by Kimberly Mosley, president, American Specialty Toy Retailing Association

More and more members of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) are completing online or in-person education modules and achieving passing scores on the rigorous exams to earn a professional credential from ASTRA, which aims to educate toy industry professionals about the business and the importance of play.

“Overall, I loved the ASTRA Certified Master Retailer training,” says Kristen Joy Laidig of Toy Box Gifts & Wonder in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. “I think every retailer should take it, and every employee should watch the videos that talk about dealing with customers, sales, and merchandising.”

VALUE OF CERTIFICATION PROGRAMS

A recent survey of professionals who have completed one of the three ASTRA certifications currently available — Certified Master Retailer (CMR), Certified Master Sales Representative (CMSR), and Certified Play Expert (CPE) — indicates that participants are enthusiastic about the valuable curriculum. All participants in the CMR and CMSR programs rated the education as “good” or “very good,” and nearly three out of four individuals taking the CPE course shared similar ratings.

Overall, those earning the CMR credential reported that one of the program’s strengths is its in-depth detail and specific examples to illustrate each module that translate so readily to everyday business.

“The lesson on inventory management helped me a lot with balancing, as did the marketing and merchandising lessons,” says Stacey Clower of Giggle Monkey Toys in the greater Atlanta.

In the survey, several members area with CMSR certifications noted that there are important takeaways for learners in every module. Aspects of the program that other CMSR recipients called out as especially valuable are customer relations, child psychology, and time management.

More than half of learners earning the CPE credential highlighted the importance of what they learned about the impact of play on stages of human development. “The program gave me a lot of specific knowledge to share with my customers,” says Heather Mohorn of Momo’s Treehouse in Philadelphia. Participants also rated the real-life examples as key to building confidence in their personal expertise on play to ready them for customer interaction.

THE 70/20/10 MODEL

Professional development experts have a way to put learning in perspective, pointing out that a variety of workplace experiences contribute to learning. Many trainers suggest that optimal workforce education is a three-pronged approach called the 70/20/10 model:

• 70% on the job, solving problems or facing new challenges. We all recognize this as old-fashioned, day-in and day-out, seat-of-the-pants learning;
• 20% engaging with others from whom we seek advice or with whom we share experiences. Think about the helpful conversations you have at ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy, the new ideas you pick up through participation in ASTRA Connect, or the networking you do with other small business owners in your community; and
• 10% from formal educational activities, such as courses, webinars, videos, credentialing, and self-directed reading. Even though this category represents the smallest percentage of our ongoing education, it’s what comes to mind for most of us when we think of professional development.

ASTRA Business Development Director Ahren Hoffman notes that these three types of learning are interconnected, and each supports learning in the other two areas.

GIVE YOURSELF CREDIT AND LEARN

If this is the year to recharge your professional energy and jumpstart your creativity, give yourself credit for all of the ways you are already learning on the job and through your network. Then, check out ASTRA Academy for high-quality, formal education activities to top off what you are already doing. Commit to doing at least one education activity at your convenience at academy.astratoy.org.


This article originally appeared in the April/May 2020 issue of the Toy Book. Click here to read more!