Sue Warfield, president at the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA), talks about challenges in the industry and ASTRA’s focus for 2022 in the Toy Book’s annual State of the Industry Q&A.
The Toy Book: What are the biggest challenges facing the specialty toy industry as we head into 2022, and how is ASTRA addressing them to best serve its members?
Sue Warfield: The biggest challenges for the toy industry in 2022? Uncertainty and vulnerability. Uncertainty regarding meetings, shows, masking, vaccination requirements, shipping issues, and costs. As toy retailers, reps, and manufacturers, everyone is vulnerable to all of the current issues, including how these issues are dealt with, how they affect the bottom line, and surviving in a world of giants that have more capital.
ASTRA is addressing these issues by keeping as close to the changing landscape as possible and passing on the information to our members in a timely fashion. Things are changing too fast to wait for shows and meetings to keep people informed, so we will be using more opportunities — through more local get-togethers and digitally through our member portal, emails, social media, and every form of communication we have available. As we learn more of the future needs, we will address how best ASTRA and our members can work together to make a difference as a whole.
Strength in numbers and strength within our community will get us through this year.
TB: What are ASTRA’s key initiatives for the year ahead?
SW: ASTRA’s key focus for 2022 is to meet our members where they are at to listen to their needs and respond accordingly. We want to find the next generation of diverse individuals to excite and welcome into the toy industry. How are we doing this? We are attending regional gift shows, forming regional group gatherings to provide educational offerings as well as open discussion and sharing of ideas, using our new member portal to provide greater opportunities for our members to communicate within groups that match their specific needs, and having our staff take the time to call (yes, on the phone) and visit in-person with our members to better understand and then act on the needs of our independent toy community.
We are also placing an emphasis on reaching beyond our known boundaries to meet, learn from, and encourage a broader and more diverse demographic to our industry to better reflect the reality of our national and international world.
This article was originally published in the February 2022 edition of the Toy Book. Click here to read the full issue!