INDUSTRY FORUM ASTRA
Marketplace & Academy: It’s On! Sue Warfield, president of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, on all there is to look forward to at the association’s Marketplace & Academy event while wading through these times of uncertainty.
by Sue Warfield, ASTRA President Our new reality! With two major toy shows canceled in 2022 – New York Toy Fair and the Nuremberg Spielwarenmesse – one has to question, “what do we do?” We miss seeing things in person, we miss our networking together and we simply miss the buzz and fun of a trade show. The optimist in me, though highly disappointed that I will not be going to these events two years in a row, still believes this too shall pass. ASTRA was fortunate to have squeezed in our show in Minneapolis last August. We are forging forward in our planning of our Marketplace & Academy in Long Beach, CA – June 12-15. We also are planning to have our booth at Toy Fest West in March in Las Vegas. Do we wonder if things really will be “better” by then? Of course we do! But we must go forward in the hopes that through the recent surge, we will build up more immunities and understand that at some point, our world will be in the position of “dealing” with whatever virus comes our way and doing what needs to be done to get back to being together. With that said, ASTRA has exciting plans for 2022 and beyond. As with many businesses and organizations, we downsized our staff and readjusted our budget significantly to ensure that we could continue to put money into programs that truly benefit our members. We have transitioned from our previous website and data base platform to a new platform which we believe will offer greater usability for our members. We are working on regional meetings to bring our members and staff together to share ideas and for staff to listen to and act upon the immediate and current needs of our retailers, manufacturers and sales representatives. We have started a monthly digital edition of our Toy Times Magazine to address the ever-changing issues that seem to come up at a moments notice and use our printed Toy Times Magazine to cover 16 tfe February 2022
the bigger picture issues. We have monthly “town hall meetings” on zoom to keep our members updated on current issues and allow for discussion and questions to the staff and our board. We will be working on revamping our educational offerings and bringing back our Certified Play Expert program – both our live and online versions. And these are just the start. Our biggest event each year is our Marketplace and Academy. We are back to our full schedule of Sunday through Wednesday, June 12-15 in Long Beach, CA. We haven’t been to the west coast in quite a few years and our members are excited about the venue. Our Sunday will include our very popular Game and Kit event as well as educational offerings. Sunday evening will be our opening reception and party. Monday through Wednesday our show floor will be open. As of the writing of this, our show floor is over 75% sold and we are now opening up the remaining booths for sales to non-members as well as any members who missed the previous open sales call. We have been working with the Long Beach Convention Center to keep up with whatever protocols will be in place come June to make sure we are keeping people safe while also having fun. We hope to see you in Long Beach and registration is open at www.marketplaceandacademy.org. Our industry is relationship and community driven. We are in the business of play and not being able to be together in-person has been tough on all of us. ASTRA values the community of its members and fully believes that we need to all work together to not only get through these crazy times, but also to continue to push the importance of play in the lives of not only children, but all of us. That is what will get us through and strengthen the industry.