by SUE WARFIELD, president, American Specialty Toy Retailing Association

Looking back, we never could have imagined what we would all face in 2020 and well into 2021. And yet, we made it, and things are definitely turning a corner toward a more personal and interactive world. 

How did we make it through? For many of us in the toy industry, staffs were cut, budgets were revised, and plans were changed. These measures, along with the support of our colleagues through listening, sharing ideas, and working alongside one another have helped us all get back on track toward future success and growth. 

ASTRA is here to further meaningful connections between toy industry professionals and offer new resources through membership. As we move into our first live Marketplace & Academy since June 2019 and work to “play it forward,” we see an amazing fourth quarter ahead.

The future looks bright with stores open to allow in-person shopping again while also continuing to amplify online shopping or utilize curbside pick-up and local delivery options. Just as many retailers have reinvented themselves, ASTRA is doing the same — and there’s no better time than now to join our ranks. So, what are the benefits of ASTRA membership?

• Foster Connections: ASTRA members can make great connections through our online communities, regional get-togethers, and attendance at industry shows. All of our members note this as one of the greatest benefits of ASTRA Membership. It’s really meaningful to have colleagues who understand your issues and can help with suggestions. You also share what has worked for you and encourage new and long-term members who are looking to try new methods, products, or systems.

Related: ASTRA Names Sue Warfield President

• Learning Opportunities: ASTRA has educational offerings that are continuously updated for the “new normal.” The only thing that is constant in the world is change, and we recognize the need to continually stay up-to-date with the most innovative ideas, methods, technology, and trends.

• Local Engagement: At ASTRA, we believe in meeting our members where they are. This year and next year, ASTRA is committed to getting out in the field to see what our members’ needs and realities are. Our membership includes retailers, manufacturers, sales reps, affiliates, and inventors, and we will be taking time with each of these groups in person. This first-hand insight will help us tailor our offerings to meet everyone’s specific needs.

• Reach Across the Aisle: Whether you are a toy inventor or a sales rep, there’s always something to learn from people in different roles in the toy business. Direct and honest communication between all of our member types helps to build stronger relationships for everyone’s benefit and success. There’s no “I” in ASTRA! 

• Experienced Insight: What is old often becomes new again as toy industry cycles continue. We help our members look back on past experiences and trends to take the best of the past and meld it with the future.

Things have never looked more exciting for ASTRA and our members. Last year may have been tough, but it forced us all to take a closer look at what is most important — both in our business and personal lives. We see it, we hear it, and we are taking it all in to make ASTRA the most relevant, resourceful, and engaging organization for those who join. Play it forward with ASTRA!

This article was originally published in the August 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.