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T H E M A G A Z I N E O F T H E A M E R I C A N S P E C I A L T Y T O Y R E T A I L I N G A S S O C I A T I O N • S E P T E M B E R 2 0 17


A Toy Family

Reunion in Philadelphia


TO ORDER: • PH: 301.895.4782 • FX: 301.895.5029

Board of Directors Chair Erik Quam Past Chair Ann Kienzle Chair-Elect Dee Farrell Treasurer Michelle Sahr Secretary Christine Blumberg Directors Nicole Bortnick Cynthia Compton Damien Crocker Anita Demetropoulos Kevin McGrath Tami Murphy Christine Osborne Gwen Ottenberg Michelle Sahr Amy Saldanha

Magazine Editor Mary Sisson Assistant Editor Dee Marsden Graphic Artist Maia VanOrman

ASTRA Staff President Kimberly Mosley Director of Member Relations Sue WarďŹ eld Director, Meetings and Strategic Partnerships Amanda Zawad Director of Education and Training Ahren Hoffman Associate Manager Marketing and Communications Dee Marsden Meetings and Exhibits Coordinator Laura Dann Membership and Programs Coordinator Gina Anzalone Data and Operations Analyst Maggie Bridger The ASTRA Toy Times Magazine is published by the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, 432 N Clark St., Suite 305, Chicago, IL 60654, 312-222-0984,, Copyright Š 2017 American Specialty Toy Retailing Association. All rights reserved. Advertisements are accepted. For more information, contact Fahy-Williams Publishing, 800-344-0559. All articles for the ASTRA Toy Times Magazine are supplied by ASTRA and its members, with Fahy-Williams assembling and editing the newsletter, and managing the advertising sales function. ASTRA reserves the right to accept, reject, or alter all editorial and advertising material submitted for publication. Advertising in ASTRA does not imply endorsement of products and services. Opinions expressed in articles contained herein are those of the authors, not necessarily of ASTRA or its individual members. The information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable.

4 September 2017 •

Contributors Nick Guffey

(Fourth Quarter: 7KH,QVDQG2XWVRI6WDI¿QJ LVPDQDJHU of The Toy Store in Lawrence, Kansas, his family business. He has been involved in daily operations and management for PRUHWKDQ¿YH\HDUVEXWKDVEHHQLQYROYHG in toys and the industry since birth. He has a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling and a bachelor’s in theatre and specialized in working with kids who have disabilities or behavioral challenges using gardening therapy. Nick is married to Emily, merchandise manager for both locations of The Toy Store, and both were presenters at ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy.

Kathryn H. Lavin, MSW (What I Wish for the World of Play) is the executive director of AblePlay-Lekotek, a national leader of inclusive and accessible play. For 30 years she has provided a myriad of services to children and adults with intellectual challenges/developmental disabilities and their families and is herself a parent of a daughter with a disability. Lavin holds BAs in education and human development from Boston College and a Master’s Degree from the Jane Addams School of Social Work. She has been an active advocate for persons of all abilities and for inclusive education.

Jeremy Treister (3Q: Time to Appraise Your Tech) is president of CMIT Solutions in Chicago. CMIT is the Managed IT Services Provider for American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA). CMIT delivers high touch services nationally. Visit CMIT on Facebook ( cmitsolutions/) and at www.cmitsolutions. com/cmit-solutions-of-chicago-downtown/

MESSAGE From the Chair

We’re All In This

Together by Erik Quam


hiladelphia – the City of Brotherly Love, the birthplace of American democracy – and now the home of the largest and most successful Marketplace and Academy in ASTRA’s 25-year history! What an unbelievable gathering of the BEST people in the toy industry. I think it’s safe to say we’re all feeling the energy and buzz after spending a few days together in Philly. Bring it on, 4th Quarter! A few years ago, Disney hit it big with “High School Musicalâ€? – the tale of three very different groups of kids recognizing they had more in common than they thought when they worked toward a common goal. The movie featured a big song and dance number, “We’re All In This Together,â€? which echoed unity and teamwork. At this point, you’re probably asking yourself, “Why is he writing about ‘High School Musical?’â€? Well, aside from the movie being played ad nauseam in our house for several years, the mantra “We’re All In This Togetherâ€? came up during the board of directors meeting in Philadelphia. Over the course of three days of intensive meetings in the Twin Cities back in May, ASTRA members representing our three main membership categories (retailers, sales representatives and manufacturers) met to discuss and gain a better understanding of online selling within our industry. What came from these meetings? While I don’t have the space to share everything here (you can read about the meetings in much more detail on page 20), moderator Roger Bildsten perhaps summed it up best with his recap to the board when he wrote, “We’re All In This Together.â€? Three very distinct groups of individuals coming together to work toward a common goal – in this case, advancing awareness and the importance of placing a high-quality toy in the hands of a child while maintaining a VLQJOHXQLÂżHGYRLFHIRURXULQGXVWU\ As I walked the aisles and listened to sessions at Marketplace & Academy, I was once again reminded of how “We’re All In This Together.â€? Our association puts together an amazing conference and trade show every year, and Philadelphia was unlike any other. From countless networking opportunities, education sessions, and of course, a world class trade show, it’s safe to say the time

we all spent together in Philadelphia was priceless.  0XFKRIWKHEX]]RQWKHWUDGHVKRZĂ€RRUIRFXVHGRQZKDW ZLOOXQGHQLDEO\EHWKHKRWWHVWWR\WUHQGRIWKHÂżGJHW spinner. Some retailers fully embraced them and are still enjoying the trend, while others are, well, let’s just say they’ve had their ÂżOORIÂżGJHWVSLQQHUV/RYHWKHPRUKDWHWKHPLWÂśVGLIÂżFXOWWR GHQ\ÂżGJHWWR\VDVDFDWHJRU\DUHKHUHWRVWD\:KLOHWKHVSLQQHU certainly led the way, innovations are happening in this category daily. As school bells ring across the country and children settle back into the routine of the school year, we in the toy industry have to wonder if there will be another toy craze in the upcoming \HDU:LOOLWEHDVELJDVWKHÂżGJHWVSLQQHUIDG"2UZLOOWKH VSLQQHUVVHHDUHVXUUHFWLRQRIVRUWV":LOOHGXFDWRUVÂżQGURRPIRU them in classrooms? Whatever the next big thing might be, let’s remember, “We’re All in This Together.â€? Be sure to share your experiences, success stories or anecdotes on the ASTRA Connect discussion board. It’s such a great way for all of us to remain in touch with each other and learn from one another throughout the year, not just those few days we all spend together in June. I’d also encourage all of you to become more involved in OUR association by volunteering and getting involved in ASTRA. There are committees, subcommittees and a number of other opportunities for you to serve and make our association stronger. Plus, it’s a great way to meet other toy people and share and grow from one another’s experiences! Also, don’t forget, WKHUHÂśVWKH&HUWLÂżHG0DVWHU5HWDLOHUDQG&HUWLÂżHG3OD\([SHUW programs. You can sign up online and make your way through the programs at your own pace. Because “We’re All in This Together,â€? ASTRA continues to be a strong, viable and relevant organization for our members. As an association we offer our members multitudes of opportunities for learning and expanding our businesses. Be sure to take advantage of everything that comes with your ASTRA membership! Best, • September 2017


18 September 2017 •



10 Will You Match This Price? 12 Fourth Quarter: The Ins and Outs of StafďŹ ng 14 3Q: Time to Appraise Your Tech

28 ASTRA Excellence Awards 29 Sale Representative Professional Development 30 Lifetime Achievement Award 31 Guest Writers 32 On The Move

TOY STORIES 16 Scholarship Winners Find Pot of Gold in Philadelphia

TRENDING NOW 20 ASTRA’s Ecosystem Poised to Adapt to the Digital Age 22 Back to School and School Purchasing 24 What’s the Next New Hot Toy? 26 Plan Ahead for Neighborhood Toy Store Day

ASTRA’S MARKETPLACE & ACADEMY 34 2017 Convention Wrapup


Departments 5 Message from the Chair 7 President’s Report 8 Ready, Set, PLAY ‌ for Children with Disabilities

38 ASTRA Welcomes Its Newest Manufacturer Members 42 New Members 46 Index of Advertisers


ASTRA Toy Times Magazine Mission Statement Our mission is to act as a channel of communication for the general membership of ASTRA and to provide information about current happenings and future goals as decided upon by the board of directors, various committees, and ASTRA staff. We strive to provide useful and timely information and support for and about ASTRA members in accordance with the ASTRA mission statement. We are always looking for good articles and input for the magazine. Letters to the editor are welcome. 3OHDVHIRUZDUGOHWWHUVFRPPHQWVLGHDVHWFWRWKH$675$RIÂżFHDWGPDUVGHQ#DVWUDWR\RUJ

6 September 2017 •


No Resting on Laurels. We’re Looking Ahead. by Kimberly Mosley


hey call these the dog days of summer because the dog star, Sirius, peeks above the horizon with the sun around this time of the year. But maybe also because the days are so hot that even dogs would lie around panting to stay cool. As the mercury rises, people are looking for ways to cope with the heat. They may want to take to the shade to play a board game and ASTRA members, chock full of ideas from attending Marketplace & $FDGHP\DUHUHDG\WRKHOSWKHP¿QGWKHSHUIHFWIDPLO\IXQ From the opening ceremony to the extra day on the trade VKRZÀRRUDWWHQGHHVUHFRJQL]HGWKDWWKLV\HDU¶VVKRZZDVD cut above. We launched things with emcee Thom Singer and FHOHEUDWHG$675$¶VVLOYHUDQQLYHUVDU\ZLWKDFKDPSDJQHWRDVW We closed with keynote speaker Jamie Clarke, who shared stories of his dogged pursuit to reach the summit of Mount Everest. 0RUHWKDQSHRSOHYLVLWHGWKHWR\VWRUHRQWKHVKRZÀRRUIRU fresh ideas to advance their Neighborhood Toy Store Day efforts. 7KLV\HDU¶VVKRZZDVRQHWRUHPHPEHU,I\RXZHUHQRWDEOHWR DWWHQG0DUNHWSODFH $FDGHP\WKLV\HDU,KRSH,¶OOVHH\RXQH[W year in New Orleans on June 10-13, 2018.  ,DPDOZD\VDPD]HGDWWKHSKHQRPHQDOZRUNGRQHE\WKH ASTRA staff. From concept to execution, the staff worked tirelessly to put on the best show ever. We are mighty together! Of course, we as staff count on the important partnership with ASTRA volunteers. You are the engine that drives ASTRA forward. The convention committee, under the guidance of Chair Amy Saldanha from kiddywampus and co-chair Julien Sharp from Funnybone Toys, deserve a round of applause for all the hard work they put in over the last 12 months to select a great OLQHXSRITXDOLW\HGXFDWLRQDQGVSHDNHUV:HFDQ¶WWKDQNWKHP enough for their dedication and hard work. And we are always eager to have additional help. From short-term task forces to long-term committees, we have plenty of projects where we need you to lend us your talent and expertise. Visit ASTRA Connect to sign up.  7KH&HUWL¿HG0DVWHU5HWDLOHU &05 SURJUDPZDV GHYHORSHGIRULQGHSHQGHQWVSHFLDOW\WR\UHWDLOHUVWRERWKGH¿QH professional standards and recognize achievement. ASTRA also RIIHUVWKH&HUWL¿HG3OD\([SHUW &3( SURJUDPWKDWWHDFKHV the research, language and science of why play is so important for child development. Last year we were excited to celebrate six graduates of the CMR program. This year we were able to UHFRJQL]HJUDGXDWHVIURPWKH&05DQG&3(SURJUDPVDWWKH annual business meeting. Wow! Visit https://academy.astratoy. RUJFHUWL¿FDWLRQWROHDUQPRUHDERXWWKHVHSURJUDPV

While it was a successful convention, ASTRA is always looking forward. There is no doubt our industry is in disruption, yet it is a rare industry nowadays that is not being upended by technology. Uber and Lyft are outrunning traditional taxi service and Airbnb is rocking the foundation of the hotel industry. Just when the grocery industry was adjusting to meal-kit services like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, Amazon makes a bid to purchase Whole Foods. Yet ASTRA members have been down this road before and know how to evolve to meet the challenges. We openly share ideas and expertise with our colleagues. We are nimble and innovative, quickly moving beyond operating models that no longer serve our goals or our customers. ASTRA brick and mortar stores continue to have the unique advantage of being connected to their customers and communities in a way that cannot be PDWFKHGE\RQOLQHDQGPDVVPDUNHWUHWDLOLQJ,QRXUFRPPLWPHQW to support industry viability, ASTRA will continue to develop programs to inspire and attract a new generation to the toy industry. We are also working on programs to build a framework for successful transitions as owners plan for their retirement. Lastly, although the dog days of summer are upon us, ASTRA members have started planning for a successful fourth TXDUWHU,Q3KLODGHOSKLDQHDUO\UHWDLOHUVSOHGJHGWRRIIHU events for Neighborhood Toy Store Day on Saturday, November 11. Save the date and check often for ideas and tools you can use to celebrating this day. Have a great start to the fall season! • September 2017


READY,forSET, PLAY... Children With Disabilities

What I Wish for the

World of Play By Kathryn H. Lavin, MSW, Executive Director AblePlay


s ASTRA wraps up from its ever amazing and successful Marketplace & Academy, I think about the experience and I am left with this thought: what is it that I wish for the world of play? What I wish for the world of play, particularly for children of all abilities, is not unlike what we experienced at ASTRA’s Marketplace and Academy: a thirst for knowledge, excitement, cooperation, the accompaniment of a heathy dose of competition, acquisition of skills and the sharing of stories, joy and laughter. At the end of the day those experiences lead to what we refer to in the “disability worldâ€? as access and inclusion. The term “accessâ€? is often thought of as relating to the physical, for example, do my customers who use wheelchairs (or strollers) have access to all parts of my store? Yet access is much more comprehensive as it relates to all aspects of development: yes, physical, but also social, emotional, cognitive, communicative, and sensory. Inclusion often relates to inclusive education and refers to bringing the supports to the child in his/her natural (school) settings. Inclusion does not require that a child PDVWHUDVNLOORQO\WKDWKHVKHEHQHÂżWVLQ some way from the collective experience. The same is true of inclusive play – being DEOHWREULQJWKHEHQHÂżWVRILQWHUDFWLYH play to the child while breaking down the

8 September 2017 •

barriers that may hinder success. The need for access and inclusion in play fuels our thirst for knowledge, our excitement and our cooperation. It thrives on a healthy dose of competition for it challenges us to provide quality, integrity and best practices. Accessible and inclusive play overcomes barriers and allows children to acquire skills that they will need later in life: decision making, critical thinking, problem solving, FRPPXQLFDWLRQFROODERUDWLRQFRQ¿GHQFH and resilience. Furthermore, similar to what was experienced at Marketplace & Academy, accessible and inclusive play leads to sharing stories, joy and laughter, and ultimately opens doors for future, LQ¿QLWHSRVVLELOLWLHV$V\RXWKLQNDERXW these things, consider the following story and the role of play in it. Recently I walked into our local wine shop and found our old neighbor, Nate, behind the counter. Although this shop has some great wines, it is known locally for its amazing and extensive collection of craft beers. Nate and I exchanged usual pleasantries – have you graduated from college yet? What are you studying? What do you hope to do? With each answer came typical responses IURPD\HDUROGVWDUWLQJP\¿QDO year, English Lit, being a writer. Our conversation then turned to the plethora of craft beers. Nate was able to tell me where the beers were brewed, what made each one unique, what beers would go with the

meal I was planning. There was no doubt in my mind that if I had more time, Nate could have described each of the over 300 beers better than the manufacturers. He was, hands down, the best salesman that retailer ever had. As I thanked Nate for his help and left the shop, I could not help but chuckle to myself, thinking about watching Nate when he was younger – playing basketball with his brothers, video gaming with friends, or strumming his guitar on the front porch – and how play reinforced the acquisition of those skills needed for being a great salesman. That is, all except for one – his ability to recount and describe over 300 craft beers. That amazing skill was acquired because Nate has Asperger’s, a form of autism, and it was only due to the combination of his natural abilities with skills he had obtained while learning and playing that Nate was such a successful salesman. What do I wish for the world of play? To be fully accessible and inclusive. To continue to challenge us to work collectively and inclusively and cooperatively. To quench our thirst for knowledge and to challenge each other to strive toward integrity. To look at the future with open eyes and know that play can lead to learning and growth and employment. To continue to bring forth sharing and joy and laughter. To be the catalyst that opens doors to people of all abilities. ASTRA


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ill you match ch Amazon’s price on this?” s?” It’s a question estion that can make a retailer freeze in her er tracks – or worse, get snarky – unless that retailer is prepared with a well-thought-out ght out answer answer. “The issue, as I see it, is how we respond to the price match question. And that has a lot more to do with us than it does with whoever the competitor (real or imagined) is,” said Cynthia Compton, owner of 4 Kids Books and Toys in Zionsville, Indiana. “I think we have to get comfortable talking about it with ourselves, our staff, and our customers. I think we have to get as comfortable discussing this as we are with asking customers if they ‘have a budget’ for a birthday gift, or if a child has enough money in his little plastic bag for the wished-for item ‘this time, or do they need to put it on their list for next time?’” Retailers discuss all kinds of potentially awkward things with their customers, she pointed out, from tantrums to potty-training. “We are good at putting a positive, no nonsense, but kind spin on life. That’s what we do. So we have to be comfortable with this. We have to practice until we are. Otherwise, it’s just this big, scary shadow in the corner.” For some retailers, the answer is to the point: “When Amazon can match my

10 September 2017 •

service, I’ll match their price.” Humor helps at MudPuddles in Sherwood, Oregon, where owner Kate Noreen says the answer is, “Oh, please don’t say the ‘A’ word in here. The owner is really sensitive.” “Sometimes you just have to pull out that iPad and review online prices with a customer. Throw them off-balance,” says Bill Jensen of Darien Toy Box in Connecticut. “We lose a few sales, especially during the holidays when customers want the bigger items delivered to their back porch, garage or shed, and win more than a few. We have to try our best and more to deliver customer service and bring them back in.” Kate Tanner, owner of Kidstop Toys & Books in Scottsdale, Arizona, tells the story of a time she compared prices for a customer who wanted her to match Amazon – and won. “Someone was buying three toys. One toy was higher, one was the same price and one was heavily

disc discounted. I agreed to match all three and gift giftwrap at (Amazon’s rate of) $5 each.” The customer thought about it and agr agreed online is not always the best cho choice. “I have come to a point to work wit with people, but also point out my staff that they love won’t be here if the discounting continues. Then how will you ¿QGDOOWKHVHJUHDWWR\VEHIRUHWKHRWKHU grandparents?” When people tell Brett Hall they can get something cheaper online than at Hall of Toys in Battle Creek, Michigan, he points out all the tables with samples to try out, and that they can take it home today, knowing that the box and toy are in good shape and gift-wrapped. “I try not to be too heavy-handed, because I don’t want them to feel like I’m giving them a guilt trip,” he said. “A guilt trip might make them buy once, but it they probably won’t come back to buy again later.” In the session he led at Marketplace & Academy, “The Internet Is Not Your Enemy: Showrooming, Webrooming & You,” he tried to get across that people who are price-focused – transactional customers – are seeking to get a good deal by spending the least they can for something. That’s a priority over the experience they can get at a local store. “There ultimately isn’t something you

can do about these people in a given transaction, but you can plant a seed in their head to think of you later.” Kerry Wood of Noggin Factory in Dover, New Hampshire, recalls only getting snappy with a customer once after the customer kept pushing. “So I said, ‘I will gladly start price matching Amazon when they start sponsoring soccer teams here in Dover.’ And she actually responded with, ‘Oh, my son was on the Noggin Factory team this year.’” Leah Pickering, manager at Kazoodles in Vancouver, Washington, has been known to tell customers, “I can’t match the price on Amazon because Amazon doesn’t have any way to regulate its prices – it has too many sellers. For all I know, that item could have been from

one of those containers they got for pennies on the dollar that didn’t make it through customs.” When people ask Richard Belanger if Scalliwag Toys in Belleville, Ontario, Canada, will match Amazon, he doesn’t say what he’d like to: “If I worked in my underwear in my mom’s basement I could offer you an even better price!” When a customer one time was looking for a miniature for Dungeons and Dragons and Scalliwag didn’t have it in stock, the customer asked if he’d get it faster if he ordered it online. “I asked him if the website would offer him playing space for four hours every Wednesday

night. He H seemed perplexed by my question. ques “I do not sit back anymore. My livelihood, and all of my M neighbors’ livelihoods, in our downtown are of the utmost personal and economic importance to me. We are all smaller, family-owned establishments, and that does matter to me.” David Stelzer can’t recall more than a couple of instances when this came up at Shananigans Toy Shop in Baltimore, Maryland. “But I guess I would say, ‘We’ll help you pick out the right gift, we’ll wrap it for free, you’ll have it in your hand immediately. The same can’t be said of Amazon.’ Heck, we’re cheaper ASTRA than Amazon sometimes!”

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MONEY Matters

Fourth Quarter

The Ins and Outs of

Staffing by Nick Guffey, manager, the Toy Store Lawrence, Kansas


reparation for the fourth quarter has many facets; however, having enough staff to support and grow in a healthy direction is imperative to achieve both short- and long-term success. First off, you must know your market. When does your holiday business pick up? You will want your new staff to EHWUDLQHGDQGFRQ¿GHQWLQWKHLUDELOLWLHV by this date. Ideally you will want at least two weeks of training for full-time staff and less than a month for part-time staff, with the majority of that time actively engaging customers. To prepare for this you will want to have your signs or postings placed a minimum of two weeks before you begin interviews. The process of interviewing, hiring, and training should happen at least four to six weeks in advance of your deadline. Building up your workforce is important and it is often all too easy to overlook your seasonal help and not take full advantage of the potential that this new employee can bring to your store. In addition, the new employee could allow you to replace toxic or challenging staff after your busy season has ended. Energy and creativity are essential. Get to know your community and use

12 September 2017 •

them. Your farmers’ markets may be a hidden gem as these folks may be in need of winter jobs or know those who do. These vendors already have basic money and merchandising skills, understanding of the cost of doing business, and an abundance of “common sense” and practical knowledge. The opportunity for recurring “seasonal” help is an ideal goal, especially because it minimizes training expenses; however, your standards must

be the same for all types of staff, just variances in scheduling and duties with regard to store hierarchy. Move away from hiring people you like, as you can easily have too many of the same staff personality to cater to a wide variety of customer personalities, thus minimizing your customer interaction potential. Actively engage your public by asking, “Are you looking for a winter

job? I manage [insert name of your business], have you heard of us?â€? (Hand them your card) “Thank you, hope to hear from you!â€? You are always interviewing and evaluating, and when a gem catches your eye, even at the grocery store, market, or dive bar, you must have the FRQÂżGHQFHWRWU\DQGVHWXSDQLQWHUYLHZ What is the worst that can happen? They say no, you move on, but you made that person feel special and they may look up your business and have a change of heart or share their positive experience with VRPHRQHHOVH If you are searching for a full-time employee, make it clear by putting “FULL TIME ONLY!â€? on all your hiring VLJQDJH,I\RXDUHORRNLQJIRUDVSHFLÂżF type of personality or skill, utilize \RXUFRPPXQLW\'R\RXQHHGDUWLVWV" Contact local college professors or your DUWVFHQWHU,I\RXQHHGVRPHRQHZKR is great at customer engagement look to your local festival workers, actors or FRPPXQLFDWLRQVWXGHQWV$PRUHPDWXUH presence can be found with the military, OLEUDULDQVRUJUDQGSDUHQWV If you seek a part-time employee, PDNHWKLVFOHDURQWKHVLJQDJH3DUWWLPH VWDIIFDQRIWHQEHIRXQGLQWKHÂżHOGRI education: undergrad/graduate students, WHDFKHUVDQGSDUDV,ZDQWWRHQFRXUDJH caution when interviewing individuals who already have multiple part-time jobs, as your store will likely become not enough of a priority to achieve the level of buy-in that is necessary for your EXVLQHVVWRJURZ College and high school students FDQRIWHQÂżWWKHELOOKRZHYHUEHYHU\ clear of your expectations with regards to \RXUVWRUHQHHGVYVWKHLUH[WUDFXUULFXODU DFWLYLWLHV If you are searching for just seasonal help, as stated previously, PDNHWKLVNQRZQRQ\RXUVLJQDJH

Great seasonal employees usually can be found by word of mouth, and caution should be taken with those who express how “funâ€? they think it will be WRZRUNLQ\RXUVWRUH2XUFXVWRPHUV see our best in the showroom, but often do not experience the challenges in UHWDLO+ROG\RXUVHDVRQDOVWDIIWRWKH same expectations as your full-time in terms of responsibilities, attendance, professionalism, and customer HQJDJHPHQW6HDVRQDOVWDIIVKRXOGEH informed at hiring of the possibility of work continuing if the experience is SRVLWLYHIRUERWKSDUWLHV7KLVHIIHFWLYHO\ blurs the end date, or departure, thus H[WHQGLQJEX\LQ When hiring we inform all staff that they are on a 90-day probationary period, and employment can continue or halt at DQ\SRLQW,IKDQGOHGSURIHVVLRQDOO\WKLV ZLOOUHVXOWLQDOHWWHURIUHIHUHQFH)LQGLQJ quality seasonal help is challenging to say the least, and matching applicant availability/skills to store needs is EHVWGRQHXVLQJDÂżOWHUV\VWHP7KHVH ÂżOWHUVLQFOXGHVRFLDOPHGLDLQWHUYLHZV and optional background checks, but ultimately the paperwork signing is the FRQÂżUPDWLRQRIWHPSRUDU\HPSOR\PHQW  $WWKHHQGRIWKHGD\\RXUVWURQJHVW staff need to be with the customers, and those who struggle with customer engagement must exceed expectations HOVHZKHUH2QFHWKHKROLGD\VHDVRQ LVRYHU\RXFDQORRNDW\RXUPDUNHUV tracked incentive plans, commissions, social media feedback, customer feedback, review history, and perceived value amongst your team and you to determine if employment should FRQWLQXH7KHJRRGQHZVLVQRZ\RX should have an abundance of talent, and if you play your cards well and part amicably you may be able to use them in ASTRA WKHIXWXUH • September 2017


MONEY Matters

Time to Appraise

Your Tech by Jeremy Treister, CMIT Solutions


s you prepare for a big Q4, make sure your information technology is also ready for prime time. We support companies in a wide variety of industries, including the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association. Each industry has its seasons and unique security concerns. Here are several things to consider‌before November.

Update your systems before busy season Are any of your computers slowing you down? Have you put off a migration to a new application? Assume even the simplest upgrade will take twice as long as your IT experts tell you. Why? Because maybe the implementation really does only take “a couple hours,� but it might take you a couple of months to put into operation everything following the upgrade. Get up to speed on your new solutions before you need to depend on them.

Make sure you not only survive, but thrive in a disaster situation It’s all about “business continuity;â€? in other words, having the tools to not only survive, but thrive in a disaster situation. Do you have automated onsite and remote backups? Is somebody monitoring and testing them? Our professional opinion: consumer-oriented backup products are LQVXIÂżFLHQWIRUDEXVLQHVVQRPDWWHUKRZ small. Consider how long it will take to get back up and running after a disaster. Use a secure cloud service to store your mission-critical data, and make it available to key personnel. This can be a major part of your “Plan Bâ€? when you experience a crash. Imagine how you can

14 September 2017 •

have access to all your important data everywhere, anytime.

Get your security in order Even the smallest businesses need a multipronged approach to security. Everything needs to be regularly updated DQGSDWFKHGÂżUHZDOOVZLÂżFRPSXWHUV applications, antivirus, antispyware and email security. Take care of this on your RZQRUÂżQGDWUXVWHGWHFKQRORJ\SDUWQHU

Regarding passwords: Do not share logins within your company. Each person needs their own ID. Many apps now offer an option to enable 2 Factor Authentication (often referred to as “2FA�). 2FA requires a user to enter, in addition to their id and password, a special code that is typically sent via text message or mobile app. Activate 2FA (or have a consultant help you) for every system possible (including your e-mail and social media sites); this is one of the most effective ways to keep your accounts safe.

 ,I\RXSURYLGHZL¿WR\RXUJXHVWV make sure it is separated from your company network and point of sale system. We’ve seen many cases where this important practice is not being followed. Credit card security is also of utmost importance. Do not store customers’ credit card information. Have you upgraded to chip/EMV card readers? Many also include NFC (Apple Pay/Android Pay) functionality. This upgrade reduces your exposure to fraud and can help improve your reputation with customers. Consumers are increasingly aware of these issues. This shows how you are keeping current with tech.

Be conscious and proactive about network security. Not doing so creates serious risks not only to your business, but to your customers as well. Prepare your technology and security for Q4 and worry about one less thing as you head into the ASTRA busy holiday season.

TOY Stories

Scholarship Winners Find

Pot of GOLD

in Philadelphia


hen Jesse Smith and his family drove from Chicago to St. Louis last year, the drive changed

their lives. Using the time to tune in to a podcast – “Cool Things Entrepreneurs Doâ€? by Thom Singer, author, trainer and expert on building business connections – they discovered ASTRA. Whatever you do as an entrepreneur, Singer advised, get involved LQ\RXUÂżHOGÂśVWUDGHDVVRFLDWLRQ7KH podcast featured Michelle Sahr, ASTRA board member and owner of Off the Wagon in Kent, Ohio. Jesse Smith, in the midst of a dramatic career change from family pastor to an independent retail store owner, listened intently. The critical takeaway? In a few short ZHHNV$675$ÂśV0DUNHWSODFH  Academy would take place in Denver. Smith decided to go to check out the business of toy retailing. Though the GHDGOLQHIRU$675$ÂśV7HDP8SSURJUDP KDGSDVVHG6PLWKDVNHG6XH:DUÂżHOG director of member relations, if he could be paired with a veteran retailer at the FRQYHQWLRQ:DUÂżHOGFRQQHFWHGKLPZLWK none other than Michelle Sahr.  Âł0DUNHWSODFH $FDGHP\ZDVOLNH GULQNLQJRXWRIDÂżUHKRVH´KHVDLGÂł,WZDV all right there: the experts, the education, DQGWKHSURGXFWV,FRXOGQÂśWOHDUQIDVW enough.â€? Smith left Denver committed to becoming a toy retailer. He and his wife, Teri, along with co-owners Carin and Mike Janeway, opened Sockmonkey Junction in

16 September 2017 •

0DQVÂżHOG7H[DVLQWKHVXPPHURI Smith was one of seven ASTRA members ZKRZRQVFKRODUVKLSVWR0DUNHWSODFH  Academy in Philadelphia this year, an opportunity made possible by sponsors PartnerShip and Mindware. And who should be the opening speaker and emcee for the whole convention? None other than Thom Singer, WKHH[SHUWLQWKHSRGFDVWWKDWKDGÂżUVWOHG him to ASTRA and a career in toys. “That advice (to join a trade association) is totally on target, and I might QRWKDYHWKRXJKWRILWLI,KDGQÂśWKHDUGWKH podcast,â€? Smith said. “ASTRA has made a difference in so many ways.â€?

Scholarships Make M&A Possible The other scholarship recipients WKLV\HDUZHUH.DW\+LPHVRI.D\-R\ÂśV Doll Shoppe in Ocean City, New Jersey; Grayce McLaughlin of Touch of Grace in Geneseo, New York; Dana Chavez of Wonder Emporium in La Habra, California; Karen Barwick of Boomerang Toys in New <RUN&LW\)ORUHQFH$OOHQRI:LOOLDPÂśV Fun, Smart Toys in Macon, Georgia; and Jackie Anderson of Playthings A Plenty in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Sharing Passion for Great Toys Chavez had always wanted to attend 0DUNHWSODFH $FDGHP\EXWZLWKDIDLUO\ new store had never had the capital to get there. This year Wonder Emporium changed locations and was closed for

almost six weeks, making a tight ship even tighter. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I loved the workshops I went to, especially the one given by Katherine McHenry, (Low Cost Marketing Strategies: +RZWR0DNH0RUH0RQH\ .HHS,W  I feel like there was a lot of information in her workshop that I can take away and apply to my own business,â&#x20AC;? Chavez said. She was a little nervous about going by herself and not knowing many people, â&#x20AC;&#x153;but going to the show and being around all the people who share the same passion I do for great toys was a great experience. I made some new friends, too! I learned a lot and IRXQGVRPHIXQQHZSURGXFWV,ZRXOGQÂśW have seen locally.â&#x20AC;? Her husband, Luis, took vacation from his job to cover the store, and their \HDUROGWZLQVKHOSHGWRRÂł,ÂśYHDOUHDG\ started putting money aside for next year in Louisiana,â&#x20AC;? she said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;but next year I am going to take the whole family.â&#x20AC;?

â&#x20AC;&#x153;Trade Show Onlyâ&#x20AC;? Plans Expand Katy Himes had planned to attend the trade show only; with sales down last year, VKHFRXOGQÂśWVSHQGWKHPRQH\WRPDNH a full trip of it. When she got the email VD\LQJVKHÂśGZRQVKHZDVĂ&#x20AC;RRUHG she said.  .D\-D\ÂśV'ROO6KRSSHVHOOVXQLTXH dolls, toys and games. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We have an oldschool mentality in our store. No batteries, no iPads, no cell phones. Play with your friends and family, get together, get outside

Playthings A Plenty Playthings A Plenty in Spartanburg, South Carolina

and enjoy lifeâ&#x20AC;Śunplugged!â&#x20AC;? She found many new vendors and made lots of friends, she reported. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I found the social advertising class very informative. We are already stepping up our presence.â&#x20AC;? Karen Barwick and her manager attended Marketplace & Academy in 2016 and gained a lot from the seminars. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We also really liked the vibe of the show as opposed to Toy Fair in New York City, which can be overwhelming.â&#x20AC;? But they were transitioning from three stores to one due to rent issues and revenue lost to online shopping, so this year they planned to just drive down for one day of the trade show, knowing it would not be enough. Then she saw the email for the scholarship. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t even know ASTRA offered one, but then again I feel like I am always pleasantly surprised by all the things I discover along the way that ASTRA offers its members.â&#x20AC;? She considers Boomerang a small town store in a big city. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Being located in Manhattan is so great,â&#x20AC;? she said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;While we are in a big city, and get customers each and every day visiting from countries all over the world, and celebrities both big and small, we have great neighborhood loyalty and know so many of our customers by name.â&#x20AC;? A strong community supporter, over 15 years in business Barwick has watched kids grow from Play-Doh to college. â&#x20AC;&#x153;This year at the show we made strong connections with some of the vendors,â&#x20AC;? she said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;As a retailer it is really great to have that connection and to listen to their concerns and have them

listen to ours.â&#x20AC;? Even if itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a stretch to the budget, Barwick recommends attending the show. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Making connections, talking to manufacturers, reps and fellow business owners in a small, intimate setting is so EHQHÂżFLDODQGSURYLGHVVRPXFKLQVLJKW´VKHVDLGÂł1RWWRPHQWLRQ great show specials!â&#x20AC;?

Fresh Perspective Gained Located in a college town, Grace McLaughlinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Touch of Grayce is known for its curated collection, friendly and helpful associates, and diverse mix of product in what was originally a Ben Franklin store.  %XWDÂżUHRQ-XO\JXWWHGKHUQHLJKERUÂśVEXLOGLQJDQG left her store with much smoke and water damage. She lost 60 percent of her merchandise and was closed for nine weeks while cleaning and repainting, missing the summer tourist season.  Âł:KLOHWKHVWRUHJRWDUHIUHVKLWZDVGLIÂżFXOWWRUHFRXSRXU losses,â&#x20AC;? she said. She missed two Toy Fairs and â&#x20AC;&#x153;I felt disconnected to our mission.â&#x20AC;? Though an ASTRA member for 10 years, the scholarship PDGHLWSRVVLEOHIRUKHUWRDWWHQGWKHFRQYHQWLRQIRUWKHÂżUVWWLPH â&#x20AC;&#x153;It was exactly what we needed to open up a fresh perspective, for not only products but ways to engage and promote and reconnect with our community. We already are seeing the return in bringing in new lines.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;˘ September 2017




Karen Barwick (left), Boomerang Below: Boomerang Toys in New York City is a neighborhood hub.

Boomerang Toys 18 September 2017 â&#x20AC;˘

TIPS From a Newbie Jesse Smith highlights several important things he has learned with the help of connections he has made through ASTRA.

Smith said he tends to approach his work in an analytical way, “and my biggest stress has come from not yet knowing the toy business inside and out. ASTRA has provided an emotional safety net that gave us friends to whom we could turn for encouragement on the bad days.” “ASTRA connections have been mighty helpful,” Smith said, “and it’s a mighty organization, given all it accomplishes for a small association. It’s fair to say that with ASTRA’s help, I have felt personally mighty on average about every other day since we launched. I’d say ASTRA WKDW¶VQRWEDGIRURXU¿UVW\HDU´

It’s okay to ask for help. Smith’s previous career was in a helping profession, so he was not used to turning to others for help. “Whether I need to learn how to sell a SDUWLFXODUSURGXFWRUEHWWHUXQGHUVWDQGZKDWP\¿QDQFLDOVDUHWHOOLQJPHRUJHWIUHH samples for an event, I’ve had to get comfortable reaching out and asking,” he said. Don’t take things personally. “ASTRA helped me learn more about customer behavior and understand that everyone has a buying personality. My products and my consumer preferences may or may not match with any given customer who walks in the door. My role is to help customers learn what we have, and no worries LIRXUW\SHRIWR\DQGSULFHSRLQWGRHVQ¶W¿WWKHLUSULRULWLHV´

Avoid running yourself ragged. Events are a big part of Sockmonkey Junction’s business strategy for getting customers in the door. “There are so many ideas out there for events. One thing we have had to learn is to pace ourselves. We can’t do it DOOLQWKH¿UVW\HDU´

Grayce McLaughlin’s Touch of Grayce is an eclectic mix of toys and gifts that appeal to her college community in Geneseo, New York.

Touch of Grayce • September 2017



ASTRAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Ecosystem Poised to Adapt to the

Digital Age ecâ&#x20AC;˘oâ&#x20AC;˘sysâ&#x20AC;˘tem ÂťĘ&#x2022;SĘ˝[Q[\Ě&#x2039;U 1. a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment. 2. a complex network or interconnected system.


STRAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ecosystem of manufacturers, sales representatives and retailers, who have intertwined in the toy garden for decades, met in May to discuss the newest vine spreading throughout the industry: the online world. Is it a rose or a thorn? Representatives of ASTRAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s three main membership segments gathered in Minneapolis to explore the forces driving online decisions, as well as their impact on the toy industry, and consider how we can best move forward and maintain a healthy ecosystem for all. Facilitating this garden of thought was Roger Bildsten, former CEO of Manhattan Toy and International Playthings, who

20 September 2017 â&#x20AC;˘

posed the same set of questions for each roundtable group. Though they met separately, each groupâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s path of discussion intersected in four important themes: 1. Their outlook on the future, in spite of and because of the rapidly expanding online world, is generally positive. 2. They feel that communication between manufacturers, sales representatives, and retailers is fragmented and needs improvement because â&#x20AC;&#x153;weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re all in this together.â&#x20AC;? 3. Each group came to the conclusion WKDWWHUULÂżFUHWDLOHQYLURQPHQWVDUH critical to success in the modern digital environment. 4. These companies hope that ASTRA can play a leadership role in addressing the urgency of, and tools for, adapting in the digital age. In his report to the ASTRA Board of Directors, â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Next Disruptions: Understanding Online Impacts Within Our Industry,â&#x20AC;? Bilden said that after starting with some doom and gloom UHĂ&#x20AC;HFWLRQDERXWRQOLQHFKDOOHQJHV each group quickly moved to a positive outlook about the industryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s future in our increasingly online world. All agreed that consumer buying

habits are changing, people are glued to their phones, consumers look for expertise online, and retailers who use social media do better than those who donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t. And change is happening at lightning speed. Each group had its own concerns. Retailers complained that manufacturers are chasing business directly, selling online below MAPP, and looking to a future beyond bricks and mortar, Bilden reported. Manufacturers said retailers donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t believe their explanations, some pop up online as rogue sellers, and too many donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t take advantage of available tools such as product videos. Sales representatives said they have to defend themselves to everybody; manufacturers just want orders, and retailers ask why manufacturers are selling online at lower prices unbeknownst to the sales representatives. On the other hand, each group found social media to be an effective, SRZHUIXODQGHIÂżFLHQWWRROWRUHDFK consumers online, and THE way to reach millennials. Consumers track product review sites, so good online reviews grow business. Each group emphasized a weakness

in communication between retailers, sales representatives, and manufacturers DQGKLJKOLJKWHGWKHQHHGWRÂżQGZD\VWR LPSURYHFRQQHFWLRQVWRKHOSHYHU\RQH compete as the online world makes its impact, Bilden reported. And each emphasized the importance of vibrant bricks and mortar retail experiences as a critical component of success for the $675$FRPPXQLW\LQWKHGLJLWDODJH  Âł,WLVQRWHZRUWK\WKDWWKH manufacturersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; session participants emphasized their belief in bricks and mortar retailers as a cornerstone of their future,â&#x20AC;? Bilden said. Participants viewed the role of ASTRA as crucial in helping member companies compete in the digital age E\LGHQWLI\LQJDQGHGXFDWLQJDERXW digital tools; facilitating communication ZLWKLQWKHVSHFLDOW\WR\HFRV\VWHPDQG IRUWLI\LQJSURJUDPVWRKHOSEULFNVDQG mortar retailers excel. ASTRAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Board of Directors UHVSRQGHGWRWKHVXPPDU\RIWKH URXQGWDEOHVE\YRWLQJWRIRUPWZR councils: one for communication and one for innovation. The Innovation Council will be the gathering spot for great ideas, including tools for online success and ideas that lead to the success of bricks and mortar stores. The Communication Council will focus on improving dialogue and mutual understanding between all membership segments. It will establish a forum for retailers, manufacturers and reps to HQFRXUDJHFROODERUDWLRQHPSDWK\DQG interdependence. Far from withering because giant online retailers are sucking up all the UHVRXUFHV$675$ÂśVHFRV\VWHPRIWR\ LQGXVWU\SURIHVVLRQDOVLVUHDG\WRJURZ through communication and innovation and reap the rewards.  0DQ\WKDQNVWRHYHU\RQHZKR participated in the roundtable discussions. Sales Representatives:%HWV\+DUQH\ 6XJDU%6DOHV:DVKLQJWRQ5\DQ Pederson, Rocket Reps, Illinois; Seth Kulics, Kulics Sales and Marketing, Minnesota; Nicole Bortnick, BGN



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Back to School

...And School Purchasing


teve Nordhusâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; team at ABC & Toy Zone in the Minnesota area makes a point of visiting schools once a year â&#x20AC;&#x201C; or sometimes as many as once a quarter. Doing business with local schools is all about relationships, he says.  $WHDFKVFKRROKH¿QGVRXWZKRLVLQ charge of doing the order â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the person is different at each school. It might be a teacher, the secretary, the principal or a purchasing RI¿FHU$OLWWOHJLIWIRUWKHVHFUHWDU\KHOSV ABC & Toy Zone to be remembered. The start of the school year is a good time to think about making those relationships in your community. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not just WKHORFDOWR\VWRUHWKDWZLOOEHQH¿WWKRXJK 1RUGKXV¿JXUHVDERXWSHUFHQWRIKLVVDOHV are to schools. Keeping money in the local HFRQRP\EHQH¿WVWKHYHU\VFKRROV\RXKRSH will buy from you. Sometimes that idea comes as a surprise to local policymakers. The Institute for Local Self Reliance wrote in April about Hamilton, Montana, where local business owners ZRQGHUHGLIWKHLUFRXQW\RI¿FLDOVZHUHEX\LQJ from Amazon for any county purchases. They pooled money for the records fee and discovered their small county had purchased LQVXSSOLHVIURP$PD]RQLQVWHDGRI

22 September 2017 â&#x20AC;¢

ORFDOEXVLQHVVHV,QWKHORFDOERRNVWRUH DORQHKDGJLYHQLQGLVFRXQWVDQG donations to organizations in the county, including three school districts. The business owners met with the Ravalli county commissioners, who realized their lack of a local purchasing policy had resulted in a slow trickle to Amazon, which has no presence in Montana. The commissioners directed the business owners to meet with county purchasers once they UHDOL]HGWKHEHQH¿WVRINHHSLQJWKHFRXQW\¶V money local. According to the ILSR report, U.S. Communities, a purchasing cooperative that QHJRWLDWHVRI¿FHDQGVFKRROVXSSO\FRQWUDFWV IRUPRUHWKDQSXEOLFDJHQFLHVDFURVV the country, announced in February that it had awarded Amazon Business a multiyear FRQWUDFWIRUGLIIHUHQWSURGXFWFDWHJRULHV LQFOXGLQJRI¿FHFODVVURRPDQGDUWVXSSOLHV Public agencies, including school boards, have been deciding whether to join in the contract, which U.S. Communities estimated WREHZRUWKPLOOLRQSHU\HDU An investigation by several state attorneys general found that former U.S. Communities contracts resulted in governments being overcharged.

â&#x20AC;&#x153;To compete with Amazon, do research on pricing, and be willing to cut your price WRPDNHWKDW¿UVWLPSUHVVLRQ´1RUGKXV recommends. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Be willing to make 15 SHUFHQWRQ\RXUFRVW´ He suggests going to the local school board meeting and thanking them for their support and trying to keep dollars in the community. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I feel applying pressure on the fact of taxes staying here is a great thing for DOO´KHVDLG³<RXZRXOGQRWEHOLHYHLQD WRZQRI.KRZPDQ\RQWKHERDUGGRQ¶W NQRZ,DPHYHQKHUH´ With stores in Burnsville, Chanhassen and Rochester, Minnesota, Nordhus handles purchase orders from more than 15 different districts. But it isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t easy to get in the door. â&#x20AC;&#x153;No matter if you have a connection or not, it all comes down to the almighty lowest, ORZHVWELG´KHVDLG â&#x20AC;&#x153;Going after private schools is probably \RXUEHVWEHW´ ASTRA Local Governments Are Increasingly Buying from Amazon. Hereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Why They Need to Olivia LaVecchia, April 4, 2017 (





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Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the Next New


.LFNVWDUWHUFDPSDLJQVWKDWKDYHDPDVVHGD IROORZLQJ´ â&#x20AC;&#x153;Talk with other ASTRA members and your customers, and read industry PDJD]LQHV:KHQ\RXQRWLFHLWRQFH\RX will notice it everywhere,â&#x20AC;? Osborne said.  $QRWKHUSODFHWRZDWFKIRUWUHQGV HVSHFLDOO\LQWHUPVRIWR\VLVFDUWRRQ VKRZV*XIIH\VDLGÂł(QFRXUDJH\RXUVWDII to watch current childrenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s shows. This will VKRZZKDWLVSRSXODULQWHUPVRIOLFHQVHG characters, but will also show commercials DQGLQIRPHUFLDOVIRUZKDWWKHSURMHFWHGKRW toys will be.â&#x20AC;? Make sure that you are on the â&#x20AC;&#x153;bubbleâ&#x20AC;? ZKHQLWFRPHVWRNHHSLQJWUHQGLWHPVLQ stock, Guffey said. This means that once \RXÂśYHKHDUGDERXWWKHWUHQGEULQJLQ a small quantity to see if it has reached \RXUPDUNHW2QFH\RXDUHJHWWLQJVHYHUDO requests you want to make sure you are

keeping at least two to three weeksâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; worth of stocked product and are ordering more frequently. â&#x20AC;&#x153;This may seem crazy, but once the trend drops off you do not want to be stuck with a ton of product that no one wants to buy anymore. By watching the trend and only ordering a couple weeksâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; worth of stock you are able to keep trends in stock but will not be overwhelmed with product. If headed into the holiday season you will want to buy at least 25-50 percent more of the item to make sure you are fully stocked.â&#x20AC;? Osborne agrees. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Jump on (trends) by taking a risk. Start small, then increase your orders (develop great relationships with vendors of trend items), track them (so you know when to stop ordering and possibly run a great sale), and take advantage of the inability of the big box to provide these products quickly. Independent toy stores are more agile than big box stores or Amazon. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Make YOUR store the (whatever the trend) headquarters, and post a sign hanging from your awning or on an easel outside to attract attention. Trends bring â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;the buzzâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; to your store, as well as extra customers and extra dollars. They add the excitement factor WRDQRUPDOGD\&KLOGUHQZDQWLPPHGLDWHJUDWLÂżFDWLRQDQGWUHQGV make that happen.â&#x20AC;?

Here are some tips, gathered from successful trend spotters, for getting in and out of a trend. Listen to parents, both in your store and at other stores, school events, and anywhere parents gather and talk. What are their kids doing that drives them nuts? It could be an upcoming trend ERWWOHĂ&#x20AC;LSSLQJ RUDQHHGIRUVRPHWKLQJWRFKDQQHOWKHLUHQHUJ\ WKH\DUHDOZD\VÂżGJHWLQJ )LQGSURGXFWVWKDWÂżOOWKHQHHGV Watch kids â&#x20AC;&#x201C; on playgrounds, at stores, on the street, anywhere. What are they doing? What are they talking about? What catches their eye? What video game are they playing (yes, some of the trends can come from what is most intriguing about a video game â&#x20AC;&#x201C; think PokĂŠmon Go and hidden rocks). Go with your instincts. Whether youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve been in this business for many years or just a few, you chose this world of toys for a reason. You get a feel for something and you are usually right. Listen to your instincts, give a new product a try and when it works, run with it. Is the trend slowing? Monitor sales daily on fast moving trends. Note the number of calls you get asking if you have the hot product. Are they slowing down? Note the number you sell in a day or week. As that consistently lowers, watch your inventory. Is the product suddenly everywhere? Buy more cautiously.

,QWKHHQGWRJHWWKHEHQHÂżWVRIDWUHQG\RXKDYHWRWDNHDIHZ risks. As Jimmy Carter once said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Go out on a limb. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s where ASTRA the fruit is.â&#x20AC;?

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Plan Ahead for Neighborhood


eighborhood Toy Store Day, ASTRAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s signature event for retailers to kick off the holiday season, got a lot of attention at Marketplace & Academy in June. It was hard to miss; a mock retail store ZDVVHWXSRQWKH0DUNHWSODFHĂ&#x20AC;RRUZKHUH retailers could get ideas for planning a celebration geared to their own community and retail space.  7KHÂłVWRUH´ZDVÂżOOHGZLWKLGHDVDQGD preview of the NTSD offers from sponsors Ann Williams, Blue Orange Games, Crazy Aaronâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Puttyworld, Green Toys, HABA USA, MindWare Wholesale, Neat-Oh! International, Orb Toys and Thames & Kosmos. At the end of the tour, retailers could

26 September 2017 â&#x20AC;˘

pledge to participate, and more than 200 GLG7KHÂżUVWWRSOHGJHUHFHLYHGDVZDJ bag of goodies. Everyone who took the SOHGJHE\$XJXVWZLOOUHFHLYHDSDFNHWRI all the resources they need to have the most successful NTSD possible. Resources include ready-made marketing tools â&#x20AC;&#x201C; suggested social media posts, graphics and a press release â&#x20AC;&#x201C; to help stores let their communities know that their neighborhood toy store is the place to be 1RYHPEHU$675$ZLOOSURPRWHVWRUHV on its Neighborhood Toy Store Day site,, which will be shared in all marketing and press releases. And those who pledge get access to all the specials and support manufacturers have offered for the event.

Why do it? During an Academy session about NTSD, presenter Amy Saldanha of kiddywampus in Hopkins, Minnesota, was surprised that the whole room was on board with why we do it. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It captures the spirit and essence of our storesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; experience, and showcases us in our best place,â&#x20AC;? she said. Cassandra Forcier of Building Blocks in Chicago offered these reasons: Wow customers, have giveaways, donate to charity, celebrate your community, and spread messages of shopping local and the joy of play. Another â&#x20AC;&#x153;whyâ&#x20AC;? is increased sales. Last year 72 percent of participating retailers saw sales increase anywhere from 5 percent to as much as 400 percent.

How to do it? It was the â&#x20AC;&#x153;whatâ&#x20AC;? and â&#x20AC;&#x153;howâ&#x20AC;? that captured most of the discussion in the session. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Get excited and share your excitement with your staff,â&#x20AC;? Forcier said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;What entices your customers? A giveaway, a discount, fun things to do with the kids? Get postcards to hand out, use social media to promote, and use Eventbrite to create tickets. See if small VWRUHVDURXQG\RXZDQWWRDGGWRDJRRG\EDJRUUDIĂ&#x20AC;HSURYLGH snacks or coffee, or get a face painter. You can save a lot of money by using whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s around you.â&#x20AC;? The other panelist, Rob Pickering of Snapdoodle Toys near Seattle, Washington, focused his advice on how to make stores experiential, unique and relational to help show the value of local independents vs. the online world and big box stores. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We provide cookies or some sort of treat on that day, and we all utilize reps like crazy. We also really rely on the manufacturers who have been amazing about getting us play day kits.â&#x20AC;? He was shocked to hear of the low percentage of stores that take advantage of the program. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We use it to release the Best Toys For Kids list, to get people thinking about local and the holidays at our stores. This event is all about giving back to the community.â&#x20AC;? Pickering commented that every store, regardless of size, needs a physical space to demo toys and games. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It sounds kind of obvious, but I have never heard it framed that way,â&#x20AC;? Forcier said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;People were talking about their smaller stores and how thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s no room to â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;create an experienceâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; and he asserted it was like tablestakes â&#x20AC;&#x201C; it just needed to happen now given the competitive landscape.â&#x20AC;? Visit the Neighborhood Toy Store Day website to download online resources including manufacturer offers and specials, marketing themes, press release templates, event planning ideas and ASTRA more: â&#x20AC;˘ September 2017



ASTRA Excellence Award –

Manufacturer HABA accepts the award from ASTRA Board Member Tami Murphy (second from right)


ABA USA’s long-standing commitment to ASTRA and independent toy stores all across the country led to the company’s selection as the recipient of the ASTRA Manufacturer Excellence Award. “HABA is always an active participant in ASTRA,” said nominator Ann Kienzle. President Lea Culliton

has served on the board and several committees and is always willing to participate when asked. Peter Reynolds, national sales manager, is a founding member and the ¿UVWUHFLSLHQWRIWKH/LIHWLPH$FKLHYHPHQW Award. Sales Manager Damien Crocker currently sits on the board and Ashley Ware, sales and marketing coordinator, is

an active participant and supporter of the organization and the industry. “They have long been supporters of this industry with deals and product that is suited to making our stores unique,” Kienzle said. “They work hard to provide specials, samples, and support that helps us remain relevant and on top of our ASTRA game!”

ASTRA Excellence Award –

Retailer Susan Blanton and Erin Blanton accept the award from ASTRA Board Member Michelle Sahr (right)


nn Kienzle, owner of *play in Chicago, nominated Pufferbellies for the ASTRA Retailer Excellence Award for a number of reasons. “The biggest is that they are what I’d love *play to be when we ‘grow up,’” she said. Pufferbellies is run by mother/daughter team Susan and Erin Blanton. Located in Staunton, Virginia, a picturesque small town that looks

28 September 2017 •

straight out of a magazine, the store hosts community events including story times and a city-wide Harry Potter Party, and were essentially the creators of crafternoon. They have a loyal following and always have great interactions with their customers. Their innovative social media marketing helps in this and is widely recognized among experts in the field. The Pufferbellies team is never

afraid to try new things and always on the lookout for unique, cool new products for their loyal customers. Their windows are notorious in their city and in the toy industry, and bring back the Macy’s windows of a different time. “Their store is magical,” Kienzle said. “They really are the BEST of what ASTRA has to offer.” ASTRA

ASTRA Excellence Award â&#x20AC;&#x201C;

Sales Representative Kim Leakas, left, with ASTRA Board Member Christine Blumberg


erving all of New Jersey with 24â&#x20AC;˘7 Sales, Kim Leakas was nominated by retailers, manufacturers and her groupâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s principal. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Kim goes above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to servicing her customers and learning the product and takes the extra steps necessary to learn about all of the product she sells,â&#x20AC;? commented 24â&#x20AC;˘7â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Noel Weintraub. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We

constantly hear from all of her accounts how she is far and away the best rep that they work with.â&#x20AC;? One of those accounts, Margaret Spicer of Distinctive Toys in Fair Haven, New Jersey, said that after the birth of her granddaughter, Kim brought her several hand-me-downs that little Ellie was still using almost a year later. â&#x20AC;&#x153;If she is visiting and we are busy she steps in and helps.

wrapping, smiling at the customers and always patiently waiting for us to get back to ordering. Kim answers email very TXLFNO\DQGHIÂżFLHQWO\.LPKDVDJUHDW attitude, always smiling and cheerful. She ASTRA is a delight to work with!â&#x20AC;?

Young Professional

Rising Star A

new industry award this year recognizes an individual under ZKRKDVPDGHDVLJQLÂżFDQW contribution to the specialty toy world. Elizabeth â&#x20AC;&#x153;Schnookieâ&#x20AC;? Royall was the ÂżUVWUHFLSLHQWRIWKH$675$5LVLQJ6WDU award. Starting 15 years ago as a gift wrapper at Wonder Works Toy Stores in Charleston, South Carolina, she worked her way up to corporate buyer and COO. She recently switched roles, joining Toy Travelers as a sales rep covering Georgia and South Carolina.  (OL]DEHWKKDVEHHQLQYROYHGLQ$675$DGYLVRU\JURXSVDV

well as several toy vendor advisory groups. â&#x20AC;&#x153;She has an uncanny ability to spot a trend and capitalize on it, as well as provide targeted guidance to retailers, vendors, and reps to increase their return on investment,â&#x20AC;? said Christine Osborne, her former boss at Wonder Works. â&#x20AC;&#x153;She always looks to the future and has a positive, sunny outlook on the specialty toy industry.â&#x20AC;? Nominator Doug Cass of Kahootz Toys added, â&#x20AC;&#x153;She is full of energy and at a very young age has tremendous experience to know how to run a toy store and to interact with vendors and reps, and work with customers. She is a pleasure to be around, and infectious with her ASTRA energy!â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;˘ September 2017



Lifetime Achievement Award Goes to Geppettoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Owner

Brian Miller Brian Miller accepts the award from ASTRA Chair Erik Quam



n 25 years, Brian Millerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s toy career has grown from 300 square feet to nine stores. But the countless relationships heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s formed over the decades are the professional achievement heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s proudest of, he told ASTRA members at the annual business meeting in Philadelphia. His ASTRA colleagues honored him there with the Lifetime Achievement Award. The son of two independent retailers, he got his start in toys when his father suddenly died and he stepped in to help his mother run her tiny toy store at San Diegoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s storied Hotel Del Coronado. He doubled sales in six months. When a struggling neighborhood toy store, Geppettoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s, A Childâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Fantasy, came up for sale, Miller bought it. Today, he heads one of the largest locally owned regional toy store chains in the United States. On average, heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s opened a new location every couple of years. He focuses on choosing prime locations for Geppettoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s and sticking to a consistent formula. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We look at every aspect of the business from top to ERWWRPOHDVHDJUHHPHQWVKLULQJVWDIÂżQJSURGXFWDVVRUWPHQW merchandising, inventory turns â&#x20AC;&#x201C; everything,â&#x20AC;? he said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;If there LVVRPHWKLQJZHFDQFKDQJHWRLQFUHDVHSURÂżWVZHWU\LW´ What are the biggest changes he has seen in the specialty toy industry? â&#x20AC;&#x153;The pace of business,â&#x20AC;? he said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Today, everything happens at lightning speed. We are barraged with emails about new products. Manufacturers no longer wait for catalogs to present their toys. The big challenge is about managing change, keeping an open mind, and staying relevant

30 September 2017 â&#x20AC;˘





7ROO)UHHČ?7ROO)UHH)D[ RUGHUV#RUEWR\VFRPČ? â&#x20AC;˘ September 2017



On the



amien Crocker has joined HABA USA as a new sales manager, bringing with him more than 10 years of toy sales experience. He comes to HABA from ORB, where he most recently served as its national sales manager. He also serves on ASTRAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s board of directors. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We are very pleased to have Damien Crocker join the HABA USA team, as he truly understands the needs of the specialty retailer, a market we are 100 percent focused upon,â&#x20AC;? HABA USA President Lea Culliton said in a news release. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Damienâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s experience, relationships and well-respected reputation in the specialty industry are invaluable.â&#x20AC;? Katie Marso has joined Hotaling Imports, Inc. as a Marketing & Sales Support staff. She comes to Hotaling from ASTRA, where she became familiar with their products and the lines offered. Combining her passion for the toy industry and marketing, in her new role she works to promote Hotaling Imports, Inc.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s products and assists sales representatives with

anything they need. She is thrilled to be a part of the toy team again! Elizabeth â&#x20AC;&#x153;Schnookieâ&#x20AC;? Royall has joined Toy Travelers as a sales representative. For the past 15 years she has worked for Wonder Works in Charleston, South Carolina, starting as a gift wrapper and working her way up to corporate buyer and COO. Sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s one of six sales reps with Toy Travelers, covering Georgia and South Carolina. The company is headquartered in High Point, North Carolina. Wilfried G. Demisch, owner and president of TMI Toymarketing Intl., Inc., in San Diego, CA, has retired from business and closed the company he founded in 1984. TMI has been importing and distributing the Gymnic Line by Ledraplastic S.p.A. Osoppo, Italy to the Specialty Toy Trade in the United States for more than 32 years. KETTLERÂŽ International, Inc. in Virginia Beach, Virginia, took over Aug. 1 as their new exclusive U.S. distributor.

Sales Rep â&#x20AC;&#x201C;

Professional Development


ROORZLQJWKH&HUWLÂżHG0DVWHU5HWDLOHUDQG&HUWLÂżHG3OD\ ASTRA will be offering this sneak peek to a limited number ([SHUWFHUWLÂżFDWLRQSURJUDPV$675$LVH[FLWHGWRDQQRXQFH of sales representatives. Mark your calendar and keep an eye out WKHODXQFKRIWKH&HUWLÂżHG0DVWHU6DOHV5HSUHVHQWDWLYH for additional information in an upcoming ASTRA Digest. &065 SURJUDP$VZHÂżQDOL]HWKHPRGXOHVIRUWKLVSURJUDP we are pleased to share a sneak peek of the program in a fun, Tuesday, December 12 interactive workshop during the week of the December sales rep 6:00 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 8:30 p.m meetings in Las Vegas. Food and beverage will be provided.

32 September 2017 â&#x20AC;˘

There’s No Other City Like New York and No Other Show Like Toy Fair!

• More than 1,000 exhibitors • 150,000+ products including 7,000 world debuts • 4 days, 1 location – in the heart of New York City

Saturday–Tuesday, February 17–20, 2018


25th Convention Proves

ASTRA is ASTRA celebrated its 25th anniversary in the City of Brotherly Love, where a new sort of declaration of independents – “Mighty Together” – united the specialty toy world.

34 September 2017 •

Marketplace & Academy:



testers. ght their own toy Some stores brou

By the Numbers 1,345

attendees increasing their business knowledge during ASTRA Academy sessions


graduates recognized at the Annual Business Meeting (From the period of January 1, 2016 to March 1, 2017 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 43 CertiďŹ ed Play Expert, 13 CertiďŹ ed Master Retailer, 6 dual graduates)

3,200 1,000 500

badge holders handed out tote bags ďŹ lled with sponsor goodies

scoops of Bassetâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Ice Cream enjoyed at the Opening Block Party


boxed lunches eaten on the trade

show ďŹ&#x201A;oor


gallons of water consumed at the water coolers

Trying toys is a bi g beneďŹ t of the tra de show ďŹ&#x201A;oor. â&#x20AC;˘ September 2017



Everest to ASTRA. Jamie Clarke, from


Listening and learning.

w friendship. Anne Kienzle rene d an y sk in ob ar Steve St

36 September 2017 â&#x20AC;¢

Bill Jensen makes a mermaid . â&#x20AC;˘ September 2017


Welcomes Its Newest Manufacturer Members

Bevy and Dave Ashburn, VA Bevy and Dave is a history and leadership toy company devoted to engaging students in learning history and self-leadership skills in fun and creative ways. Bevy and Dave products are purposely made to inspire, educate and motivate children to reach their full potential through the power of play.

Chickapig Charlottesville, VA $QH[FLWLQJIXQÂżOOHGVWUDWHJLFERDUG game where chickenâ&#x20AC;&#x201C;pig hybrids attempt to reach their goals while dodging opponents, hay bales, and an ever-menacing pooping cow. Chickapig breeder and game creator Brian Calhoun joins forces with his farming buddy Dave Matthews to bring this game from the farm to table.

Enjoy Wooden Toys, LLC Chester, NH I started creating wooden toys while visiting Arizona for several winters. I donated the toys to Phoenix Childrenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Hospital and Cardon Childrenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Hospital in Mesa, AZ. and they were well received. Once I returned to New Hampshire, I was encouraged by family and friends to start a business, Enjoy Wooden Toys LLC. was born.

Bottle-Bullseye Buffalo, NY Bottle-Bullseye is an indoor/outdoor JDPHZKHUHWZRRUPRUHSOD\HUVĂ&#x20AC;LS bottles and land them on a sound-andshock-absorbing target for points until a player scores 21 points to win the game. Can be learned quickly, played by anyone almost anywhere, involves real hand-eye coordination, strategic thinking and social media interaction with free scoring app. All games pieces made in USA.

Can You Solve Me, LLC Bethesda, MD Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re a puzzle company with a new twist on an old idea. Our tangrams may look easyâ&#x20AC;Śuntil you try one. They are ÂżHQGLVKO\GLIÂżFXOWDGGLFWLQJDQGDUH enjoyed by children, adults and even the most experienced puzzle solvers.

38 September 2017 â&#x20AC;˘

Czech Games Edition Madison, WI The two rival spymasters know the secret identities of 25 agents. Their teammates know the agents only by their CODENAMES. The teams compete to see ZKRFDQFRQWDFWDOORIWKHLUDJHQWVÂżUVW Spymasters give one-word clues that can point to multiple words on the board.

E-Blox Inc Buffalo Grove, IL E-BloxÂŽ is an emerging leader in educational electronic toys that engage children to Learn by Building.â&#x201E;˘ Launched in 2016 by Art Seymour and his sons James and Joseph, with 90+ years of combined experience in the educational toys industry, E-BloxÂŽ toys are designed to stimulate a childâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s imagination and creativity.

Game Night In A Can Los Angeles, CA *1,$&LVOLNHFURVVÂżWIRU\RXU imagination, with less grunting and more laughing! You could be drawing futuristic cats, creating new animal species for Noahâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Ark, making commercials, folding paper airplanes, or even developing a business idea in 8 minutes. 30 different games of creativity and physical dexterity!

Genius Games St Louis, MO Genius Games is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) focused publishing company that creates science themed table-top games and childrenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s books for both the classroom and playroom! Our aim is to demystify intimidating concepts in the sciences and engage people of all ages in a lifelong process of inquiry through play.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls Venice, CA Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls is a collection of illustrated stories that celebrate extraordinary women. Real women of the past and present who have achieved incredible results, despite all odds. Painters, scientists, dancers, chefs, astronauts, jazz singers, pharaohs, boxers, writers, political leadersâ&#x20AC;Ś from every corner of the globe!

JAZ-E House Games, Inc Knoxville, TN Success is a game that can be played by 2 to 8 players ages 8 and up. The object RIWKHJDPHWREHFRPHWKHÂżUVWSOD\HU to accomplish their 8 successes on their combination card. This game teaches that everyoneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s success is viewed differently and no one has the same path to reach their success. Success is a great game for all ages that involves chance and strategy. The game also teaches about real life VLWXDWLRQVDQGSHUVRQDOÂżQDQFHDQGJLYHV an introduction about investments, travel and more.

JFL Enterprises, Inc. Cleveland, OH www.jďŹ&#x201A; JFL was founded as a retail chain in 1989. We are committed to becoming an industry leader in novelty gift and toy segments by bringing you new and innovative products, while delivering them with impeccable service. We are the company for items geared at putting a smile on your face!

(continued on page 40)

Marble Run The Hubelino marble run offers unmatched gaming adventures and loads of fun. From simple structures to complex runs infinite variations can be built. A particular advantage of the connecting system is that nothing can slip or tip over and the marble always rolls to the ultimate goal. The little builders deal with gravity and acceleration in a playful way and sharpen their fine motor skills and logical thinking.

Made in Germany


Educationally valuable m Huge fun for children fro r the age of fou other 100% compatible with s toy ck bri g kin interloc plements Wide range of sets + sup â&#x20AC;˘ September 2017


New Manufacturer Members

Know Yourself Oakland, CA Know Yourselfâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s products teach kids about their own anatomy and physiology. We believe the best gift you can give your child is self literacy! By guiding young people towards a lifelong journey of self-discovery, we help them learn about their most important resource: themselves.

Infant Notions Greensboro, NC Infant Notions is a specialty distributor of infant and toddler developmental toys, as well as furniture. Currently, we distribute Playgro toys and Pali Moses Baskets and Bedding.

LearnPlay, Inc. Inglewood, CA LearnPlay is a California-based wholesaler and distributor of premium educational toys and games. We currently represent the Halftoys product line and will be launching the Dino Series collection of innovative dinosaur toys in fall 2017. Working together with educators, parents, and designers, LearnPlay aims to help children learn through play.

Moon Jump Press, LLC Berlin, NJ Moon Jump Press, LLC published No Chimney? No Problem! Book & Santa Key Gift Set. This all-new, simple holiday tradition is for families who wonder how Santa delivers presents. Each year, theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll enjoy reading No Chimney? No Problem! on Christmas Eve, then hang their special Santa key on the door.

40 September 2017 â&#x20AC;˘

Ollies Wooden Blocks, llc Schenectaday, NY Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, Ollies Blocks are now available for retail. Designed for great minds and small hands, Ollies Blocks are handmade from solid oak, combined with safe, durable & colorful interlocking pegs. Ollies Blocks provide endless possibilities to create structures, creatures and almost anything.

Oribel Las Vegas, NV Oribel is a combination of â&#x20AC;&#x153;Oriâ&#x20AC;? from Original and â&#x20AC;&#x153;belâ&#x20AC;? from Belle meaning beauty. The brand is created with a belief that original ideas and aesthetics belong together. Here at Oribel, we understand that while parenthood is an exciting journey, it is daunting at the same time. Through our original and innovative products, we aim to deliver solutions to make parenting days more enjoyable.

Panda Mony Toy Brands Redondo Beach, CA Panda Mony Toy Brands, LLC creates mass-market physical products in the childrenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s toy category for sale to retailers and wholesalers. Our toys are based solely on our own original brands, which we license to other companies, in particular licensees in entertainment.

Peter Pauper Press, Inc. White Plains, NY In 1928, at the age of twenty-two, Peter Beilenson began printing books on a small press in the basement of his parentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; home in Larchmont, New York. Today, third-generation family owned and operated, Peter Pauper Press honors his legacy of high-quality products at â&#x20AC;&#x153;prices even a pauper can afford.â&#x20AC;?

Professional Games, Inc Lakeville, CT Step into a lawyerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s shoes with the LAWSUIT!â&#x201E;˘ board game. Players face whimsical legal scenarios and the choices lawyers make every day â&#x20AC;&#x201C; whether to pursue a settlement, accept a verdict or appeal, practice solo or in a partnership. LAWSUIT!â&#x201E;˘ introduces players 8 and up to how our justice system works.

Stroller Costumes Las Vegas, NV 6WUROOHU&RVWXPHVLVÂżUVWRILWVNLQG product that transforms the stroller into a fun themed ride. The line includes police FDUVÂżUHWUXFNVGXPSWUXFNVSULQFHVV carriage, race cars and more. Our patent pending product assembles in minutes and is universal for most strollers. Add fun and excitement to every stroll.â&#x20AC;?





New Members If any of the information below is incorrect, ASTRA truly apologizes. Please contact us immediately at

AFFILIATES Hip Hooray, LLC Roger Bildsten 6813 Brook DR Minneapolis, MN 55439 (612) 308-9900 Hobby-Expo LLC PO Box 63 Pine, CO 80470 (303) 345-5031 IEEE Frank Pepe 445 Hoes LN Piscataway, NJ 08855 (732) 465-5864 LeaseSmart Craig Melby 205 Grove ST Brevard, NC 28712 (772) 223-6655 Live Logistics Michael Bernstein 200 N Fairway DR Vernon Hills, IL 60061 (844) 351-3780

MANUFACTURERS Bevy and Dave Tiffney T. Laing 20756 Cross Timber DR Ashburn, VA 20147 (571) 243-0223 Buffalo Games John Fox 220 James E Casey DR Buffalo, NY 14206 (716) 464-5265

Busy Hands LLC Yishai Habshush 10612 D Providence RD Ste 295 Charlotte, NC 28277 (704) 712-8812 Can You Solve Me, LLC Stas Casa 7301 Pyle RD Bethesda, MD 20817 (301) 320-0313 Catlilli Games Catherine Swanwick 449 Estate AVE Warrenton, VA 20186 (540) 905-4629 Chickapig Brian Calhoun 101 W High ST Charlottesville, VA 22902 (540) 406-1245 Child and Nature dba Suzanne Lyons PO Box 2046 Nevada City, CA 95959 (530) 264-6223 CMON Carol Spain 1275 Ridgeland PKWY Alpharetta, GA 30004 (514) 622-7025 Czech Games Edition Joshua Githens 901 Watson AVE #141 Madison, WI 53713 (864) 363-2342

42 September 2017 •

E-Blox Inc Joseph Seymour 880 Asbury DR Buffalo Grove, IL 60089 (224) 434-2237

Know Yourself Elaine Kavros 337 17th ST, Ste 10 Oakland, CA 94612 (516) 817-0180

NoodlePetz Andrea McKoy 463 Tortoise View CIR Satellite Beach, FL 32937 (321) 544-1376

Enjoy Wooden Toys, LLC Bill Bradley 15 Chester ST PO Box 161 Chester, NH 03036 (603) 344-2733

LearnPlay, Inc. Daniel Wang 11222 S. La Cienega BLVD Ste 200 Inglewood, CA 90304 (949) 296-5362

Ollies Wooden Blocks, llc Haran Yaffe 1737 Union ST Unit 112 Schenectaday, NY 12309 (323) 809-0255

Game Night In A Can Barry McLaughlin 1835 S Genessee AVE Los Angeles, CA 90019 (323) 459-7374 Genius Games John Coveyou 4818 Washington BLVD St Louis, MO 63108 (513) 724-4263 Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls McCall Bennett-Lawrence 1051 Elk Grove AVE, Apt 2 Venice, CA 90291 (424) 354-0006

Legacy Woodworks, LLC Mark Donohoe 7205 Dorset AVE St Louis, MO 63130 (314) 599-2206 Magical Microbes Keegan Cooke 730 Roble AVE Ste 1 Menlo Park, CA 94025 (617) 852-6524 MasterPieces Tina Banker 12475 N Rancho Vistoso BLVD Oro Valley, AZ 85755 (520) 741-1315

Grow With Play Conner Toves 2860 Calle Lumina Chino Hills, AZ 91709 (909) 647-6823

Moderno LLC Alex Podolskiy 95a Inip DR Inwood, NY 11096 (858) 256-7890

JAZ-E House Games, Inc Jason Evans 150 Federal BLVD Knoxville, TN 37934 (865) 386-8443

Moon Jump Press, LLC Todd Wojtowicz 44 Canyon DR Berlin, NJ 08009 (856) 336-5440

JFL Enterprises, Inc. Doug Paullin 4900 Train AVE Cleveland, OH 44102 (216) 458-0680

My Gnome on the Roam Anne Armstrong 207 Scott AVE Nashville, TN 37206 (615) 943-2051

Oribel Chris Shipferling 1350 E Flamingo RD #727 Las Vegas, NV 89119 (704) 608-1465 Palmetto Puzzle Works Daniel Diehl 8603 Kennestone LN Charleston, SC 29420 (843) 452-7044 Panda Mony Toy Brands Ryan Magnon 420B S. Broadway Redondo Beach, CA 90277 (818) 646-7879 Perry Teri Toys LLC Perry Kaye 4735 Orange DR Davie, FL 33314 (920) 543-5055 Peter Pauper Press, Inc. Claudine Gandolfi 202 Mamaroneck AVE Ste 400 White Plains, NY 10601 (914) 681-0144 Play-It LLC Paul Sullivan 4820 Country Oaks BLVD Sarasota, FL 34243 (401) 662-2870

Professional Games, Inc Tina Nelson PO Box 1716 Lakeville, CT 06039 (917) 453-2600 Springbok Puzzles Tyler Young 1420 Kansas AVE Kansas City, MO 64127 (816) 783-5242 Stroller Costumes Moshe Atkins 4650 South Arville Ste A Las Vegas, NV 89103 (702) 389-8280 Style Me Up Chris Simonson 1 Slade AVE #107 Pikesville, MD 21208 (800) 315-4408 Ext 107 Sunny Days Entertainment, LLC Melvin Wells 208 Chancellors PK CT Simpsonville, SC 29681 (864) 608-2911 Talbaree Games LLC Jenny Fleishman 4616 N. Sacramento AVE, Apt 1 Chicago, IL 60625 (773) 539-3115 The Dunk Collection Kramer Babilla 400 N. Saint Paul Ste 350 Dallas, TX 75201 (214) 932-9133 Think Stores Greg Baumgartner 532 Main ST Tonawanda, NY 14150 (716) 773-7500

Topple Rocks Benjamin Bigler 414 N. Jefferson AVE Covington, LA 70433 (985) 900-2424 Toy Galaxy Mike Fu 63 Via Renzo DR Richmond Hill, ON Canada (416) 278-0878 ToyHeart Co Gina Lannen 22647 Ventura BLVD #196 Woodland Hills, CA 91364 (310) 422-8880 TPF Toys Lisa Shin 400 Continental BLVD El Segundo, CA 90254 (310) 963-2559 Underwraps Costumes Irene Shaffa 9600 Irandale Chatsworth, CA 91311 (818) 349-5300 Watch Yo Mouth, LLC Joe Caiola 57 South Main ST Ste 249 Neptune, NJ 7753 (732) 666-2462 WeCool Toys, Inc Ross Alber 19 N Lakeside DR W Medford, NJ 08055 (856) 296-9766 Whisbear Jene Mahan 27 Elmhurst AVE Marshfield, MA 02050 (781) 837-1846

Wireless Express Al Haber One Ames CT AVE 103 Plainview, NY 11803 (917) 763-0880

RETAILERS 7th Dimension Games Glen Seymour 491 York RD Jenkintown, PA 19047 (215) 887-9550 AC Moore Bill Maisch 130 AC Moore DR Berlin, NJ 08009 (856) 768-4930 alvinast, LLC dba the zoo company toy store Allison Stewart 412 Sheridan BLVD Cape May, NJ 08204 (609) 408-1789 B & B Enterprises Al Bereznay 545 McIntosh LN Amherst, OH 44001 (440) 988-4505 bagnoles & bobinette Nathalie Ross 235 Rue St-Paul Montreal, QC Canada (514) 840-3111 Blue Turtle Shop LLC Cathy Tapogna 3371 Winding WAY Dayton, OH 45419 (937) 867-8299 Book & Puppet Co. 466 Northampton ST Easton, PA 18042 (484) 541-5379

bryant & co Jimmy Bryant 327 N Magnolia DR Laurel, MS 39440 (601) 325-3263 theloblollyboutique2017@gmail. com

Giggles of Amesbury Katrina Gove 2 Water ST Amesbury, MA 01913 (978) 992-1858

Celebration Cards LLC Atul Patel 11 Atlantic AVE Lynbrook, NY 11563 (516) 593-6500

Great Kid Toys, LLC Deborah Pruitt 11467 SW Laurel Glen CT Tigard, OR 97224 (503) 709-8914

Corner Toy Store Benjamin Macrae 401 Main ST Frankfort, MI 49635 (231) 352-9900

Growing Up Melane Nelson 689 Dr MLK ST N Saint Petersburg, FL 33701 (727) 894-4769

Excelsior Sales LLC David Yang 9 Brookline AVE East Hanover, NJ 7936 (732) 666-1250

Hammer and Jacks Courtney Sprinkling-Felt 6416 SE Foster RD Portland, OR 97206 (971) 506-3615

Fenwick Float-ors Jason McBride 35034 Buoy BLVD Selbyville, DE 19975 (302) 436-5953

Hen Cute Anthony Chen 107 N Main ST Natick, MA 01760 (724) 436-2883

Firebird Books & Toys Caroline Evascu Firebird 2800 East 6th AVE Denver, CO 80206 (720) 287-1372

Hub Dub Ltd Eddie Levine 1215 Karl CT Ste 203 Wauconda, IL 60084 (888) 945-8580

Foggy Mountain Gifts and Specialties Inc. Dennis Matelski 12 W. Main ST Burnsville, NC 28714 (828) 682-0562 Games of Berkeley Erik Bigglestone 2510 Daurat AVE Berkeley, CA 94704 (501) 540-7822

Ju-Ju Monkey, Inc Sara Moore 4755 W Tilghman ST Allentown, PA 18104 (484) 809-9662 Kids ‘N Kribs 112 North Wayne AVE Wayne, PA 19087 (610) 220-0349 • September 2017


Kinder Haus Toys Susan Pyatt 1220 N Fillmore ST Arlington, VA 22201 (703) 527-5929 Learning Express at Morristown Diane Bowser 158 South ST Morristown, NJ 07960 (973) 540-8358 Little Richard’s Toy Store Carrie Sue Torrie PO Box 1178 Colorado Springs, CO 80901(719) 578-5549

M & A Limited #33 Preysal Crown Trace West Mission Road Freeport, Trinidad, W.I. (868) 673-0067

Morning Glory Kelly Jung 20 Nassau ST Princeton, NJ 8542 (609) 924-4999

Matrushka Toys and Gifts Brooke Redpath 309 Main ST Great Barrington, MA 01230 (413) 528-6911

Movers & Shakers Kids Toys Cindy Benkowski 765 F Woodlake RD Kohler, WI 53044 (920) 453-2874

Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum Alisha Toyzan 315 W. Genesee AVE Saginaw, MI 48602 (989) 399-6626 Millennium Games Travis Severance 3047 West Henrietta RD Rochester, NY 14623 (585) 427-2190

44 September 2017 •

My Discount Center Jack Sardar 115 Enterprise AVE Secaucus, NJ 07094 (732) 662-3624 NEB, INC Natalia Bokish PO Box 03048 Sunriver, OR 97707 (503) 756-5175

Necker’s Toyland Deb Necker 1591 Hopmeadow ST Simsbury, CT 06070 (860) 658-5783 North Woods General Store Chad Miller 34 State RD Newaygo, MI 49337 (616) 426-9355 P Cubed InVision dba Flutter Hut Denise Hopkins 205 W. Olive AVE Prospect Heights, IL 60070 (847) 769-3620 Paradise Innovative Products Elizabeth Finn 20198 Blaine AVE Port Charlotte, FL 33952 (315) 703-9666

Parent Units Gary Lee Fishman 77 Pension RD, Ste 7 Manalapan, NJ 07726 (732) 616-3408 Populuxe William Cain 531 Terrace Cove Way Orlando, FL 32828 (407) 757-4504 Sally n Manders Jeremy Riley 1410 NW 34th AVE Camas, WA 98607 (520) 400-3846 Sanrio Topanga Kay Seo 6600 Topanga Canyon BLVD #1011 Canoga Park, CA 91303 (818) 704-9953

Smart Hero Shop Rick Henry 203 Cardinal WAY Paso Robles, CA 93446 (562) 686-0303

Sweet Be’s Steve Tini 12027 Manchester RD Saint Louis, MO 63131 (314) 835-1400

Snoozy’s Kids George Jones 1321 10th AVE S Birmingham, IL 35205 (205) 871-2662

Temptations Global Howard Aronesti 665 Vernon AVE Glencoe, IL 60022 (847) 542-7851

Stuffems Toy Shop Benjamin Winninger PO Box 2036 Waterloo, IA 50704 (319) 961-6770

The Dock Panther Molly Laudenbach 25390 S Main ST Nisswa, MN 56468 (218) 961-1010

The School Shop Charmaine Ringer 1224 Towanda AVE Ste 25 Bloomington, IL 61701 (309) 838-0665

Toy Chest, LLC Jean Simmons 2703 White Mountain HWY North Conway, NH 03860

Titan Games & Comics Marcus King 103 London Shopping Center London, KY 40741 (606) 877-1450

Vraj Imports, LLC DBA WhatAmericaBuys What America Buys Vraj Imports LLC 4201 Tonnelle AVE North Bergen, NJ 07047 (201) 880-7533

Toy Box Gifts & Wonder Kristen Joy Laidig 42 S. Main ST Chambersburg, PA 17201 (717) 461-9954

Zany Values Lance Lenhart 1962 N Main ST 2 Spanish Fork, UT 84660 (385) 448-1120

SALES REPRESENTATIVES Aspire Consulting Group Kerri Fox 34025 Pack Horse DR Dagsboro, DE 19939 (302) 569-9023 IBeOn Lauren Altman 6689 Orchard Lake RD #159 West Bloomfield, MI 48322 (248) 410-0009

The Game Chest Maryam Al-Hammami 26012 Marguerite PKWY, Ste C Mission Viejo, CA 92694 (949) 716-3677 • September 2017


Toy Times Magazine, September 2017

Index of Advertisers ALEX Brands............................................., 48 Ann Williams Group ............................ Baby Jack & Company ......................... k. Laughter ensues in Smart Toys’ Smart Brea

Blue Orange Games ............................. C&A Scientific Co Inc. .......................... DeLano/EPI Printing Inc..................... ................................7 edplay Magazine ................................... Harrisville Designs ................................ .......................................21 Jax Ltd Inc. ................................................. KidStuff PR ................................................ ........................................25

ASTRA members prove their might at Fat Brain -sponsored Opening Block Party.

Light Stax-The Lazy Dog & Co. ......... ...........................................27 meinbaukasten ...................................... .........................................39



MindWare Wholesale ........................ Orb................................................................ ............................................31 Ozobot ........................................................ ................................................3 ShopToys365........................................... Sophia’s ...................................................... .................................25 TEDCO Toys Inc. ..................................... .......................44 Thames & Kosmos ................................ ...................41 Toy Fair........................................................ ..........................................33

The Magazine for People Who Sell Toys

Contact Todd Crayton

(315) 789-0458

46 September 2017 •

(800) 344-0559

Wikki Stix................................................... ..........................................45 Winning Moves ...................................... ...........................37

Order your Mindware



Neighborhood Toy Store Day! Ordering special: for the

$500/FFA/5% off Create FREE PLAY DAY KIT! available 10/1-10/3 email for more info


Game Night

E A-MAZ B WINNER! Q · ENCE I C S S · K A O G · KEV ES · BO N I M N A R G · A LE AY iz EARLY IVE PL T lesale.b C A · .mw who w E w T w : iz A e .b CRE • Websit holesale fo@mw w



• Email:


5 96-948 : 800 -2 5 • Phon e 6 67 0 -936• Fax: 80

A new family of cuddly dolls 6

unique dolls to choose from.

Tendresse Dolls

TO ORDER: • PH: 301.895.4782 • FX: 301.895.5029

ASTRA September 2017  
ASTRA September 2017