In the Toy Book‘s annual State of the Industry Q&A, ASTRA’s President Kimberly Mosley addressed a number of issues facing the specialty toy industry, including a resolution to tariffs, competing with big-box retailers, and more.

What are the biggest challenges facing the specialty toy industry this year, and how is ASTRA addressing them?
As always, the size of independent toy stores like those that are members of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) is both a competitive advantage and a big challenge. On the one hand, locally owned independent businesses are more agile because they don’t have to work through a corporate bureaucracy. They have an ear to the ground in their markets and an understanding of the local customer, which helps to fuel their entrepreneurial creativity.

At the same time, well-resourced, big-box competitors arguably have more financial cushion to weather the latest business downturn or policy change. Tariffs — actual and threatened — are a great example. Larger mass-market businesses are more likely than small specialty businesses to have the resources to build multiple contingency plans and absorb the higher costs and reduced sales that tariffs create.

What are ASTRA’s key initiatives for the year ahead?

  • Growing the expertise of our members: In turn, this will improve their business performance and increase the viability of their businesses. Members can check out academy.astratoy.org for details on our professional education programs, including sessions at Marketplace & Academy 2020; on-demand content through webinars and publications; and ASTRA certification programs;
  • Strategic planning. We are launching our next strategic planning process, which will be a stimulating exercise. Much has changed in the external landscape — particularly around the unprecedented number of chain store closures — since we crafted our last plan. We will seek fresh new thinking from all ASTRA constituents and draw perspectives from the work of our Innovation Council, which is an ad hoc group comprised of highly experienced toy industry pros and others from aligned industries;
  • Expanding ASTRA Foundation. Created last year to increase awareness of the importance of play and its impact by way of research, education, and philanthropic activities, we will ramp up foundation activities on two levels: increasing communication about the science of play and offering opportunities for ASTRA members to participate in volunteer and planning philanthropic activities; and
  • Nurture relationships and partnerships. This will expand the ASTRA footprint and grow face-to-face opportunities for members to get together, which will increase the mix of ideas, relationships, and products that are flowing through ASTRA. ASTRA will leverage its impact through these efforts and special member programs at Spielwarenmesse, Toy Fair New York, Toy Fest West, various gift marts and kids’ products shows, and ChiTAG.

This State of the Industry Q&A response originally appeared in the February 2020 issue of the Toy Book. Click here to read more!