Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of The Toy Association, chatted with the Toy Book about this year’s key marketplace initiatives and more.

The Toy Book: With Toy Fair New York canceled due to the pandemic, how has The Toy Association stepped up its digital opportunities for its members year-round?
Steve Pasierb: We came into the pandemic having already made significant investments in technology that enabled our team to quickly launch the Toy Fair Everywhere digital market weeks, which brought in more than 3,000 buyers from more than 60 countries. There were 209 toy companies that exhibited 847 brands and 33,339 products across 15,041 showroom visits last year. And now in February 2021, Toy Fair Everywhere is set to further establish its position as the toy industry’s first and only 365 days per year B2B marketplace platform.

The Toy Association will also continue to collaborate with retailers throughout 2021 on virtual private product preview events, which in 2020 created new avenues for nearly 400 toymakers to get their products on shelves at retailers including Target, Target Plus, Meijer, Toys “R” Us Canada, Family Dollar, Spencer’s, and Urban Outfitters. Claire’s and several other diverse retailers and e-commerce leaders have approached us about taking previews virtual in 2021.

Together with our two tested and proven digital business offerings, Toy Fair Dallas 2021 is set to take place in person from Oct. 5-7, and Toy Fair New York 2022 will happen from Feb. 19-22 in the newly expanded Jacob K. Javits Center. Maintaining this mix of digital and physical marketplaces will be our standard going forward as changes in doing business driven by the pandemic are very likely to stay.

TB: What are The Toy Association’s key initiatives for the year ahead?
SP: Certainly, 2020 produced outstanding total U.S. market toy sales. Even with such impressive numbers, the sector was exceptionally uneven with some product categories skyrocketing and others plunging, while toy companies ran the gamut from selling everything to not selling much at all, with similar stark contrasts across the retail sector. We are paying particularly close attention to our member companies that were and are still negatively impacted, as well as partners in the specialty retail sector and others in the broader toy and play community who have suffered business disruptions.

Helping members advance their businesses is core to our existence. In addition to what I’ve mentioned about providing digital and physical marketplaces, our ability to deliver impactful communications, highlight trends, promote member products, use social media to advance advocacy, educate consumers about safe play and product safety, and change attitudes about the role and value of childhood play will continue to be an aggressive focus in 2021.

This State of the Industry Q&A response was originally published in the February 2021 edition of the Toy Book. Click here to read the full issue!