Puzzles on display at Wonder Works | Source: Wonder Works

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

Starting a new year has never felt better!

2020 may be a time that we all want to forget, but to me, it was a year that has made us all deal with change like never before, and it has shown us that we should never become complacent.

2020 was definitely one of the most difficult years we all have encountered. ASTRA’s staff was drastically reduced; manufacturers faced smaller, yet more frequent, orders and more limited product availability; retailers had to close or limit capacity in their stores with reduced staff; and reps had to work with their retailers without seeing them in-person. Trade shows were canceled. We watched as a virus ravaged our country and the rest of the world, with many of us losing loved ones to COVID-19. We saw injustices as our country became more divided over inequalities in our human experiences — both personally and politically.

And yet, through it all, we displayed amazing ingenuity as we faced the challenges, weathered the storms, and pushed ourselves to the limit. We can often be our best when faced with challenges. They make us step back and truly examine who we are, what we believe in, and where we want to be. Being in uncomfortable situations forces us to look within for the strength to overcome. In tough times, our best qualities can emerge when we focus on finding good solutions.

Legacy Toys Home Delivery | Source: Legacy Toys 

Strength, fortitude, creativity, and continued focus — despite all odds — are the best qualities of our industry. We have used these qualities to reinvent the way we do business and how we work together. Community and the commitment to play have not only held us together, but also made us better realize that working together is what got us through this crazy year and will continue to get us through the years to come.

Here’s how ASTRA is working to help our industry stay strong this year:
• ASTRA Winter Camp, which took place from Feb. 20-23
• Kit and game virtual events
Zoom gatherings to keep us all connected throughout the year
• Regional in-person get-togethers (as gathering restrictions relax)
Best Toys for Kids Awards
• Excellence Awards
• Marketplace & Academy in Minneapolis: Aug. 5-8
Educational sessions relevant to current issues
• On the Road: ASTRA will be visiting members at their workplace (as travel and gathering restrictions relax)
Neighborhood Toy Store Day 2021
• Online resource sharing
• New and innovative ideas as we work with our Innovation Council and our volunteer committees

In 2020, we had to change the way we did business, learn new ways to do business, and lean on each other more than ever, even from a distance — and we did all of these things better than we would have ever imagined. These lessons will continue with us this year, strengthening our reserves and feeding our growth, both personally and professionally. Having gone through 2020 and welcomed 2021, we know we can indeed turn immense challenges and adversity into new ideas, opportunities, and future prosperity. C.S. Lewis said it best: “There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

2021, we are ready for you!

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