CHATTING WITH THE INDUSTRY Quartin: A large part of last year’s growth can be attributed to Star Wars—this franchise provided a huge lift to the toy industry in 2015. This year, we can expect to see a good amount of that money shifting to more specialty-oriented toys and games. The 2016 holiday calendar should be very beneficial to our industry. Do you take advantage of ASTRA member programs? If so, which do you find most beneficial? Fisher: As a manufacturer, our support of ASTRA and its membership is a critical component of our business strategy. We offer special freight terms for members, participate in Neighborhood Toy Store Day, and as an ASTRA manufacturer member, we take advantage of the opportunity to have our products included in the Share the Fair and Best Toys for Kids programs. In addition, our marketing manager is an active member of ASTRA, and will become a board member this June. Kienzle: I take advantage of the year-round and Marketplace-specific promotions. Last year I tried quite a few of the ASTRA Exclusives and had good success as well. Neighborhood Toy Store Day is a hit with our fans. They love the idea that they’re supporting a local, family-owned store that their kids are growing up in. Folkmanis: ASTRA is a fantastic organization offering so many member benefits. Currently we utilize the online forum as well as the educational webinars. Last year, we were honored to receive the ASTRA Best Toys for Kids award for Pretend Fantasy Play for our Winged Dragon puppet. This year we look forward to celebrating our 40th anniversary at the Marketplace & Academy. It’s a great pleasure to work with ASTRA members. We enjoy and appreciate the camaraderie, their expertise and knowledge of the industry, and the passion with which the stores are run. Brown: Right now, I am going through the ASTRA Academy and learning so much. It’s been a wonderful tool for
great way to gain exposure, not only for the winning product, but also for our line as a whole.
World of Mirth, Richmond, Va.
me. The ASTRA Exclusives are also something I look forward to. Who doesn’t want to have good quality toys that are exclusive to their shop? Quartin: ASTRA Marketplace & Academy is one of our top trade shows of the year. Face-to-face retailer interaction is invaluable to determining what our customers want and need, and how we can go about fulfilling those needs. We’ve participated in ASTRA’s Kit Session for several years now, and last year we took part in ASTRA’s Game Night as well. The one-on-one feedback from small groups of retailers at both of these events is very helpful from a product development standpoint, and it also allows us to get an early look at which kits and games will take off in the second half of the year. We’ve also had the privilege of taking part in ASTRA’s Best Toys for Kids program. Having a product named to this list is a
Wonder Works, Charleston, S.C.
Clark: I try to take advantage of as many as time allows. I plan on completing the Certified Master Retailer online program as soon as I can. I frequently read user comments on the discussion boards, as well as contribute when I can. The print materials available with respect to financials were not only priceless for me when I began this adventure, but have also proven to be spot-on. I attended last year’s Marketplace and several lectures and plan on attending again this year in Denver. There is so much helpful information out there for nearly every situation. Osborne: ASTRA is the most beneficial show to our company. The quality time we receive with our vendors is important to our business philosophy, as we are able to get to know them and their products. There is no replacement for the relationship you build with a vendor. They are gold to your business and the ability to share their products with others and provide feedback is invaluable to sustainability of the industry. We also love that some vendors will provide special terms for ASTRA members. We take advantage of these specials and are extremely appreciative of the vendors that offer them. ASTRA Connect is also extremely assistive for receiving feedback and staying in the loop. Clower: Absolutely! We check the discussion boards regularly and have completed certifications through ASTRA Academy. Last year we attended Marketplace & Academy in Charlotte and found it to be invaluable. Having owned our store for less than a year, there was much for us to learn, and Marketplace & Academy taught us more than we could have imagined. Following up that experience with the Master Retailer (John) and Play Expert (Tammy) Certifications has given us the confidence we needed to be more successful. Thank you, ASTRA! »
TOYBOOK.COM | MAY/JUNE 2016 | THE TOY BOOK 35
Many of us are traveling to Denver for the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association’s (ASTRA’s) Marketplace & Academy trade show, and in...