past year and are excited to turn our focus toward the programs and offerings that are the cornerstones of our organization. These events and activities are an important means of engagement and connection for ASTRA members. In a year that has been anything but easy, the connections our members have made with one another have given them the energy and strength they need to find new ways to engage with customers and succeed in their businesses.

The Best Toys for Kids award winners will be announced during a virtual event at the end of June. In January, ASTRA members nominated products they felt meet the following criteria: 

  • New: Best Toys for Kids nominees in all categories except Classic Play should be introduced to the general retail market in the fall of 2020 or later and should be available on shelves to purchase no later than September 2021.
  • Unique: Nominees should feature a novel design, either as an original concept or a significant reinvention.
  • Available: Toys should be available in good supply and ready to ship by September 2021.

The nominees have been intensely reviewed by a committee of experienced ASTRA retailers, who then chose a selection of finalists for the awards. ASTRA members voted on their favorite products, naming one winning product in each category. You can browse through past winners on our website at — and be sure to stay tuned for this year’s winners at our virtual event.

During the event, we will also present Excellence Awards in multiple categories, including retailer, manufacturer, sales representative, and young professional/rising star. The ASTRA Lifetime Achievement Award will be given as well. All of these coveted awards celebrate each individual’s strong commitment to the toy industry overall, as well as their dedication to the ASTRA community. 

Related: ASTRA Reveals 2021 Best Toys for Kids Finalists

Our biggest event, Marketplace & Academy, is taking place in Minneapolis from Aug. 5-8, and we couldn’t be more excited to see everyone in person! We have some exciting events planned and we are working closely with the city of Minneapolis to ensure the health and safety of all attendees. We will be following the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and will require all attendees to wear a face mask. Due to the change of the event date from June to August, we have a new schedule and new opportunities for full conference attendees to participate in events. Check out our website for full details and to register to attend at

Our staff, board of directors, and volunteer members are hard at work developing additional offerings for ASTRA members to enjoy later this year. The benefits of ASTRA membership have never been more valuable as we continue to navigate the changing world of the toy industry together.

This article was originally published in the June 2021 edition of the Toy Book. Click here to read the full issue!

About the author

Sue Warfield

Sue Warfield

Sue Warfield, interim president of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA), has more than 30 years of experience working in the toy industry, including owning a retail store, being a sales representative, and working with her husband in a manufacturing business.