Kathleen McHugh (KM): ASTRA is launching an exciting new program that is designed to help independent specialty retailers position their stores as destinations. The program will offer exclusive products for ASTRA member retailers that will not be available elsewhere.
What’s unique about this effort is that manufacturers have submitted proposals for exclusive ASTRA products, and a committee of retailers is reviewing them to ensure that they are good fits with what our store owners need. In addition to offering the products only to ASTRA stores, the manufacturers who are selected will also provide marketing support. This is one way that we are helping retailers compete in an environment where so many manufacturers are offering their products at different price points online.
We are also building systems that will make it easier for ASTRA members to get member-only discounts on product, and we are increasing our capacity to coordinate co-op advertising and play day information. Working together in the specialty toy industry to synchronize all these resources will save time and money.
TTB: What challenges are facing the specialty toy industry and how is ASTRA addressing them?
KM: Big ticket items moved slowly in 2014, so we will help retailers share their strategies either for increasing sales of those items or making the decision to limit the amount of those items they carry. We continue to see the disappearance of Generation X from brick-and-mortar stores, thanks to their preference for the convenience of buying online. We will continue to help retailers broadcast the Shop Local message, which resonates with those shoppers, and to make their stores more of a destination for family outings and events.