ASTRA Introduces Three New Membership Categories

by KIMBERLY MOSLEY, president, American Specialty Toy Retailing Association

Members have always been at the core of everything we do at the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA).

Elected members govern ASTRA, who shape the strategic plan to guide our decision-making and use of resources. Over time, we launched key initiatives in response to member needs for creative tools to grow their businesses. Many of these member-driven innovations — for example, the Best Toys for Kids awards and Neighborhood Toy Store Day — have become signature programs for ASTRA, along with professional certifications and expanded education offerings.

Now, ASTRA is growing in another direction: through additional membership categories that reflect the ways the independent side of the toy industry is evolving.

“Over the years, much of the innovation in the toy industry found its way to market through independent retailers and the manufacturers serving that channel,” ASTRA Member Relations Director Sue Warfield says. “We reviewed our membership structure with the idea that we want to attract creative new talent to ASTRA, and at the same time, retain a strong connection with our most experienced members who may be exiting the industry thanks to retirement or career changes.”

As a result, three new membership categories round out the four long-standing, traditional categories of membership (retailer, sales representative, manufacturer, and affiliate): inventor, ambassador, and student.

Inventor: Much of the innovation that fuels excitement and buzz on the independent side of the toy industry starts with new products designed by inventors. “It’s a win-win to bring inventors into our fold,” Warfield says. “They do so much to keep the industry fresh and relevant, and at the same time, the retailers they meet often provide invaluable feedback on the products they have in development.” The inventor category will include both seasoned pros who have already produced products and are looking to grow into new channels or license their product, and inventors who are new to the industry and are looking for guidance on how to bring their idea to the next stage. Membership is by application only.

Ambassador:If you were a long-term member but you’ve been out of the toy industry for at least six months, perhaps there is an Ambassadorship in your future! The Ambassador category is a way to maintain your membership as an individual so you can keep up with ASTRA and attend our events. “Members build so many relationships and gain so much valuable experience over many years of involvement with ASTRA,” Warfield says. “When they leave the toy industry, many members don’t want to lose us and certainly we don’t want to lose them. Now we have an affordable way for them to stay connected and involved at whatever level suits their interests.” Membership as an ASTRA Ambassador is by application only, and a maximum of ten ambassadors will be added annually.

Student: “For our industry to be healthy, we need to attract top talent and grow our talent pipeline,” Warfield says. “The next generation of retailers, manufacturers and sales representatives need a place to learn about the toy industry and the opportunities that are available to them in this fun and exciting world of toys.” There are many directions ASTRA can take in its work with this new category, such as possible internships, opportunities to work on committees, and participating in job fairs, just to name a few. The main point, Warfield says, is that ASTRA can offer a new look at career paths that may otherwise be unknown to many post high-school students.

ASTRA EXPANDS ITS REACH

ASTRA’s new membership categories are another way that we are fulfilling the directives from our board of directors in the latest strategic plan. To advance the interests of our members and their businesses, the plan seeks reinforce the long-term viability of the industry through cultivating industry talent and expanding ASTRA’s reach into other markets that will grow the community.

Watch for the details of each new membership category or contact Sue Warfield at swarfield@astratoy.org for more information.

We are excited to bring these new memberships into our network and to continually improve our member services. It’s part of achieving our collective goal to change the world through the power of play within all the communities served by ASTRA members.

Kimberly Mosley, president of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, is an experienced, award-winning, results-oriented association executive with a long track record of success in managing association operations, developing innovative programs, and growing revenue.

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2019 issue of the Toy Book.